Jul 29, 2014
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Parcel Tax Campaign Ramps Up Fundraising with ‘Backyard Bash’

Organizers hope to reach six-figure funding goal with $100 a plate dinner Saturday featuring food from Sweetwater’s Gordon Drysdale, live music and wine at campaign co-chair’s home.

Parcel Tax Campaign Ramps Up Fundraising with ‘Backyard Bash’

Despite no formal opposition to Measure B, a $196 parcel tax to combat the Mill Valley School District’s looming budget deficit, the campaign organizers behind it are leaving nothing to chance. They are just $30,000 shy of a $120,000 fundraising goal and are hosting a $100 a plate "Backyard Bash" event Saturday to get closer to that target.

“We will not be complacent,” campaign co-chair Mari Allen said. “We know that every votes counts and we are making a huge effort to speak to everybody in our community about why this measure needs to pass.”

Though the Marin United Taxpayers Association nor any other organizations have stepped up to formally fight Measure B (attached at right) on the Nov. 6 ballot, there are three primary numbers behind the campaign’s aggressive push: 28, 66.6 and 80.

  • 28. That’s the number of days after the later-than-usual Sept. 10 start of school that mail-in ballots go out (Oct. 8), which itself is 29 days prior to the Nov. 6 election. The late end to the summer in Mill Valley has created a tight window for the campaign to gets its message out.
  • 66.6 percent. In June 1978, voters passed Prop. 13, a sweeping statewide change that included a requirement for any taxes raised by local governments for a designated or special purpose to be approved by two-thirds of the voters.
  • 80 percent. This is the number that seems to scare campaign organizers the most. According to polling data from district consultants EMC Research and Whitehurst/Mosher, current district parents account for only 20 percent of voters, meaning that 80 percent of parcel tax voters don’t have students in the district. Of that 80 percent, 42 percent of voters have never been a district parent. Future district parents account for 10 percent, while past district parents without future district students are 23 percent. Current high school parents without district students account for 5 percent.

Allen said the campaign hopes to raise $120,000, nearly all of which will pay for mailers that will primarily target residents without children at one of the district’s six schools. The group is currently $30,000 short of that goal, Allen said.

“If they don’t reach the $120,000 goal, Allen said, “We’ll just have to make tough decisions about which voters we won’t reach.”

The campaign has already raised some $90,000. More than $54,000 of that was donated prior to June 30 and was reported in the campaign’s July 23 financial filing with the county.

Those donations included $9,749 from Kiddo, which came from revenue generated at events over the past year, as well as $5,000 apiece from local residents Jon Love, Ken Broad, Joe Wolf, and district board member Steve Sell.

The Mill Valley Council of PTAs donated $999, as did the individual PTAs of Mil Valley Middle School, Park, Strawberry Point and Tam Valley elementary schools and the Tam High Foundation. Park PTA President Tracy Ferron donated $2,000, as did resident Jed Smith and district board member Raoul Wertz.

To date, the campaign has sold 85 tickets to the Backyard Bash at $100 a piece for another $8,500. Several parents have offered to match any additional donations made at the event, Allen said.

District officials say the parcel tax would generate about $1.9 million annually for local elementary and middle schools. The current parcel tax is $731 and runs through 2018 with annual 5 percent increases. If Measure B is approved, the new tax would be $927 per parcel. It would expire after eight years. Homeowners 65 years or older can apply for an exemption.

Allen acknowledged that the campaign has already benefited greatly from the financial and in-kind donations from people all over the community, including the official kick-off event at GROW in Tam Junction.

“I feel very confident in the Mill Valley community,” Allen said.  “We’re truly grateful for the support that Mill Valley has for its public schools, and we hope voters understand that for less than 54 cents a day, they will be able to continue to support what we have here. The state has put us in this dire financial predicament. I’m hoping that voters will see that our schools are the backbone of our community.”

In addition to the mailers, Measure B campaign officials are speaking Oct. 2 at the Mill Valley Rotary’s weekly meeting and Oct. 8 at The Redwoods.

The 411: The Measure B campaign hosts a Backyard Bash fundraising event on Saturday, Sept. 29 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 326 Melrose Ave., the home of Measure B campaign co-chair Emily Uhlhorn and her husband Bryan Thornton. Tickets are $100. Event includes food from the Sweetwater’s Gordon Drysdale, music from the Machiavelvets and an open Bar, including wine from Fourth Estate, Far Niente, and Honig Winery.

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