School District Selects Panel to Prep Push for New Emergency Parcel Tax
• Everyone Who Applied Was Selected for the Committee
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education, at its Aug. 21 meeting, approved a 33-member committee to examine the feasibility of an emergency temporary parcel tax to offset reductions in state funding and explore another school construction bond measure.
The committee comprised of everyone who submitted an application, is a who’s who of Santa Monica school advocates and activists, including former PTA president Rebecca Kennerly; former Measure R Parcel Tax Committee member Laurie Lieberman; and former Santa Monica mayor and Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights board member Denny Zane.
Only two Malibuites appear to have applied for the committee: safety activist Susan Tellem, who is a member of the City of Malibu’s safety commission, and education advocate Ralph Erickson, who is also on the Proposition 39 oversight committee and campaigned actively for Measure BB.
Tellem, who said she had not yet been notified of her appointment, said she applied to assure that Malibu had representation.
A representative will also be chosen from both city councils, as well as from Santa Monica College and the teachers union. The SMMUSD superintendent’s office confirms that the remaining appointments will be announced in September.
According to a district staff report, the committee is charged with two goals: a recommendation regarding the feasibility of an emergency and temporary parcel tax,” and a recommendation on the potential for “a future capitol improvement bond measure to modernize the district’s schools.”
In 2006, the district passed Measure BB, a $268 million bond measure “to improve health, safety, class instruction by repairing, renovating outdated classrooms, bathrooms, plumbing, leaky roofs, computer technology, fire safety equipment.” In 2008, voters passed Measure R, which removed a “sundown” clause from existing parcel taxes “to preserve quality schools despite inadequate state funding, and prevent program cuts shall the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District renew—without increasing—existing school parcel taxes.”
The new committee would be authorized to expend up to $50,000 to poll the electorate, and will “work with a polling firm to craft questions for community input,” and “work with the chief financial officer to delineate the steps necessary to place a parcel tax and/or bond measure on a future ballot or special election and retain the necessary counsel for each step of the process.” A report on the proposed emergency parcel tax is due Dec. 10. The recommendation on the proposed capitol improvement bond measure is expected next March.
Not everyone is enthusiastic about the proposed taxes. A critic recently described the district as having “a voracious appetite for money, more money and even more money.” One Malibu resident, in a recent letter to the Malibu Surfside News, stated that the district is proposing “yet another tax undemocratically imposed by Santa Monica voters, which will benefit only Santa Monica students, Santa Monica teachers, Santa Monica bureaucrats and Santa Monica schools, all at Malibu’s expense.”
However, the district’s chief financial officer, Jan Maez, has cautioned that the district, already experiencing a deficit of $12 million due to the state budget crisis, will face an increasingly bleak future without new sources of alternate revenue.