Mail Ballots Sent Out for May Measure A Election
• $198 Parcel Tax for Five Years
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
Vote by mail ballots for the May 25 Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Measure A parcel tax proposal are being mailed to voters in both areas this week and the debate between proponents and opponents of the five-year $198 per parcel tax is heating up.
Measure A proposes a $198 annual tax per parcel in the district 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; [and] keep school libraries open,” according to the ballot language.
If passed, the tax would be levied for five years. According to the ballot, Measure A includes “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.”
Voters have less than a month to decide on their vote, but the argument between proponents and opponents of the tax measure have been debating the issue since the tax was first proposed.
A website at www.savesantamonicamalibuschools.org presents a wide range of arguments in favor of the measure.
“The State has cut over $10 million from our local schools in each of the past two years, with more cuts on the way,” the website states.“Measure A will provide stable local funding to support academic programs in our schools. Measure A is critically needed to prevent a serious decline in the quality of our schools and will allow SMMUSD to maintain the great teachers and strong academics that make our district among the best in the state.”
The website goes on to state that the measure will “protect instruction and minimize cuts in reading, writing math and science, minimize teacher layoffs, keep class sizes as small as possible, help protect music and art programs, keep school libraries open, and minimize cuts to counselors who help students stay on track and prepare for college and careers.”
The communities of Santa Monica and Malibu have traditionally supported previous tax measures, however, response to the current parcel tax proposal has been described as “lukewarm.” A large number of residents are already coping with the fallout from the housing and job market crisis and organized opposition to the measure is forming in Santa Monica.
While an informal survey of the Malibu school community indiates a high level of support for the measure, many Santa Monica residents have been vocal in opposing the new tax. Opponents, who have set up a website at http://nosneakattax.com, claim that alternative sources of funding are available but were rejected and charge that the new tax, which brings the yearly parcel tax for school funding to $571, places an “unfair burden” on the district’s poorest residents, while commercial landlords and developers “get off cheap.”
Letters to the Santa Monica community have also charged that the district has mismanaged funds, spending $800,000 in legal fees to fight parents of special education students and $3 million to evict two longtime Santa Monica families from their homes by eminent domain for what opponents describe as an “overly ambitious” expansion of Edison Elementary in Santa Monica.
Others have argued that the district is holding programs like the district’s highly respected elementary school music program “hostage” to the parcel tax.
Residents of Santa Monica and Malibu have until May 25 to vote, but all ballots must be received, not postmarked, by the end date.
The Malibu High School PTA is organizing a volunteer telephone campaign to promote the measure.
More information on the measure is available at the websites listed above, and at the district homepage: www.smmusd.org