Pasadena Unified School District parcel tax, Measure CC (May 2010)

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A Pasadena Unified School District parcel tax, Measure CC ballot question was on the May 4, 2010 ballot for voters in the Pasadena Unified School District in Los Angeles County, where it was defeated.[1]

The Measure CC parcel tax would have been $120/year per parcel. The tax would have applied to about 59,000 properties in Altadena, Pasadena and Sierra Madre. The Pasadena school district would have taken in about $7 million/year from the tax, if voters had gone along with it.

The election was conducted on a mail-in ballot basis.[2] As of April 27, nearly 22,500 ballots had been returned. This turn-out was already double the number of votes cast in the school district's most recent school board elections in 2009.[3]

Pasadena USD voters approved Measure TT in November 2008. Measure TT gave the district $350 million for construction and repair projects.

A 2/3rds supermajority vote was required for approval of Measure CC.

Election results

Measure CC
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No14,49546.25%
Yes 16,845 53.75%
These final, certified, election results are from the Los Angeles County elections office.

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Measure CC: "To provide educational opportunities so local students are prepared to succeed in college and careers; to retain quality teachers; continue funding academic programs in advanced math, science, technology, music and art; keep school libraries open, and lessen the impact of state budget cuts, shall Pasadena Unified School District levy a tax of $120 per parcel annually for five years, with independent citizens' oversight, exemption for low-income seniors, and with all funds benefiting our local public schools and students?"[4]

Sign controversy

After signs in favor of Measure CC were posted at several schools, Superintendent Edwin Diaz told principals and teachers that the signs must be removed. In an email to staff, Diaz wrote, "Because of the controversy about their posting and them being vandalized, I decided we're detracting from what we need to be doing, which is getting the information out to the people in the public."[5]

Robert Stern of the Center for Governmental Studies said of the signs, "It's highly inappropriate. The school district should not use its property to promote a ballot initiative or a candidate unless they give the opposition the same opportunity."[6]

Kathy Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, adopted a different position, saying that California courts would not object to a local government taking a position on a ballot measure: "It has been an issue that has been looked at by the courts. The courts have come out in favor of local governments right to advocate as part of free speech."[6]

A PUSD resident contacted the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association about the signs. Timothy Bittle, an attorney for the HJTA, said that if the signs go back up, "I will contact them and then it will be in the form of a lawsuit."[7]

Tax supporters

Logo of the "Yes on CC" campaign

Supporters of the parcel tax included:

  • Pasadena school board President Tom Selinske: "When Sacramento fails to fund our schools by more than $20 million, we must take steps to ensure that every student continues to have access to a great education."[8]
  • Ed Honowitz, PUSD board member: "This community ought to step up now and say, even in these tough economic times we need to support our children."[9]
  • Peter Dreier of Citizens for Quality Schools: "All of us can afford to dig deep into our pockets and spend 33 cents a day."[9]
  • George Brumder, on behalf of the Pasadena Education Foundation, said, "We will do everything in our power to see that the parcel tax will pass this spring."[10]
  • Larry Tramutola, a political consultant paid by the district to advocate for the tax: "What they are looking to do is salvage some of the programs like AP courses and counselors."[10]
  • Five former chairs of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce supported Measure CC.[11]

Reasons

Reasons given for supporting the tax included:

  • PUSD is facing a projected $23 million budget gap.[10]
  • Without the parcel tax teachers will lose their jobs.[10]
  • Advanced Placement classes will be canceled.[10]
  • Extracurricular activities will be lost.[10]
  • Columnist Kevin Uhrich said that although "district officials sometimes seem to spend money like drunken sailors on a weekend bender, using our tax money to enrich those associated with the many nonprofit organizations to which the district routinely turns over its duties when it comes to educating our kids", a "yes" vote is still warranted because "...if passed, Measure CC will provide the discretionary capital needed to pay for the things that the two bonds did not, namely teacher salaries, as well as enrichment and other worthwhile programs for students."[12]

Strategy

Campaign consultant Larry Tramutola said the strategy for winning a "yes" vote on the parcel tax was targeting the 125,000 voters who do not normally vote in school district elections.[10]

In the final weeks of the campaign, the "Yes on CC" campaign began to offer money to those who would work on behalf of Measure CC. The campaign was willing to pay campaign workers for up to four hours a day of phone bank work or door knocking work for up to four days a week.[13]

Ross Selvedge, head of the "No on CC" campaign, said, "The fact that the Yes campaign is now having to pay people to staff phone banks and walk precincts indicates that the Yes forces are getting desperate", while the "Yes on CC" camp said that they are paying campaign workers because they have been so successful at raising money.

