Tamalpais High School.

Among the issues on the March primary ballot is Measure A, a big one for the five schools within the Tamalpais Union High District: Redwood, Archie Williams, Tamalpais, San Andreas and Tamiscal.

Voters in the district will consider a proposal to repair and upgrade the district’s five high schools. If approved, Measure A authorizes $517 million in bonds at legal rates, levying $30 per $100,000 assessed value while bonds are outstanding ($36 million annually) with independent oversight, annual audits, no funds for administrators and all funds locally controlled.

What the measure’s ballot description doesn’t state is that over the life of the bonds, district taxpayers will ultimately pay over $1 billion including interest. Measure A is the largest school bond ever submitted anywhere in Marin, according to Marin Independent Journal Opinion Columnist Dick Spotswood.

In addition to support from within the TUHSD community, the measure has drawn a robust array of support to date, including endorsements from the likes of the League of Women Voters of Marin County, Schools Rule Marin, U.S. Congressman Jared Huffman, Marin County Superintendent of Schools John Carroll, Marin County Superintendent of Schools, Emeritus Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Board of Supervisors President Stephanie Moulton-Peters, Marin County Board of Education member Marilyn Nemzar, and a long list of former mayors, councilmembers, former board of education members, current Mill Valley School District Board members, Marin Water board member Jed Katz and community leaders including Li Delpan, Member, Marin County Board of Education, Kimberly Adams, Play Marin Founder Paul Austin, Marisa Azevedo, Rebecca Caspersen, Schools Rule Marin President Trisha Garlock, Performing Stars Marin Founder Felecia Gaston, Jessica Newman and many more.

Substantial opposition to the proposed measure comes from the Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers (COST), which claims that the measure is “a $1.04 billion tax that increases inequality and does not deliver what our students need most. Critics have focused on what they called “an unnecessary, non-essential, gold-plated cafeteria,” that i”s projected to cost $106 million. No money goes to reduce overcrowded classrooms, close the huge educational achievement gap for low-income students, or attract and retain top teachers.”

There’s plenty of strong opinions and expectations for and against the measure. For instance, Bryan Godbe of Godbe Research told district trustees at their board meeting on Oct. 24 that a telephone and online poll of 397 voters taken from Oct. 2 to Oct. 5 indicated an average 59.3% of respondents would support the proposed bond. The measure would need 55% yes votes out of 61,085 likely district voters in the March 5 elections to pass. “We tested informational, positive and critical issues,” Godbe said.

Mimi Willard, president of the Coalition of Sensible Taxpayers, disagreed. She said the odds of passage, as reflected by the polling figures, did not appear very good. “The latest polling shows that Tam Union’s proposed tax measure is in trouble, largely because it will cost voters over $1 billion,” Willard told the Marin Independent Journal, referring to the total bond repayment cost over 30 years.

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