Santa Monica-Malibu Unified Schools parcel tax, Measure A (May 2010)
In the wake of the defeat, the district's school board cut $7.1 million from their budget.
The board of the school district had considered asking for as much as $225/parcel but decided in early February that voters might not be willing to go for the higher amount. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, an Emergency Parcel Tax Feasibility Committee paid for a poll of the district's residents to see what size of a parcel tax, if any, voters were likely to be willing to approve. By doing this poll, the district learned that voters are not likely to support a $425/annual tax, and that $225/year is the highest they might approve.
At the $198/parcel rate, the district would have generated $5.7 million of income over and above its previous income levels.
The annual expenditures of the Santa Monica-Malibu School District were about $132 million in 2010. The school district was projecting a $12 million budget deficit, which is why the district's board of trustees voted unanimously to place the parcel tax request on the ballot. The tax, if it had passed, would have compensated for less than half of the district's projected annual operating loss.
In November 2012, voters in the district approved the $385 million Measure ES bond proposition.
A 2/3rds supermajority vote was required for passage of Measure A.
- These final election results are from the Los Angeles County elections office.
Text of measure
The question on the ballot:
|Measure A: "To protect our high-quality local schools against severe funding cuts imposed by the State of California; prevent widespread teacher layoffs; maintain academic excellence in reading, writing, math, and science; preserve elementary school music; keep school libraries open;shall the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District levy a parcel tax of $198/year for five years, with senior homeowner exemptions; mandatory annual public audits; independent citizen oversight; no funds used for administrator salaries; and all funds supporting our local Santa Monica and Malibu schools?"|
"Vote Yes on A" video
- School board member Oscar de la Torre supported the tax. He believed that paying higher taxes to local schools must be "the foundation" of any economic recovery: "I'm sensitive to the fact that many families are hurting because of the recession. But we must ensure that the foundation of our recovery is an investment in quality public schools."
- Neil Carrey, head of the Emergency Parcel Tax Feasibility Committee. He said, "It's going to be a tough campaign. But it is doable. If we felt there was very little chance any tax would pass, we wouldn't have recommended an election."
- Sean McDaniel, a writer who lives in the district. He said, "The current fiscal crisis is real, catastrophic, and unprecedented in the past 32 years."
- The Santa Monica Mirror. The newspaper's editorial board said, "About 80 percent of Santa Monicans don’t have children in SMMUSD. But this majority enjoys the prestige of this community because it has a high quality of educational success, which causes high property values, keeps students in school, and makes the community a safe and desirable place to live. And with 70 percent of residents being renters, Measure A translates to an average of $2 more per month for those confused on how this affects them."
- The Santa Monica Daily Press. The paper's editorial board said, "t's easy to say the district is mismanaged. Measure A opponents have been singing that song repeatedly, and there's no denying that with any bureaucracy there will be some waste. But the financial trouble the district is facing is clearly not of its own doing. Many other factors, including a struggling economy, gridlock in Sacramento and fallout from Proposition 13, have contributed to the budget crisis. We can't punish our kids for those mistakes."
The "Campaign to Protect Quality Public Schools", the official advocacy group campaigning for Measure A, had raised over $332,000 since January 2010. There were 17 PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) groups in the district, and each of them gave some money to the campaign, including the Franklin Elementary School Parent Teacher Association, which gave $25,000.
- Malibu resident Wade Major is opposed to the tax hike. He said, "I think the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has demonstrated itself to be fiscally irresponsible beyond any conceivable remedy. Just because we are in a financial crisis nationally and statewide doesn't mean we should be giving them carte blanche once again to play with a parcel tax." He said, "“You're looking at a school district that has not been able to get its financial house in order for one solitary year in at least a decade. What makes us think that giving them more money now is going to change that?"
- Mathew Millen organized a group to oppose the tax. Millen said this tax is regressive: "This parcel tax is really a tax that lets the Santa Monica business elite get off cheap. The Water Gardens and the Loews Hotel are paying the same amount as a small homeowner."
- Bill Bauer opposed Measure A. He said now is the time to signal that fundamental financial reform is needed in the district: "Only a 'No' vote will force reform and the promise of a better, more reliable educational district. Voting 'Yes' means even more turmoil, instability, incompetence and taxes to come."
Other arguments presented by opponents of Measure A include:
- The new tax would place an unfair burden on the district's poorest residents, since they would have to pay as much as the district's richest residents.
- The district has mismanaged its funds; for example, by spending $800,000 in legal fees to fight parents of special education students.
- The district spent $3 million on legal fees and other costs to use the government's power of eminent domain to evict two Santa Monica families from their homes in order to expand Edison Elementary in Santa Monica.
- The claims by the district that it would have to cut the district's elementary school music program amounts to holding that popular program hostage.
$360,000 election cost
Tax hike supporter Neil Carrey justified the extra cost of having a special election in May: "So it's better to have the election in May rather than during the primary, when it's much more difficult to get the message across."
- Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District parcel tax, Measure R (February 2008)
- Parcel tax elections in California
- Website of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District
- Measure A election information booklet
- Save Santa Monica Schools, support for Measure A
- No Sneak Tax, opposition to Measure A
- Malibu Times, "District slashes $7.1 million from budget after Measure A loss", June 2, 2010
- Malibu Surfside News, "School Board Approves a $198 ‘Emergency’ Parcel Tax that Will Be Only Item on May Ballot"
- Malibu Times, "New parcel tax up for May election", April 21, 2010
- Santa Monica Daily Press, "School board asked voters for $5.7M", February 3, 2010
- Santa Monica Daily Press, "SMMUSD fiddles around, taxpayers burn", May 10, 2010
- Malibu Surfside News, "School District Expects Pink Slips and Program Cuts Even If $195 Tax Passes"
- Los Angeles Times, "Santa Monica-Malibu schools going mail-in route for parcel tax election", March 8, 2010
- Malibu Times, "Tax proposed to help financially strapped school district", January 13, 2010
- Santa Monica Daily Press, "Arguing in favor of the parcel tax", March 16, 2010
- Santa Monica Mirror, "The Mirror Endorses Measure A"
- Santa Monica Daily Press, "Daily Press endorses Measure A", April 27, 2010
- Santa Monica Daily Press, "Supporters of Measure A give big", May 18, 2010
- Surf Santa Monica, "Group Forms to Oppose School District Tax", March 1, 2010
- Santa Monica Daily Press, "Measure A just prolongs agony", May 3, 2010
- Santa Monica Daily Press, "Get registered", April 29, 2010
- Malibu Surfside News, "Mail Ballots Sent Out for May Measure A Election"