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Burbank voters to decide fate of Measure QS parcel tax

Burbank voters to decide fate of Measure QS parcel tax
Burbank voters will consider a Burbank Unified funding effort, known as Measure QS, aimed at districtwide improvements placed on the Nov. 6 ballot by board members, from left, Steve Ferguson, Armond Aghakhanian, Roberta Reynolds, Steve Frintner and Charlene Tabet. (Photo by Dan Watson)

Burbank voters will be asked to consider a local funding effort proposed by the Burbank Unified School District aimed at districtwide improvements but at a cost to taxpayers.

School officials have placed a parcel tax known as Measure QS, which stands for quality schools, on the Nov. 6 ballot, though mail-in and early voting is underway.

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The 10-cents-per-square-foot annual tax on real property is estimated to cost the average homeowner $170 a year and generate a little over $9 million annually. About 48% of the funds is expected to come from commercial properties, 35% from homeowners and 17% from owners of apartment buildings.

Senior citizens can opt out if they’re 65 or older and live on the property.

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Because the measure is a parcel tax and not a bond, Proposition 13 requires the approval of two-thirds of local voters to pass.

An independent citizens oversight committee would be established to monitor spending should the tax be approved. The tax also has no termination date and can only be repealed by voters.

If passed, the tax would go into effect July 1.

The official ballot wording says the tax is for “attracting and retaining teachers and staff; maintaining low class sizes in transitional kindergarten through third grade, expanding college and career courses; increasing mental-health support and increasing instruction in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math programs.”

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One of the bigger chunks of spending is roughly $3.3 million set aside for a one-time 3% raise for all district employees that would become available July 1.

A draft for proposed spending shows funds being used to keep classes at a 24-to-1 ratio for kindergarten through third grade and 30.5-to-1 for all secondary grades.

There are also upgrades for art, such as instrument repairs, as well as improvements for the music program, which would include new band uniforms. There would also be the addition of two counselors, development of a professional mentor program, one new custodian and nurse as well as more tech support.

None of the roughly $9.13 million is earmarked for athletics.

Measure QS is the city’s second fundraising attempt in the past five years.

Voters approved, 62% to 38%, the $110-million facilities-upgrade bond known as Measure S in 2013, which taxed property owners $55 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

A similar vote would derail QS because the measure needs at least 66.7% approval.

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According to ballotpedia.com, 58.9% of state parcel-tax measures have passed since 2003, with victories for regional schools districts such as Arcadia (67.63%) in 2017 and South Pasadena (79.91%) in 2018.

The district hired Los Angeles-based research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates to conduct a survey regarding resident attitudes from March 23 to 28.

Of the 1,019 respondents, 58% of voters said they would “definitely” or “probably” vote for the tax, while 29% said they would “definitely” be against it.

Burbank’s last parcel tax, a city sewer-and-refuse relief bill designated for seniors and low-income residents, also known as Measure S, was soundly defeated, 56.43% to 43.57%, in 2013.

Also on the same ballot Tuesday for Burbank voters is Measure P, the city’s proposed three-quarter cent sales-tax hike.

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