The South Pasadena Unified School District has sent mailers in recent weeks to registered voters informing them of the impending vote to renew Measure S, the parcel tax currently bringing in $2.3 million to the District annually.
The local education funding renewal measure seeks to continue the tax at its current rate of $386 per parcel for seven years. Annual adjustments for inflation, exemptions for seniors and independent citizen oversight are all included in the renewal measure. Exemptions are also available to home owners on low incomes or with disabilities that qualify them for SSI and SSDI benefits.
66.7 percent of local voters must approve the tax in order for it to be renewed.
Fiscal accountability provisions in the measure include that no funding raised by Measure S can be taken away from the District by the state, an optional exemption from the cost would be available to property owners 65 and older, audits will be conducted annually to make sure monies are spent properly, and an independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee will be formed to provide accountability and transparency.
The all-mail election date is February 27, 2018. Vote-by-mail ballots will arrive in voters’ mailboxes the week of Jan. 29. The last day to register to vote is February 12.
A poll testing community interest in renewing Measure S, initiated in 2009 and renewed in 2013, was mailed last year to over 600 registered voters. Results showed a majority were in favor of renewal. This poll was then submitted to the Board of Education for its review and consideration. The Board unanimously voted to put out a ballot for the tax’s renewal.
“Measure S money is used to support student programs and support services,” said Superintendent Dr. Geoff Yantz. “Libraries, counselors, electives, and class sizes are all affected by the parcel tax. Without it, our school district would be very different.”
Some of these impacts are interrelated, Yantz explained. “Consider that at any given school site, the students have to take certain core classes,” said the Superintendent. “Then they have electives, none of which alone are required. When you eliminate an elective because of lack of funding, kids in those classes will have to enroll in something else, and the result is class sizes increase.”
South Pasadena Unified benefits greatly from local funding organizations such as the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, Parent Teacher Associations and the Booster Club, but falls in the bottom 10 percent of statewide funding according to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The LCFF allocates funding to districts based on their percentages of foster youth, low income families and English language learners.
A mailer sent out recently that includes frequently asked questions about local education funding says that the District “currently uses parcel tax proceeds to fund nearly 30 teachers and school staff.”
It goes on to detail that, at the elementary school level, Measure S funds “support art and music teachers, school counselors, computer aides and library services for students.” At the middle school level, the parcel tax supports “art, music and science instruction as well as school library services and smaller class sizes.” At the high school level, the mailer says, funds from the tax support smaller class sizes in 9th grade English as well as teachers for elective courses and specialized instruction.”
The District has been working for months on potential cuts to teaching and programs in the event that the tax does not pass.