Supporters of a Culver City school tax consider the last few days before Tuesday's election so crucial that even school Supt. Curtis I. Rethmeyer will be working the phones, encouraging voters to show up at the polls and support a levy of $98 per parcel of land.
"Our strategy is to contact that group that is undecided (on the tax) and swing them over to the 'yes' side," he said. "We're going to try to pull it off."
The Culver City parcel tax is just one of the decisions facing voters in local elections Tuesday. Culver City residents also will choose among three candidates for two spots on the Culver City school board. And in Beverly Hills, 16 candidates are contending for four seats on the Beverly Hills school board.
Campaign strategy has been low-key in both cities. Candidates showed their best sides at forums and coffee hours. They acquired voter lists, mailed campaign literature and knocked on doors to introduce themselves.
Candidates in both cities talked about tightening budgets, program cuts and alternative sources of money. They talked about the influx of non-English-speaking students. But there were no major divisive issues in either city for candidates to take sides on.
An agreement among Beverly Hills candidates to keep campaign spending below $30,000 seemed like overkill on the eve of Election Day. As of the Oct. 24 filing deadline, no one had even approached that figure, according to campaign statements at the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder's office.
AJ Willmer, an information systems consultant, was the biggest spender, according to the statements. He spent more than $15,000, of which $9,600 went to a political consultant.
"Not having the name recognition, I've had to run a very strong campaign," Willmer said. "I appear to have mailed harder than anyone else."
The lowest spender with an organized campaign was businessman Dan Himelstein, who reported less than $2,000 in expenditures.
Six candidates did not form campaign committees and filed statements saying they would spend less than $1,000. They are: publisher Lori Chapman, attorney-businessman Michael B. Flesch, physician Walter Preston Maynard, Los Angeles school Principal Anna R. McLinn, pediatrician Trisha Roth and business executive Phillip Scheid.
In Culver City, the highest-spending candidate as of the filing deadline was incumbent Bess Drust at $3,800. Challenger Michael Eskridge collected more than $7,000 in contributions, mostly from individual donors, but had spent less than $3,000 so far.
All three Culver City candidates have endorsed the parcel tax, as have most of the city's major political and community groups. An opposition group never formed. Nonetheless, supporters say getting the two-thirds vote needed to pass the tax will be difficult.
Based on several months of phone surveys, parcel tax campaign workers found that 60% of those contacted support the tax. Ten percent oppose it, and 30% are undecided.
The tax would levy a $98 fee on each parcel of land in the city, bringing about $1 million to the district. People 65 and older are entitled to a full refund. Supporters hope the emergency measure will offset some of the $2 million in cuts taken by the district this year.
Parcel tax campaign leader Diane Pannone said about 100 volunteers, including Supt. Rethmeyer, will be working the telephones and campaigning door-to-door today and Monday in support of the tax.
"We're going to give it a final push," Pannone said.
Election Summary Here is a look at what's on the ballot in Tuesday's elections.
Culver City Unified School District
* Parcel tax--Should a tax of $98 per parcel of land be imposed throughout the district? (Landowners 65 and over would be exempt.) Such a tax would raise $1 million for the schools. The ballot measure needs a two-thirds "yes" vote to take effect.
* Board of Education--Candidates for four-year terms (top two vote-getters will be elected).
* Bess Drust, education consultant (incumbent)
* Madeline Ehrlich, registered nurse
* Michael Eskridge, florist
Beverly Hills Unified School District
Board of Education--Candidates for four-year terms (top three vote-getters elected).
* Lori Chapman, publisher
* Steve Dahlerbruch, sales executive
* Michael B. Flesch, attorney and businessman
* Peggy Elliott Goldwyn, TV and film writer (incumbent)
* Phillip A. Harris, business executive and scientist
* Dan Himelstein, businessman
* Walter Preston Maynard, physician
* Anna R. McLinn, school principal
* Richard A. Stone, accountant and attorney
* Victor Weiner, businessman
* AJ Willmer, information systems consultant
Board of Education--Candidates for two-year unexpired term (one to be elected)
* Jack Cohen, attorney and mathematician
* Michael Karlin, tax attorney
* Lillian Raffel, registered nurse and educator
* Trisha Roth, pediatrician
* Phillip Scheid, business executive