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LAUSD board agrees to place parcel tax on June ballot

Facing a projected $640 million dollar funding deficit next fiscal year, the Los Angeles Unified School District voted today to place a $100 parcel tax measure on the June ballot that could generate $90 million annually.

The measure’s one of several far reaching proposals, some in draft form, to close an expected deficit in the biggest pot of money received by school districts, state education funds.

Four of the school district’s minor labor unions have agreed to furlough days for the employees they represent. L.A. Unified’s largest union, United Teachers Los Angeles, has not agreed to furloughs for teachers.

Board member Steve Zimmer, a former L.A. Unified teacher, made an impassioned plea to his colleagues and to the region at large. “We must come together as a city. We ask L.A. not to tax itself but to invest in our future.”

One board member said he’d received complaints about the parcel tax proposal from constituents worried about a hike in their taxes.

Tamar Galatzan, the only school board member to vote against placing the parcel tax on the ballot, warned colleagues that voters will expect L.A. Unified to carry out deep fiscal reforms. “Now is the time to look at every single program, how it’s funded, who benefits from it, get rid of the ones that don’t work and change the ones where the funding mechanism isn’t benefiting our students.”

L.A. Unified — and all other California school districts — face a March 15 deadline to hand out preliminary layoff notices.

Board member Richard Vladovic said the school district would be sending out a lot of these layoff notices next month. “What it might do if it passes is save us from laying off a thousand because we’re going to have to send notices to over 5,000 to 6,000.”

The recent experience of some Southland school districts may serve as a cautionary sign to L.A. Unified of the steep climb the district faces to pass a parcel tax. School districts in mostly affluent communities such as San Marino and the Palos Verdes Peninsula successfully fielded school parcel tax measures.

School districts in Long Beach and Rowland Heights failed to do so — their socioeconomic population mirrors, on a smaller scale, that of the 617,000-student Los Angeles Unified School District.