Voters Reject Parcel Tax to Boost LA School Funding

LOS ANGELES (CN) – A parcel tax that would have generated millions of dollars for Los Angeles schools failed to get enough votes Tuesday, a devastating blow to union leaders and school officials who said the funding would have gone to reduce class sizes and hire more staff.

Measure EE would have generated $500 million a year over the next 12 years for the Los Angeles Unified School District, but garnered just under 46% of the vote. The proposed tax needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

In a statement, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner said the district could next turn to the Legislature for help.

“We’ll continue to reduce the bureaucracy and make sure every nickel taxpayers provide goes to schools. We’ll ask those in Sacramento to make it possible to raise money to hire a teacher the same way we can build a school,” Beutner said.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education said it did not include the possible parcel tax revenue in its latest multiyear budget projections but remains “concerned with the continued use of one-time funding to cover ongoing expenditures.”

In January, the Los Angeles Unified School District ground to a halt when 30,000 educators went on strike to demand a hiring increase, a moratorium on charter school spending within the district, smaller classroom sizes and better pay for teachers.

School administrators argued there was not enough money to hire more librarians, nurses and special education instructors in the nation’s second largest school district, but the parties reached an agreement after the week-long strike.

A hiring increase will bring more staff to the school district, but school administration say funding will run out within two to three years.

Measure EE, which was drafted in February to generate a new source of funding for the district, would tax 16 cents per square foot of “habitable space” within the school district.

The tax was supported by United Teachers of Los Angeles, labor organizations and the current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Steve Ballmer.

Had the measure been approved, officials estimated homeowners within the school district would have paid a little under $300 each year for the next 12 years. There were exceptions for senior citizens, people on a Supplemental Security Income and families who qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

A lawsuit filed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association claims the language in the measure did not clarify how much homeowners would have been taxed if the measure passed. The ambiguous language could have meant taxing homeowners for storage sheds or garages on their property, according to the complaint.

The money generated from the parcel tax would have been used for the school district’s general fund, but would not have gone toward construction and land purchases.

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