Donors

According to the Pasadena Star News, "With a little more than a week left in the Measure CC race, the campaign in support of the parcel tax sports a massive money advantage over the opposition."[14]

The "Citizens for Quality Schools - Yes on Measure CC" political action committee raised $200,000 for its campaign as of early April.[15] Some donors included:

  • Charles Munger: $50,000
  • United Teachers of Pasadena: $10,000
  • Pasadena Education Foundation: $10,000
  • RBC Capital Markets: $10,000. RBC Capital Markets is a seller of PUSD's Measure TT bonds.[15]
  • PBWS Architects of Pasadena: $5,000. PBWS Architects is under contract with PUSD to design upgrades to Sierra Madre School.[15]
  • Seville Group International: $2,500. Seville Group was granted a $175,000 contract in March 2010 for work on Measure TT projects.[15]
  • Molly Munger[16]

Tax opponents

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  • The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President Paul Little said, "It was the consensus of the (Chamber) that the PUSD has not adequately explained exactly where the money will be spent...what particular programs will be preserved and, more importantly, what sort of oversight will be instituted and how the district will be held accountable for expenditures."[17]
  • Tim Price, Pasadena resident: "What one of my medications that I make a $10 co-pay do you want me to give up to pay this tax."[9]
  • Steve Bridal, Altadena resident:
  • "I don't see why the person with a $10 million home is not paying more money for the parcel tax than me."[9]
  • "When I hear them talk about laying off 193 people, I sympathize. But then I think about companies that are laying off thousands of employees".[18]
  • C. Jake-Truman of Altadena: "I'm on a fixed income. My property tax billed has doubled."[18]
  • Resident Ross Selvedge, who said, ""My experience is that the more someone learns about the facts as opposed to the PUSD propaganda on this issue, the more likely they are to oppose Measure CC."[17]
  • Resident Rene Amy, who believed that in general, PUSD provides an inferior education that fails students and also that the tax will hurt the ability of the area to recover from its wounded economy. He said, "The tax is not going to just hut property owners. It will hit renters and anyone who does business in this city."[19]
  • Resident Mary Dee Romney, who said, "If you believe the PUSD must right-size infrastructure and staff and clean up corruption before taxing local homeowners a second time within an 18-month period, then you must vote "no" by May 4 in the all-mail ballot election."[20]
  • Wayne Lusvardi, who argued that PUSD has in the past acted in a deceptive manner around finances. He said, "...deceptive past actions of PUSD do not give the voting public confidence that Measure CC bond funds will all be spent in the classroom as PUSD contends: hiding the misuse of prior bond monies until an audit revealed it, failure to set up an accountability oversight board with teeth to oversee bond spending, constructing a new school building at Blair High School that is unneeded except to provide jobs for the well-connected, and renovating many excess school buildings which are not being used with prior bond funds."[21]

Campaign communications

The "No on CC" campaign mailed a full-color, two-sided flier to voters in the district. The flier featured graphs that showed the extent to which per-student spending in the district had increased in the last ten years, as well as the new tax burden homeowners would experience if Measure CC was approved.[22] The flier said that the amount spent by Pasadena Unified per student has grown over the years more quickly than in neighboring school districts.[22]

Strategy

The overall strategy of the "No on CC" campaign was to persuade voters that Pasadena Unified doesn't need more money: "There's a huge myth that they are strapped for money, but take a look at how much they spend. It keeps going up."[23] Selvedge also argued that Pasadena Unified spends more money than any other district in the county, including the 23 school districts with similar demographics.

About the district

  • PUSD has 29 school campuses.[24]
  • It has a total K-12 enrollment of slightly less than 20,000.[24]
  • It also has 71 administrators, representing one district-level administrator for every 277 children.[24]
  • PUSD has 2.5 district-level administrators for each of its 29 campuses.[24]
  • PUSD has more district-level administrators than it has on-site principals.[24]

Budget woes

Administrators at Pasadena Unified said they wanted the tax because the district faced a $20 million budget gap unless it is passed.[9] At the same time, PUSD Chief Finance Officer John Pappalardo said the tax won't close the budget gap: "Until you get into the $300 plus range on the tax, we will be way short of what we need."[10]

Declining enrollment

In recent years, enrollment in the school district is declining. In 2009-2010, the district is serving 2,682 fewer students than it did in the 2004-2005 school year, a decline of about 13%.[25]

Teacher's Union

One way PUSD officials plan to save money is by laying off 189 teachers, counselors, librarians, security guards, custodians and support staff for the 2010-11 school year.

