Administrators, teachers, parents and students of the Mountain View Whisman School District gathered at the Tied House Brewery on Election Day, taking over a private room until late into the night and cheering on the measure, which won with a solid 79.8 percent of the vote. The robust win came as a surprise to the measure's supporters, who worried it might not receive the 66.7 percent needed to pass.
"These are big numbers for what we are doing," said parent and volunteer Jeff Gamble as initial results showed the parcel tax winning with 80 percent of the vote. "We are asking people to say yes to a tax increase."
The $3 million parcel tax will provide extra funds each year for English language development, music and arts and other special programs in the elementary and middle schools. Supporters say this is important because these programs could be cut by nearly 7 percent under the governor's latest budget proposal, under which the district faces $434,000 in reductions and a $2.1 million deficit.
"In tough times, people have to differentiate between a want and a need," Superintendent Maurice Ghysels said. "We need to have quality schools. Our kids are our future."
Mountain View voters passed an earlier parcel tax, Measure J, in 2004, when the state also faced a large deficit. Measure C, an eight-year parcel tax beginning in 2009 after J expires, increases the previous measure's rates by 69 percent.
Under the new measure, taxes on properties 8,000 square feet or less will increase to $127 a year. Rates on the largest properties — 44,000 square feet and up — will increase to $1,016 a year. Senior citizens and residents receiving supplemental security income are exempt from the tax.
Supporters of the renewed parcel tax spent the last several months phone banking and canvassing, and they worked all weekend leading up to the election. Although there was no official opposition on the ballot and no group campaigning against the measure, supporters of the parcel tax said they were still worried it would not receive the votes it needed.
Ghysels and his executive assistant Kathi Lilga took Election Day off to serve as precinct captains, keeping track of voters in specific neighborhoods. Sitting in the empty polling center in his precinct, Ghysels said the parcel tax could lose if more people did not come out.
"This result is far beyond what I could have imagined," trustee and Measure C volunteer Gloria Higgins said in an e-mail to supporters on Wednesday. "It was just a crazy, hectic, wonderful day."
As initial results went online, volunteers were amazed by how many voters were supporting the tax.
Ghysels said he had been optimistic, though, because voters seemed to understand the importance of the parcel tax. They also had a personal stake, he added, since school quality schools play a role in determining property value.
"People tell us they are voting because they want good schools and good property taxes," Ghysels said.
"If you have great schools, you will get great property values," he said. "I am hoping we are one factor of higher priced homes."