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LCUSD puts parcel tax on March 2020 ballot, cheers new LCHS cafeteria

La Cañada High School cafeteria
La Cañada school officials recognized Monday the recent opening of the newly renovated cafeteria at La Cañada High School. Built with Measure LCF school bond funds, the $1,195,000 cafeteria includes a sound system and seats 378.
(Courtesy of La Cañada Unified School District)

La Cañada Unified School District voters will be asked in March to support the renewal of a parcel tax, after the school board decided Monday to place an indefinite extension of the $450-per-parcel annual levy on the upcoming ballot.

Board members passed in a special meeting a resolution calling for the election and underlined the need for continuing the tax, set to expire in 2021, to fund teaching positions and instructional programs.

LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette said once vacancies and senior exemptions are subtracted from the 6,872 total parcels within district boundaries, 5,970 assessable parcels remain.

The $2,686,500 currently raised by the tax helps fund the equivalent of 23 full-time staff positions and allows the district to maintain STEM programs.

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Measure LC proposes extending the current tax rate with annual inflation adjustments tied to the Consumer Price Index for Metropolitan Los Angeles, not to exceed 3%. It will continue unless and until it is overturned by voters.

Sinnette said were the tax not to be extended, the district would not be able to meet parents’ expectations for high-quality instruction.

“The impacts this community would feel from those reductions would be [transitional kindergarten] through 12 — felt in every corner of our schools and really not allow us to fulfill our promise of the world-class education that we’re committed to,” she said.

Board Member Ellen Multari said local measures have become critical in the past decade as state funds remain stagnant.

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“This is our reality ongoing,” she said. “I don’t think we’re going to see any change with state funding that’s going to come close to offsetting revenue that we’d be losing if the parcel tax were to be tabled or not to pass.”

Now that the board has called for the election, the district is prohibited by law from actively campaigning for the measure. That role will fall to “Community for La Cañada Schools,” a committee run by residents who support the cause.

Josh Epstein and Matt Weber, who will head the group, explained the first steps would involve getting the word out to voters and seeking campaign endorsements and donations. Phone banking and yard sign distribution would follow in the new year.

Epstein co-chaired the district’s 2017 effort to pass the $149-million Measure LCF bond to renovate and build school facilities. He said it’s been exciting to see LCUSD projects start to materialize from that effort but added the parcel tax is crucial for the staff and programs it funds.

“Losing 23 full-time staff members, mostly teachers, would be devastating,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have the facilities if you don’t have that.”

New cafeteria serves up smiles

Also during the meeting Monday, board members lauded the opening earlier that day of the La Cañada High School cafeteria, a yearlong effort to update the aging facility. The $1,195,000 project was funded by Measure LCF and is one of several improvements slated for the campus.

tn-vsl-me-lcusd-special-parcel-tax-20191205-1.jpg
La Cañada High School students enjoy Monday the opening of the newly renovated cafeteria. Built with funds from the Measure LCF bond, the space includes alcoves, alternative seating and a sound system.
(Courtesy of La Cañada Unified School District)

Assistant Supt. Mark Evans said a sound system and projector will allow student groups to deliver performances and presentations, while several alcoves set into the walls provide a comfortable, café-like setting for small groups. The space seats 378.

Board Vice President Joe Radabaugh said his eighth-grade daughter and her friends were thrilled at the opening. Board member Dan Jeffries also heard glowing reviews.

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“One of my son’s friends was saying it’s now one of her favorite places on campus,” he said.

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