Measure R on the February 5 ballot is a local measure that would “renew – without increasing – existing school parcel taxes, annually adjusted for inflation, with exemptions for homes owned and occupied by senior citizens, and annual audits reported to taxpayers by Independent Citizens Oversight Committee,” as stated on the ballot itself.
The measure has widespread support, having been endorsed by organizations ranging from the Santa Monica City Council and the League of Women Voters of Santa Monica to all Santa Monica-Malibu School District PTAs and many other organizations interested in the schools to the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Monica Police Officers Association. (The Mirror has also endorsed the measure. Santa Monica Mirror, January 17-23). But it will require a 2/3 majority of the votes cast in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District to pass.
Currently, two parcel tax measures – Measure Y adopted in November 2000 and due to sunset in 2011, and Measure S adopted in June 2003 and due to sunset in 2009 – together provide approximately $10.4 million a year in local funds for SMMUSD. Both measures were approved by the voters of Santa Monica and Malibu by votes exceeding the 2/3 requirement. Those funds support teacher salaries, library programs, arts education, and other SMMUSD initiatives.
Measure R would combine and renew, without increasing, both existing parcel taxes without any sunset date so the measures would not have to be put before the voters in the future.
Citing the Governor’s recent announcement of serious state budget cuts that could slash school budgets significantly, parent and Santa Monica-Malibu PTA Council President Rebecca Kennerly said, “Measure R is local funding for local schools that can’t be taken by the state. Our community has great schools because we’ve supported them in the past. If we relied only on the state, we wouldn’t have the great teachers and programs that we have today.”
While there does not appear to be any organized opposition to Measure R, there are some in Malibu who have suggested that voting against it may be a way to protest the allocation of the Proposition BB capital improvement funds between Santa Monica and Malibu schools by the SMMUSD BB Advisory Committee, and there are others who have objected to its perpetual nature.
But Shari Lewis, who chairs the Campaign to Protect Quality Public Schools, a collaborative effort of Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS), Santa Monica-Malibu PTA Council, and Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association, said that support for Measure R in Malibu is strong and active. “The people in Malibu know that this funding has to be renewed because it is critical for the students’ experience in the classroom.” She added that 10 percent of SMMUSD’s operating budget comes from these funds and “the stability that this local funding brings is really crucial.”