SRJC board rejects parcel tax

Santa Rosa Junior College trustees decided Tuesday against putting a parcel tax before voters in November after board members expressed unease with the pace of the discussion.

The seven-member board voted unanimously to study the issue further but set aside a proposal to pay for a consultant and a voter poll that would have opened the way to placing the issue on the presidential race ballot in the fall.

"It's our due diligence to find out what the tax needs to be, not what the community can bear," said trustee Onita Pelligrini.

The idea of a parcel tax drew fire from some board members at a special board meeting earlier this month when trustees were critical of what they described as a ramped up timeline.

First year president Frank Chong initially floated the idea of studying a parcel tax in what he described as a multi-faceted strategy for shoring up the college's resources. He also has proposed seeking grants and federal aid targeting the school's growing population of Latino students.

Tuesday's discussion came as part of a board retreat held at Pepperwood Preserve off of Franz Valley Road. A performance evaluation of Chong was conducted during closed session.

Trustees continued to question whether a voter poll could be conducted and analyzed sufficiently to meet an August deadline for putting a tax on the November ballot. The discussion never advanced to the point where board members discussed possible per-parcel amounts for the tax.

About 180,000 parcels are located with the college district's voting area, which encompasses almost all of Sonoma County, and it was unclear if seniors or multiple-parcel landowners would have been granted exemptions.

"I think we need more study, and I'm glad we are waiting and not going in November," said trustee Bob Burdo.

Santa Rosa Junior College leaders have never before asked voters to approve a parcel tax, which would be a levy placed on homes and other property. Voters in 2002 resoundingly supported a $250 million bond measure to pay for building projects that helped transform both the Petaluma and Santa Rosa campuses.

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