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McLaughlin Lists Top Priorities

Patch has asked each of the five Martinez Unified school board candidates to name the top three issues facing the board in November. Incumbent Kathi McLaughlin begins our series.

Five candidates are competing for three open seats on the Martinez Unified School District board of education. They include incumbents Kathi McLaughlin, John Fuller, and Denise Elsken; Dena Betti, who fell short of winning a seat in 2010, and Ron Skrehot, a former board member who left his seat two years ago after an eight-year tenure.

As elsewhere in the state and county, money for schools looms large on the November ballot – in Martinez specifically, how to spend $45 million in bond funds given a lengthy list of demanding projects. The bond was originally earmarked for solar panels, a performing arts center at Alhambra High School, upgraded school classrooms and room for vocational programs, including technology and culinary arts, among others. The board has been at odds over whether to plow the remaining funds into repairing the aging Martinez High and Briones Independent Study schools, or to construct a new facility to serve both.

I think the most important issue we will be facing this coming year, and probably for the foreseeable future, is the State budget.

We've done a good job locally at maintaining a positive certification but it has cost us dearly in terms of personnel and programs. We've tried to keep the cuts as far away from the classroom as possible, but when more than 80 percent of your budget is personnel and associated costs, that isn't always possible.

The second most important issue is passing an extension of the parcel tax -- which is obviously related to the first issue.

The other really important issue is ensuring that the bond money our community approved two years ago is spent fairly and equitably to benefit ALL of our students and sites, that it is used in ways that benefit the general fund (such as solar, which reduces our PG&E costs and puts that money back in the general fund to support our programs, students, and staff) and that we maintain constant oversight to ensure that we "get the most for the least" so that the money goes as far as possible.

Chris Kapsalis August 31, 2012 at 01:03 PM
It makes zero sense extending taxes on people who happen to have property and not the people who happen to have kids. I do not get it. Maybe you could explain it to me. Yes it is in our best interest, education. But why should people who own homes, some barely making it, have to come up with the extra money to pay for public education. Why not tax the parents of these students, the main reason we need the money.
George March September 02, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Kathy states "The other really important issue is ensuring that the bond money our community approved two years ago is spent fairly and equitably to benefit ALL of our students and sites..." Last spring the board voted $5M for new construction at Vicente/Briones. I have seen nothing in any detail that lists all of what is planned for that site-other than the description of "New Construction." I do not disagree that that site could use some upgrades, but how many students are served there for a $5M dose of new construction?
Sean Dexter November 02, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Chris, it makes complete sense for society at large to support public education. Without it we all will have a crappy, uneducated future workforce. Maybe you would like to move to Belize or another third world country where parents are 100% responsible for paying for their child's education. Been there, it doesn't work so well. Also, if you are acting purely on economic self-interest, your property value is greatly increased when the quality of the school district is a desirable commodity; so you are still a winner regarless of social benefit.
Chris J Kapsalis November 02, 2012 at 10:45 PM
As to raising property values, that is debatable. We have more parcels than most people, and are not money rich. Pay way more than our share in property taxes. We need exceptions and exemptions to the parcel tax of just property you live on. Not land you work or have for an investment, or family land you do not live on or rent out. So families do not lose land that has been in their family forever. That is a travesty imo. A sin tax would be much more logical long term. Short term yes parcel taxes, which means rents may have to be kept high to compensate. We are all looking after our own interests, and teachers do as well. The millions of teachers in the US look after themselves in benefits and salary. No they do not make much, but I think one could make a lot in the private sector then work in education or even build a school if there argument is they could make a lot more in the private sector. But most teachers do it because they want to teach, and for other reasons besides a career. Wish we could pay them more , but there are so many. I think 7 million nation wide. That adds up to a lot of money. Less military, more pay for teachers maybe? Less foreign aide and more for us?
Chris J Kapsalis November 02, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Continued: But sticking to property owners over and over I think needs to be checked at some point. We ( My parents who I work for ) pay I think $17,000 a year in property taxes. Why not a sin tax then? Alcohol and cigs state wide. I think we should focus there for this much needed money and not people who are already losing their homes. Do you know how many people lost their homes this year? I do not, but I would guess millions. So we need to look elsewhere in the long term. Don't you agree?

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