Facing huge budget cuts due to the state’s fiscal meltdown, the Long Beach Unified School District will ask local voters in November whether they are willing to pay 25 cents a day to preserve high quality schools.
At the board’s regular meeting this week, parents and others spoke in favor of the placing the measure on the ballot. The board heard no opposition to the measure during a public hearing on the matter.
LBUSD must cut as much as $100 million during the next two years because of multi-billion-dollar state cuts to education. The school district already has cut more than $100 million during the past five years and has relied upon rainy-day reserves to prevent damage to classroom instruction.
Last April, the school board cut an additional $24 million from its approximately $750 million operating budget.
The April cuts included a significant reduction in summer school offerings and the elimination of the Hi-Hill outdoor science camp that elementary school students had attended since 1949 in the Angeles National Forest. The school district has stopped hiring new teachers, stopped filling vacancies that occur due to retirements and resignations, cut 50 jobs from its administration building alone, eliminated summer recreation programs that keep kids off the streets, and implemented many other reductions in programs and services. All school district employees were recently notified that they may face reduced compensation in 2009-10.
The school board voted 4-0 (with member Michael Ellis absent) to approve a resolution calling for the Nov. 3 election.
If approved by two-thirds of voters, the measure would go toward retaining superior teachers and maintaining smaller class sizes, particularly in elementary schools. The board-approved resolution also calls for funds to go toward:
Maintaining vocational/career technical job training and college prep programs;
Preserving essential high quality academic offerings, including English, math, social studies, history, computer technology and science;
Preserving arts, music and sports programs;
Preserving after-school programs to keep children off the streets and away from gangs, drugs and crime;
Protecting property values and the taxpayers’ investment in education.
If approved, The Classroom Teacher, Student Safety and Education Measure would levy a temporary, $92 annual education parcel tax for five years. The annual fee amounts to about 25 cents a day. Owners of apartment buildings would not pay per apartment unit but simply per parcel of land. The measure would require exemptions for senior citizens who are 65 and older. No money would go to administrators’ salaries, and the measure calls for citizens’ oversight of expenditures.
Because LBUSD serves Long Beach, Signal Hill, Avalon (on Catalina Island) and portions of Lakewood, residents in each of those areas will vote on the November measure.
The parcel tax mechanism is part of Proposition 13. The authors of Prop. 13 recognized that their proposition to limit property tax increases might result in insufficient funding for public schools, so they allowed for local elections requiring a two-thirds majority of voters. The November measure will be the first such parcel tax election in the 124-year history of the Long Beach Unified School District.