Lancaster Schools Put Tax Increase on April Ballot

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Voters in the fast-growing Lancaster School District will be asked to approve a property tax increase on the April ballot to fund $47 million in new and renovated school facilities, the district's Board of Trustees decided Tuesday.

The board's 5-0 vote came after a district survey showed that the needed two-thirds of voters might be willing to support it.

The measure proposes an average tax increase of about $50 a year for 30 years for the typical home in the district, officials said.

"We certainly have a selling job ahead of us now," said Edward Goodwin, interim superintendent of the 10,700-student district. He acknowledged that persuading residents to vote for the tax hike probably will be more difficult than gathering expressions of support for it in the district's public opinion poll.

District officials have pleaded money shortages and say they have nowhere to turn but to the voters. The 13-school district has spiraling enrollments and demand for classrooms, but the state has no money available for new school construction, officials said.

The board approved the measure for the April 10 ballot as Measure A. Acquiring four new school sites would be the top priority for use of the funds raised, followed by building four new schools--two on those sites and two on land the district already owns--and various improvements to existing schools.

The district also released the results of the telephone survey it sponsored last month, asking about 400 of the district's 35,000 registered voters how big a tax hike for schools they would be willing to support.

To pass, the ballot measure needs a two-thirds, or 66.6% mandate.

Goodwin said 73.3% of those surveyed said they would be "more likely" to support a measure that would cost them no more than $55 a year. The district did not get two-thirds support for any higher amount in the poll.

The levy would be assessed against all taxable land in the district, at an average rate of about 5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The $50 annual tax increase is the 30-year average for the owner of a home assessed at $100,000. The actual increase would be smaller at first, climb to a peak of about $100 a year by the mid-1990s and then decline.

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