Alvin Nash, the bargaining chairman of the United Teachers of Pasadena, said that's not acceptable to the union: "We are not willing to have the district balance the budget on the backs of school teachers. For every 14 teachers who get a layoff notice, one administrator should receive a layoff notice."[26]

The California Public Employee Relations Board assigned a mediator to negotiate an impasse between the school district and the United Teachers of Pasadena. As the impasse continued into mid-March, teachers said that the district's failure to agree to the health care insurance terms that teachers are demanding is hurting the district's ability to get Measure CC passed.[27]

Election date criticized

Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder Marcia Ventura criticized the school district for choosing a May election date, saying that if they had placed their measure on the June ballot, they would have:

  • The cost of a mail-in ballot will range from between $66,000-$166,000, based on similar mail-in ballot parcel tax elections held in recent years, whereas the cost of holding a consolidated election with other school districts and municipalities in Los Angeles on the June ballot would have been considerably less.
  • Voter turn-out will be lower for a mail-in ballot, according to statistics comparing voter participating in mail-in elections with voter participation in consolidated elections.[28]

Ballot drop-off locations

Although the election was primarily being held as a mail-in ballot election, there were 3 locations where voters could drop off a ballot.[3]

Those locations were:

  • The Rotunda in Pasadena City Hall at 100 N. Garfield Ave.
  • The Metropolitan Baptist Church, 2283 Fair Oaks Blvd. in Altadena
  • The Sierra Madre Library, 440 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., in Sierra Madre.

Cost of election

See also: Costs of administering local elections

The cost of holding the election was estimated at $500,000.[29]

See also

External links

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References

  1. Pasadena Star News, "PUSD parcel tax appears headed for defeat", May 4, 2010
  2. Pasadena Star News, "Parcel tax ballots pour in", April 15, 2010
  3. 3.0 3.1 Pasadena Star News, "More than 20,000 CC ballots returned", April 27, 2010
  4. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. Pasadena Star News, "Pasadena schools remove campaign signs amidst controversy", April 6, 2010
  6. 6.0 6.1 Pasadena Star News, "Possible election violation at PUSD has experts divided", April 6, 2010
  7. Pasadena Star News, "CC signs scrutinized by Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association", April 7, 2010
  8. Los Angeles Times, "Pasadena Unified puts parcel tax on May ballot", January 27, 2010
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Pasadena Star News, "Pasadena Unified passes parcel tax to voters", January 26, 2010
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 Pasadena Star News, "Parents, teacher rally to push for parcel tax", January 28, 2010
  11. Pasadena Star News, "Five chamber chairs for Measure CC", April 21, 2010
  12. Pasadena Weekly, "In for a penny, in for a pound: Hold your nose and vote yes on Measure CC", April 22, 2010
  13. Pasadena Star News, "Yes on CC offers pay for campaign workers", April 20, 2010
  14. Pasadena Star News, "More money behind Yes on CC", April 23, 2010
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Pasadena Star News, "Pro CC campaign reports $200,000 in campaign contributions", April 9, 2010
  16. San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "Molly Munger pushes tax initiative in face of Democratic opposition", March 11, 2012
  17. 17.0 17.1 Pasadena Star News, "Pasadena Chamber takes stand against parcel tax", March 24, 2010
  18. 18.0 18.1 Pasadena Star News, "Altadena residents critical of PUSD's plans for parcel tax", January 20, 2010
  19. Pasadena Star News, "Taxpayer group warns PUSD over signs on campus", April 7, 2010
  20. Pasadena Sub Rosa, "'No' on PUSD parcel tax", April 8, 2010
  21. Pasadena Now, "No on Measure CC", April 1, 2010
  22. 22.0 22.1 Pasadena Star News, "Fishy anti-parcel tax ad hits Pasadena area mailboxes", April 13, 2010
  23. Pasadena Star News, "Tale of two campaigns define battle over Measure CC", April 18, 2010
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 Examiner, "PUSD at odds with Altadenans over proposed parcel tax", January 27, 2010
  25. Altadena Headlines Examiner, "Pasadena Unified School District pushes parcel tax, budget cuts", December 21, 2010
  26. Pasadena Star News, "Pasadena teachers' union squares off with district over layoffs", January 30, 2010
  27. Pasadena Star News, "Teachers claim impasse bad for Measure CC", March 19, 2010
  28. Pasadena Star News, "County criticizes PUSD's tax ballot", January 27, 2010
  29. Daily Bulletin, "Failed parcel tax teaches Pasadena schools an expensive lesson", May 6, 2010