As the Santa Monica and Malibu United School District faces more than $10 million deficit coupled with reduced support from the state government, the district board voted unanimously on Thursday to put a proposed parcel tax before voters in a special May 25 mail-in election.
“The district must continue to prepare to make significant budget reductions to maintain a balanced budget, as required by law,” said SMMUSD Superintendent Tim Cuneo in an e-mail to the district.
Based on surveys, a school board committee determined that an additional $225 parcel would generate just under $7 million. The district has reportedly already proposed $8.7 million in budget cuts on top of the $4.5 million has already been reduced from last year. In 2008, Santa Monica and Malibu district voters already approved and pay a $346 parcel tax, which has no expiration. School officials said the proposed “emergency tax” would last for five years and would include an exemption for senior citizens.
A parcel tax assesses an annual flat fee to every residential and commercial property in the district. However, 70 percent of Santa Monica’s population rent their homes, and they would likely be impacted through rent increases. For each tenant in a 12-unit apartment building, an additional $225 parcel tax would translate to almost $20 in additional rent per year.
This is likely to raise some concern for already-budget-slimmed residents. Additionally, holding the election in May and as a mail-in, is expected to cost the district $360,000, whereas it could have saved $200,000 by including item on next June’s statewide ballot.
The stated reason for pursuing the May special mail-in election is that if the item were grouped with the number of other initiatives in the general election in June, it would stand little chance of passing, especially since it requires two-thirds voter approval. Having a special mail-in election gives the tax parcel special prominence. The school board must finalize the parcel details including ballot language by its Feb. 4 meeting in order to meet the election deadline.
The head of a committee recommending the School Board hold a special May election for a parcel tax to help the financially challenged District says the campaign to pass the tax will be a challenge, especially since it requires two-thirds voter approval.
Budget presentation dates to SMMUSD parents and communities:
Wednesday, January 20
Santa Monica High School parents/community
Thursday, January 21
Malibu High School pathway parents/community
Tuesday, January 26
John Adams Middle School pathway parents/community
Wednesday, January 27
Lincoln Middle School pathway parents/community
The Santa Monica Mirroreditor@smmirror.com