Los Angeles Unified School District parcel tax, Measure E (June 2010)
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Voters were asked to approve a request for a $100 per-year, per-parcel tax that would last for four years. The tax was expected to generate $95.2 million each of the four years for the cash-strapped district.
The LAUSD school board voted by 5-1 to put the tax vote on the June ballot. Tamar Galatzan cast the lone "no" vote.
At the time of this election, the Los Angeles Unified School District covered 710 square miles and included all of the City of Los Angeles, nine other municipalities and parts of 24 others.
At the time of the vote on Measure E, voters in LAUSD had approved five school repair and bond measures since 1997 and were still paying on those bonds. In 2010, the amount that property owners in the district were paying on bonds amounted to $151.80 per $100,000 of assessed property value.
A 2/3rds supermajority vote was required for approval.
- These final, certified results are from smart voter election archives.
"Yes on E" video
Through the end of April, 5 weeks before the vote, the "Yes on Measure E" campaign had raised $100,000. Bob Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies said that pro-tax supporters would need at least $500,000 to run a successful campaign: "$100,000 is really a pittance for a district the size of LAUSD".
Parke Skelton, who was managing the campaign for Measure E, said, "We've started really late on this, and that's because the board made the decision to put this on ballot in response to an emergency...We don't have a tremendous amount of lead time, the economy is in horrible shape and giving money to political campaigns is not the top priority for people."
Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist, was in favor of Measure E. He said, "For just $8.33 per household a month, voters could save hundreds of L.A. Unified teachers' jobs and help preserve arts education in elementary schools."
- The editorial board of the Los Angeles Times endorsed a "no" vote: "L.A. Unified has not proved trustworthy enough to be rewarded with more money from another tax measure in these hard times."
- The editorial board of the Long Beach Press-Telegram endorsed a "no" vote: "The plan outlined by Garcia and other district officials offers little reassurance that the district would be any better off in 2014."
- Angel Zobel-Rodriguez, an LAUSD parent in the San Fernando Valley, was a supporter of more money for schools but voted against Measure E: "I have absolutely zero faith that the kids at my daughter's school would benefit one iota.... It's not worth the risk of sending that money downtown into the black hole."
- Lisa Chapman, an LAUSD parent in Westwood, voted no: "We need an overhaul of LAUSD at the highest levels and accountability measures in place before we throw any more money into a broken and dishonest system."
Text of measure
The question on the ballot:
|To offset severe state budget cuts; promote student achievement in reading/mathematics/science/arts; maintain vocational education/job training programs; limit class size increases; reduce teacher/staff layoffs; keep schools safe/bathrooms clean; shall the Los Angeles Unified School District levy a temporary $100 annual education parcel tax ending after four years, exempting low-income seniors, no money for central district administrators' salaries, mandatory audits, with all funds going to neighborhood schools?|
LAUSD budget woes
LAUSD faced a $640 million shortfall in its 2010-2011 budget. If voters approved the parcel tax, the projected deficit would have still been over $500 million annually.
An editorial in the Los Angeles Times reported that the newspaper's editors are not entirely convinced that LAUSD's fiscal discipline was up to par. The editors opined, "In 2007, the board voted -- in a union-placating move and over the objections of then-Supt. David L. Brewer, who said the district lacked the money -- to expand the hours and benefits of cafeteria workers at a cost of millions of dollars per year. Has the district done anything to cut back on those expenses? If not, will it?"
The newspaper's editorial board also expressed a doubt about whether some of the money raised through the parcel tax might go into administration instead of into the classroom: "We're not persuaded by assurances that none of the money from the parcel tax would go to administration", they wrote.
Timing of election
The parcel tax could have gone on either the June ballot or the November ballot.
Turnout in the November election was expected to include a higher percentage of Democratic voters who, it is thought, would have been more likely to vote in favor of a parcel tax. Turnout in the June election was expected to be relatively low, and disproportionately conservative, older and Republican. There was likely to be a higher Republican turnout in June because there were hotly contested GOP contests for governor and U.S. Senate, whereas the Democratic primary contests on the June ballot were not as vigorous.
Glenn Gritzer, managing director of Mercury Public Affairs, said of the timing, "This particular election presents its own unique challenges. The majority of voters in this election will not necessarily be naturally sympathetic."
Los Angeles Unified school board member Steve Zimmer said that in spite of these considerations, the board felt that they had to put the tax on the June ballot: "If we do not invest in our kids in this moment, if we do not figure out a way to keep the most vital and essential programs whole, the fallout from that will go on for years and years."
- Los Angeles Times, "L.A. Unified to seek $100 parcel tax hike", February 17, 2010
- Whittier Daily News, "L.A. schools put hope in parcel tax", June 5, 2010
- Los Angeles Daily News, "LAUSD parcel tax measure drive gets a slow start", April 30, 2010
- Los Angeles Times, "This schools tax is a bargain", May 19, 2010
- Los Angeles Times, "No on the parcel tax", May 8, 2010
- Long Beach Press-Telegram, "This tax gets a solid 'F'", May 17, 2010
- Smart voter Los Angeles County election archive
- Los Angeles Times, "Parsing the parcel tax", February 17, 2010