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L.A. school board to weigh $100 parcel tax Tuesday [Updated]

February 15, 2010 |  5:12 pm

Los Angeles school officials are scheduled to decide Tuesday whether to put a parcel tax on the June ballot as an emergency response to an ongoing budget crisis.

The measure would tax each property owner $100 annually for four years, offsetting a portion of budget deficits that could still result in employee layoffs, increased class sizes and possibly a school year with five fewer instructional days.

[Updated at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday: The Board of Education has voted 5 to 1 in favor of putting a parcel tax on the June ballot.]

Recent polling for the measure showed support strong enough to win, but caveats abound. For one thing, positive polling in some other school systems led them to try for a parcel tax, which voters subsequently failed to approve. A parcel tax requires a two-thirds majority to become law.

The school districts that have fallen short tend to look more like L.A. Unified than those that have succeeded. That is, small, prosperous enclaves have had better luck with parcel taxes than larger school systems with a broad distribution of family income from rich to poor.

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said in an interview Monday that members of the elected school board have mixed feelings over whether to put a parcel tax before voters. But he insisted that the need is dire.

The tax would raise about $92.5 million a year, but the district has an estimated a deficit of $640 million for next year.

In other words, Cortines said, a successful parcel tax would make a bad situation somewhat less bad, which he acknowledged is a “tough sell” for voters.

-- Howard Blume

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