Last fall Pleasanton voter support was 72 percent for an annual $98 parcel tax to boost school district revenues, according to a survey conducted by TBWB Strategies/Godbe Research on behalf of the Pleasanton school board.
The Support Pleasanton Schools campaign for Measure E has seen similar rates of approval from voter feedback, but it is struggling to get the donations or volunteer man hours to get the campaign on track.
In February, Support Pleasanton Schools organized a "Stop and Drop" at various school sites, asking for a donation of $20 per family to fund the campaign for Measure E.
It raised 14 percent of the funds expected.
Joan Laursen, head of communications at Support Pleasanton Schools explained, “The idea behind Stop and Drop was many hands make light work. A small ask (of $20) was not enormous. Everybody could do a little bit.”
The Stop and Drop results mean Laursen now must appeal to her personal contacts to get larger donations and use precious volunteer time to coordinate more fund-raising events.
Businesses have offered support, but Tanya Ludden, chairwoman of the Measure E campaign said, “The corporate world moves slowly… Our best successes have been when there’s been a personal connection with someone at the company.”
Volunteers are needed to follow up with the companies and get the ball rolling, which can take anywhere from a month to five weeks. “It’s not as fast as we’d like,” she said.
“If we can raise the money up front then dollars can drive the strategy.”
And more energy spent on getting individual and corporate donations means energy spent on raising money that should be focused on identifying supporters and getting the message out.
The campaign needs to identify supportive voters so it can remind them to get their ballots in on time. “With only 10 phone bank volunteers, we are so behind. Sixteen people (on the phone bank) can go through 1,200 voters. That’s what it takes. We need manpower to identify the support,” said Ludden.
The ballots will be mailed April 4 and must be returned to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters by 8 p.m. May 3. Postmarks do not count.
Two-thirds approval, or 66.7 percent, approval is needed for the measure to pass. Laursen said. “For every no vote we need two yeses.”
That’s why the phone bank and precinct walker volunteers are so important.
Social Security disability recipients are exempt from paying parcel tax but Laursen said, “They still need to vote.”
In addition, senior citizens at the moment would need to reapply yearly to be exempt from paying the parcel tax.
However, Myla Grasso from the Pleasanton school district said supporters are exploring the possibility of a more "user friendly" process for seniors to apply for the exemption only once during the duration of the parcel tax that will still comply with the requirements of the measure.
The campaign tries to contact only people who were supportive of the parcel tax in the 2009 Measure G election or who have signed up on a contact list through a school site or the Measure E site.
Volunteers are not expected to argue for the campaign, only to add citizens who support it to the "get out the vote" list. They find the best way to raise support is through person-to-person contact.
Laursen said, “People are buried in e-mail. It’s easy to think I’ll get back to that later. Later might be too late.”
A precinct walk and rally Saturday was aimed at making sure the campaign had every "yes" voter identified correctly, targeting people it had listed as supporters who had not been reached by phone. On Friday, 60 people had signed up. Organizers had hoped for 200.
Laursen said parents tell her they want to actively support Measure E because they didn’t do anything for the parcel tax measure in 2009 and were surprised it failed. When Laursen looks at the volunteer sign-ups, their names aren’t there.
“We need them to step up now if they want to get this passed," she said. “This is a fight for your child’s education.”
Over the past two years, the Pleasanton Unified School District has cut nearly $20 million from its budget. This year it will cut more.
San Ramon Valley School District: www.srvusd.k12.ca.us/
Dublin Unified School District: www.dublin.k12.ca.us/dusd/site/default.asp
Pleasanton Unified School District: www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us/
Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District: www.livermoreschools.com/
Measure E official website: http://supportpleasantonschools.com/Read_Measure_E
Website against Measure E: http://www.pleasantonparceltaxinfo.com/