Sunday, February 14, 2010


By Connie Llanos | LA Daily News

Facing a massive budget deficit, the Los Angeles Unified School District board will decide Tuesday whether to ask voters in June for a $100 per-parcel tax increase for the next four years to help keep local schools afloat.

The limited parcel tax would generate about $92.5 million per year, according to a board report.

The money would go toward limiting class size increases, reducing teacher layoffs, and maintaining vocational and job training programs, according to the abbreviated text of the measure.

The tax would also exempt low-income seniors and would not fund any central administrators' salaries.

"The bottom line is the district is in desperate straits," said Judith Perez, president of Associated Administrators Los Angeles, who supports the tax.

"There is just no way to come up with this money through cuts."

District officials estimate the deficit for the 2010-11 school year is $640 million. The LAUSD board already approved a series of cost-saving measures to address the funding gap, including laying off some 5,000 workers over the next two years, increasing K-3 class sizes from 24:1 to 29:1, and eliminating music and arts programs. This week Superintendent Ramon Cortines also announced a plan to cut the school year by six days, including five instructional days.

Pollsters hired by LAUSD found what they described as favorable support for a poll tax in a survey of some 800 local residents in December. To pass, the parcel tax would have to be approved by two-thirds of voters. Sacramento legislators are pushing to change that requirement to grant districts more flexibility, but it is unclear if that change will happen in time for the June election.

Several school districts have already placed parcel taxes on the June ballot, including Pasadena Unified.

Conducting the election for a parcel tax would cost the county about $3 million to $4 million and LAUSD would have to share those costs, as well as spend money on what district officials called an "internal communication campaign."

LAUSD board members were unavailable for comment Saturday.

Former LAUSD board member David Tokofsky, who served from 1995 through 2008, said the district has been considering a parcel tax at least since 2004.

"We shouldn't have gone for $7 billion in facilities money when we knew for the last five years that we were running out of instruction money, not construction money," Tokofsky said.

The LAUSD board has until March 12 to decide whether to place the parcel tax on the June ballot.

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