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Glendale Unified begins discussion about bond measure, parcel tax possibilities

The Glendale Unified School District Administration Building on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. Recently, sc
Glendale Unified school board members took their first steps toward deciding whether to support a parcel tax or bond during a meeting on Tuesday.
(Tim Berger / Glendale News-Press)

Just about every school district surrounding Glendale Unified has passed or tried to pass a sales tax, parcel tax or bond measure in the past five years to supplement educational funding.

Glendale Unified school board members took their first steps toward deciding whether the local district will follow suit as they discussed the possibility of a parcel tax or bond during a regular meeting on Tuesday.

“This purposeful conversation, [which] I hope will be one of many, is just to educate ourselves as to what can happen,” Glendale Unified Supt. Vivian Ekchian said. “It’s not a decision-making point, by any means.”

No action was taken during the meeting, although district staff members said further discussion will follow.

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“I want to highlight the word ‘exploration,’” said Stephen Dickinson, the district’s chief business and financial officer. “This is for information only and really it’s a follow-up from our study session on Sept. 10.”

At that meeting, district staff members presented findings, stating Glendale Unified’s 32 campuses are in need of nearly $700 million worth of repairs, upgrades and improvements.

Dickinson estimated the district was left with roughly $40 million in reserves from Measure S, a $270-million general-obligation bond passed by voters, 69.1% to 30.1%, in 2011.

“It’s obvious that someday we’re going to have to raise funds to continue to address facility needs,” Dickinson said before presenting scenarios for either a parcel tax or a bond.

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Dickinson delivered bond proposals from $100,000 to $700,000 and highlighted a $300-million bond, which would cost the average Glendale property owner $25.71 per every $100,000 of assessed value annually.

Dickinson said the average assessed value for a Glendale single-family residence is $485,057, so the average annual cost would be $124.73 annually for 30 years.

According to a report from the Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller, Glendale Unified is one of the lowest-taxed school districts in the county.

Glendale Unified ranks No. 45 out of 48 districts in L.A. County as its residents pay $48.83 per every $100,000 of assessed value.

Regionally, only Pasadena ($45.30), which is in the process of closing schools, is lower. Glendale is ahead of nearby Burbank ($52.70), Arcadia ($55.43), La Cañada ($55.15) and Los Angeles ($125.49). Paramount was No. 1 at $220.91 per every $100,000.

“We are near the bottom here,” Dickinson said.

Conversely, property values within Glendale Unified’s voting areas are booming as district staff members estimate the combined worth of all properties to be roughly $37.98 billion.

Should Glendale Unified board members choose that a proposed bond should be placed on a ballot, it could end up that district residents would be paying for three bonds at once.

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The district’s Measure K, which was passed in 1997, won’t clear the books until 2030, while Measure S is set to be paid off in 2041.

As for a parcel tax, Dickinson only presented a flat-fee proposal and not a tax-per-square-foot plan, which Burbank Unified failed to pass by 938 votes last November.

In Dickinson’s flat-fee scenario, all 52,233 parcels located within Glendale Unified’s borders would pay the same rate, which board member Nayiri Nahabedian described as “very regressive.”

Dickinson offered an example of a $5-million parcel tax that would match what the deficit-spending district cut from this year’s budget.

Such a tax, which board member Greg Krikorian called a “short-term fix” and only necessary “if we’re in desperate need,” would cost the average Glendale resident $106 annually for the length of the tax.

While Krikorian said he did not see value in a parcel tax, he, Nahabedian and the rest of the board felt some sort of study and polling should be done to proceed on either a parcel tax or a bond.

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