Los Angeles Unified School District voters will decide on $100 parcel tax

Voters in the Los Angeles Unified School District will decide today whether to approve a $100 parcel tax aimed at raising millions of dollars for the cash-strapped district.

Measure E would impose a $100 levy on each piece of taxable real property within the LAUSD boundaries, regardless of value.

The assessment would be added to the county tax bill for each affected property. For example, a person who pays property taxes on two pieces of property would pay $100 on each bill. The LAUSD covers 710 square miles, including the bulk of the city of Los Angeles and all or part of a variety of other cities in Los Angeles County.

The proposed tax, which needs the support of two-thirds of voters, would raise about $92.5 million a year, and would remain in place for four years, according to the district, which is expected to be facing about a $640 million budget deficit in the coming fiscal year. The tax includes an exemption for low-income seniors.

When the Board of Education voted to place the item on the ballot, board member Richard Vladovic conceded that the tax would not be a solution to the LAUSD's financial troubles, but he said it was a step in the right direction.

"What we're trying to do right now, as they taught me in the Army, stop the bleeding first," he said. "That's all it's going to do. It's not going to make the person well. It's going to stop the bleeding so we don't have the chaos of a county takeover or a state takeover."

Board member Tamar Galatzan voted against the proposal, saying it would raise a relatively small amount of money and would barely amount to a "Band-Aid" that would do little to cure the district's overall budget woes.

"Now is the time to look at every single program, look at how it's funded, why it's funded, who benefits from it, get rid of the ones that don't work and change the ones where the funding mechanism just isn't benefiting our students," Galatzan said. "We as a board need to do all of that work first."

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is also opposing the measure, noting in a ballot argument that it would be the sixth time the district has raised taxes in the last 13 years.

"Don't let the LAUSD bureaucrats take advantage of taxpayers again," association President Jon Coupal and secretary Trevor Grimm wrote in the ballot argument. "Tell them to shape up and do a better job of managing the billions of dollars they already are getting from us."

But in an argument in favor of the measure, LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines and four other education officials noted that schools "face a serious crisis."

"Local and statewide budget cuts are damaging our schools' ability to provide a higher-quality education for students," they wrote. "Over the past two years, the state Legislature has cut $1.3 billion from local schools, and is expected to cut several hundred million dollars more. In total, these unprecedented cuts will have forced our schools to lose more than 8,000 essential school employees, including 4,000 teachers."

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