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L.A. Unified parcel tax postponed, board set to vote on furlough days

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday voted to postpone putting a local tax increase for schools before voters until after the November election.

If successful, the measure would have placed a levy of $298 per parcel on property owners within L.A. Unified School District boundaries and would have generated $255 million a year for five years beginning in 2013-14.

District leaders have said they still hope to pass a parcel tax in the near future, but they didn’t want to crowd the November ballot with revenue measures for schools that could end up competing with each other or result in no tax increase passing.

“We run a risk of having too many measures before the public,” L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said in a recent statement.

The November ballot will include a temporary tax increase backed by Gov. Jerry Brown. If it fails, schools statewide are expected to endure $5.5 billion in new funding cutbacks, the equivalent of three weeks of school, according to state estimates.

While Brown’s measure would help schools, it would not resolve the financial stress in the L.A. Unified School District and many other school systems. L.A. Unified already has enacted deep budget cuts for the fourth consecutive year; it would have to slash more if Brown’s measure fails.

In a later meeting, Tuesday afternoon, the board is scheduled to vote on a agreement with the teachers' union that would save money by shortening the school year by as many as five days. Teachers could lose an additional five days of pay under the pact. If it’s approved by union members and the school board, the deal would prevent the layoffs of about 4,000 teachers and other professionals represented by the teachers union.

A parcel tax requires a two-thirds majority, which has been difficult to achieve in school systems that serve substantial numbers of low-income families. In June 2010, 53% of L.A. school district voters cast ballots in favor of a parcel tax, well short of the required plurality.

District homeowners already pay substantial annual levies to pay off bonds designated for the school system’s massive construction program.

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-- Howard Blume

 
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