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Pasadena Unified puts parcel tax on May ballot

January 27, 2010 | 12:16 pm

Pasadena residents will vote on a parcel tax for schools in May. The Pasadena school board unanimously voted to put the tax on the ballot at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. 

The levy would be $120 per residential and commercial parcel each year for five years, with exemptions for low-income seniors, officials said. It would raise an estimated $7.1 million annually beginning next fall.  

Like other California school districts, Pasadena Unified has suffered funding reductions because of the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

“When Sacramento fails to fund our schools by more than $20 million, we must take steps to ensure that every student continues to have access to a great education,” Pasadena school board President Tom Selinske said in a statement. He added that the money would be used to “attract and retain qualified teachers, protect college preparatory programs, keep libraries open and continue offering arts and music.”

Polling for the tax revealed potentially strong support for the measure, but also suggested the effort could be a close call. Parcel taxes require a two-thirds plurality. The Pasadena district includes the communities of Altadena and Sierra Madre.

Voters in the nearby and prosperous cities of La Cañada Flintridge, San Marino and South Pasadena recently approved parcel taxes, but the taxes have not fared so well in cities with a greater proportion of lower-income residents.

The action by Pasadena’s school board means that L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, who lives in Pasadena, will be able to vote for a parcel tax, but it won’t benefit his own cash-strapped school system, the nation’s second largest. Cortines supports a try at a parcel tax for Los Angeles schools; the matter would have to come before the Los Angeles Board of Education in short order to reduce the effect of massive budget cuts planned for next year.

-- Howard Blume