School board floats numbers for proposed parcel tax in La Cañada

After months of reviewing survey results on voters’ receptiveness to a new parcel tax, the La Cañada Unified School District is ready to start talking numbers.

On Tuesday night, school board members decided to seek public input on the feasibility of asking residents to support an annual tax of $450 to $550 per parcel. The board would also like to see if voters might be willing to support the tax for a longer term to allow the district to maintain economic stability in a climate of uncertain state funding, make needed infrastructure repairs and improvements to campuses, and keep a steady reserve beyond the 2020-21 school year.

Board members Susan Boyd and Andrew Blumenfeld, who serve on the superintendent’s parcel tax subcommittee, delivered a presentation to the board and Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and made a recommendation to use the cost range to begin a series of discussions with the public.

“It would be really nice for us to take local control of our funding, rather than being so dependent on Sacramento and what they decide to give us,” Boyd said.

In June, the district heard the results of a survey that indicated support for a new parcel tax that would replace the current $150 annual tax, which expires in 2014, was strong, but depended on how much was being sought and how informed voters were about the needs of the district.

Board member Joel Peterson said he is not in favor of asking voters to pay as much as $536 per year, the highest threshold used in the survey, for fear of losing altogether.

The current tax brings the district about $900,000 annually, while the highest amount being considered could bring in as much as $3.2 million.

“If we go raise it, we risk losing the $900,000,” Peterson said. “If we don’t work just as hard as we did last time, the numbers don’t stand.”

Board member Ellen Multari stressed that the $450 to $550 range for a parcel tax is far from being final but might be enough to encourage people to attend the next discussion. Like Boyd, Multari indicated that an increased amount at a longer term could help the district’s future financial stability.

“Something that is self-sustaining and self-renewing allows us to plan for the future,” Multari said.

In December the board must make a final decision on a dollar amount it will ask voters to approve. A second reading of the parcel tax threshold will be discussed at the next board meeting Sept. 17.


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