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Burbank Unified’s second proposed parcel tax fails to receive enough voter support

Locals went to vote at IMX Auto Group, at 811 N. Victory Blvd., Burbank on March 3.
(Raul Roa/Burbank Leader)

The second parcel tax initiative backed by Burbank Unified School District, called Measure I, was defeated in the primary election on March 3 by about 2.6%.

The proposed parcel tax was expected to generate $9.1 million for the district annually for 12 years by collecting a 10-cents-per-square-foot annual fee from local property owners.

Most of the revenue from the proposed tax would have increased salaries to retain and attract teachers to the district as well as kept and expanded arts, science, career and college courses.

Smaller portions of the funds would have been allocated to maintain low class sizes, school-based mental-health counseling, on-campus safety, custodial support and elementary physical-education teachers.

According to the county registrar’s certified results, 20,318 voters, or 64.12%, supported the parcel tax , while 11,367 residents, or 35.88%, voted against it.

The measure required a two-thirds, or 66.67%, supermajority vote to pass.

Out of 69,048 registered voters in California’s 28th and 30th congressional districts, only 31,685 voters cast their ballots — nearly 8,000 fewer voters than in the 2018 general election.

When a similar proposed parcel tax, called Measure QS, failed to pass two years ago, the county registrar tallied 25,413 votes, or 64.33%, supporting Measure QS and 14,093 residents, or 35.67%, voting against it.

Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill and school board members discussed possible scenarios in the event Measure I didn’t pass throughout the beginning of this year.

Part of the cost-cutting plan for the 2020-21 school year is to lay off nearly 30 core-subject, arts and physical-education teachers. Officials sent out pink slips on March 15, a day before Burbank public schools closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

When asked whether school shutdowns could affect the district’s budget for the next school year, Hill said, “There’s a lot of unknowns of how the pandemic is going to impact the governor’s May revise in next year’s budget. The proposed reductions we had to make are still in effect, but we’re also monitoring what’s happening on a federal and state level.”

Layoffs of about 30 classified employees are expected to be addressed during the district’s school board meeting on April 16. Classified employees include custodians, cafeteria and administrative workers.

According to Hill, the board meeting will be conducted virtually, and district officials are exploring available technology to set up public-comment opportunities.

By phone Tuesday afternoon, board president Armond Aghakhanian reiterated sentiments expressed during the last board meeting in early March.

Although disappointed, Aghakhanian said he’s “encouraged because the Measure I [campaigning] united the Burbank community.”

He added, “There’s a lot of uncertainty. We’re going to continue with some of the cuts. I believe that we, the board, are optimistic that together we’ll get through this.”

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