District to study parcel tax

GLENDALE — With a projected $18.5-million shortfall in two years, the school district’s Board of Education instructed officials Tuesday to explore a parcel tax.

The move clears the way for district officials to review successful campaigns, determine whether consultants are necessary, and eventually survey the community’s priorities, Supt. Michael Escalante said.

District officials are without a timeline for if or when a new tax could be on the ballot.

“There’s a great deal of research that needs to be done before we consider doing a parcel tax,” Escalante said. “It’s going to take several meetings of providing the board information before they’re going to make a decision on it.”

Parcel tax campaigns require 60% majority to pass, and are typically tied to specific programs. Culver City Unified passed an annual $96 tax for five years. Advocates said the measure will yield roughly $1.2 million every year for math, science, art and new teaching materials.

The Glendale Parent Teacher Assn. has not yet endorsed the possibility of a parcel tax, but could, officials said. Instead, members are working to lower the 60% voter-approval threshold to 55%.

“Until the state can fix the broken budgeting process, this gives the opportunity to local communities to thoughtfully pass a parcel tax that will fund their classrooms,” said Patty Scripter, PTA vice president. “We are throwing away a whole generation of kids.”

Successful campaigns rely on a survey that measures the community’s willingness to aid schools, as well as which programs the money should fund, officials said.

Whether the community would support a new tax when the district is laying off teachers, or when teachers are picketing outside schools, remains unclear. A resolution between the district and teachers union could be finalized as late as summer, officials said.

“We can’t sit and wait for that agreement to come about,” Escalante said. “The only way that California schools are going to come back around is as a result of communities taking local control.”

Officials in Pasadena Unified and Los Angeles Unified school districts have approved a parcel tax initiative on the ballot in May and June, respectively. La Cañada Flintridge, San Marino and South Pasadena school districts have already passed parcel taxes.

“We’ve seen it be successful in many communities, and it’s time for our community to look at that as well,” Escalante said.

Glendale Unified is projecting an $18.5-million deficit in 2011-12, and could register a qualified, or “troubled budget,” indicating it may not project fiscally solvency every year through July 2012. A qualified budget is between solvency and insolvency, and triggers increased regulation and oversight by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

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