By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News from the Pasadena Star News | http://bit.ly/RbgkrD
10/02/2012 06:04:12 PM PDT :: Trying to toe the line without crossing over into advocacy, Los Angeles Unified's finance chief on Tuesday outlined the impacts of the two proposed tax-hike initiatives that would pump revenue into an education system she said is now "running on fumes."
During an "informational" presentation to the school board's Budget Committee, Chief Financial Officer Megan Reilly predicted that the kinds of layoffs and program cuts seen over the last five years would continue in the future without an infusion of cash from Propositions 30 or 38.
"Either the state has to get more revenue or there have to be cuts. One or the other has to give," she said.
"Over the last five years, more than $10 billion has been cut from education (statewide) and $9 billion has been deferred. If anything about running on fumes touches anyone as an analogy, we're there.
"The thought of having additional cuts right now is daunting."
Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 would raise the sales tax by a quarter percent for four years and hike the tax rate on wages more than $250,000 for seven years.
It would generate an estimated $6 billion annually that would be used to repay the state's IOUs to school districts and to bolster education funding. Reilly said the money would allow LAUSD to restore at least two of the five instructional days now set aside for furloughs.
The measure's failure, however, would immediately trigger $6 billion in statewide education cuts, including about $255 million - or $439 per student - for Los Angeles Unified.
To account for that loss, Brown has said that districts could shave 15 days off the school year, meaning that California's kids would be in school just 160 days - weeks less than students in other parts of the U.S., or in Asia or Europe.
Proposition 38, meanwhile, backed by civil-rights attorney Molly Munger, would raise the tax rate on incomes over $7,316 for 12 years. It would take effect in 2013-14, generating an estimated $10 billion annually.
Thirty percent of the revenue would be used to repay IOUs during the first four years, with 60 percent going to K-12 and 10 percent to early education programs. Beginning in 2017-18, 85 percent of the revenue - about 1,000 per student - would go to directly to K-12 schools, and 15 percent to early ed.
Reilly and others had to speak carefully during the meeting since state Education Code prohibits district staff or resources from being used to advocate for or against a ballot measure.
Toward that end, Reilly's presentation included tables showing how the measures would increase the tax rates for various income levels - a nod to opponents who say it would be imprudent to raise taxes while the economy is struggling to recover.
But school board member Steve Zimmer said he wanted the district to undertake an information campaign so voters know that LAUSD hasn't had the money to implement many of its goals.
"These initiatives are about the civil rights of students, about classroom conditions and the safety of students, and we haven't been able to fund those," he said. "This is about the basics of maintaining what we have and the hope of being able to move forward."