Friday, May 6 , 2016, 10:46 am | Partly Cloudy 62º




Educators Breathe Sigh of Relief as State, Local Tax Measures Pass

Voter approval of Prop. 30 and Measures A & B prevent major cuts to local schools

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Like many in California, Santa Barbara schools Superintendent Dave Cash went to sleep Tuesday night thinking that Proposition 30 had lost. Defeat of Gov. Jerry Brown’s $6 billion tax increase initiative would have huge repercussions for the Santa Barbara Unified School District budget.

Cash was thrilled to wake up the next morning to learn voters actually had approved Prop. 30 by a 53.9 percent margin after all the ballots were in. In Santa Barbara County, Prop. 30 won 56.2 percent of the vote.

“It kind of restored some faith in the public understanding that you have to invest in education because the future depends on it as a state and a nation,” he told Noozhawk. “It was really fantastic.”

Because of the uncertainty going into the Nov. 6 election, the Santa Barbara district preemptively cut millions of dollars from this year’s budget and negotiated seven furlough days with its employee groups.

“Proposition 30 allows us to keep the status quo of last year, if things turn out the way we hope they will,” Cash said.

The district won’t know the details until the Legislature works out the real impact of the initiative’s passage, he added. Prop. 30 raises California’s sales tax by a quarter-cent starting Jan. 1 and imposes a 3 percent income tax increase on those earning $250,000 a year and higher, retroactive to the start of the 2012 tax year.

“We’re obviously going to do everything we can to return our employees to the status prior to this budget year,” Cash said. “They work hard and they deserve the best. I just don’t want to prematurely promise anything,”

Prop. 30 could even affect this year’s budget; Cash said he really wants to bring back the last five days of the school year that were dropped in a cost-saving move.

In more good news for the district, voters approved two parcel-tax measures Tuesday night. Measures A and B — a $45-per-parcel tax in the secondary district and $48 in the elementary district — will replace two similar measures that were approved in 2008 and expire next year.

“It’s heartening since we were so close in June,” Cash said. “To have a win in November was great.”

Needing a two-thirds majority vote for approval in the June election, both measures lost by less than 1 percent each. In November, there was a much higher voter turnout — 25,325 additional voters weighed in on the parcel taxes — and Measures A and B easily passed, with 68.57 percent and 69.57 percent approval, respectively.

Students, teachers, parents and others marched down State Street in Santa Barbara last month, urging voter approval of the Measures A and B parcel taxes to support education. Both initiatives passed in Tuesday's election. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk file photo)
Students, teachers, parents and others marched down State Street in Santa Barbara last month, urging voter approval of the Measures A and B parcel taxes to support education. Both initiatives passed in Tuesday’s election. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk file photo)

While the new parcel taxes will enable the district to extend programs that were started with the previous taxes, the taxes also are $20 more than before — “meaning we’ll be able to do stuff we haven’t been able to do for a long time,” Cash added.

The SBUSD Board of Trustees will start planning right away for the 2013-2014 school-year programs that are to be funded by the parcel taxes. The district has some flexibility in how the money is spent, but all decisions must be within the categories laid out in the initiatives’ language: math, science, technology, arts, music, foreign language, theater and career-skills courses.

“It was a long, long campaign for us beginning in January with Measures W and X so, as you can imagine, we are really relieved to have crossed the finish line with a victory!” Margie Yahyavi, executive director of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, said on Election Night.

The foundation ran the grassroots election campaign for Measures A and B, and Yahyavi expressed her gratitude to volunteers and those who donated time and money to ensure their passage.

“It was a huge endeavor,” she said. “We certainly could not have been this broad in our reach without the support of our volunteers who came from all walks of the community.”

At Santa Barbara City College, voter approval of Proposition 30 saved the school $4.6 million in midyear cuts, SBCC President Lori Gaskin said.

“To say that we are ecstatic is an understatement,” she said.

“It’s a reprieve from this protracted period of years of persistent and Draconian budget reduction that has hit our students right where it matters — in our course offerings and our support services,” she added. “We’re not able to provide what students need.”

The cuts would have led to fewer class offerings in the spring for the school’s 20,000 students. SBCC also plans to have a “robust” summer session next year, Gaskin said.

The University of California and California State University systems announced they would rescind tuition increases put in place this fall, but both organizations are considering other student fee increases.

UC System schools will not raise tuition for the current school year or next fall, but regents will vote later this month on potential fee increases, the Los Angeles Times reported. The fees would increase for graduate and professional school students, up to 35 percent for some degrees, according to the newspaper.

The CSU System escaped a $250 million cut with Proposition 30’s passage so it will rescind the $249 tuition fee put in place for the fall. State funding is still $1 billion less than a few years ago, however, so the CSU Board of Trustees will vote on increasing fees at a meeting this week, according to the Cal State Public Affairs Office.

The fees would start in the fall of 2013 and are meant to allow for increased enrollment, help students get into classes more easily and enable students to graduate more quickly.

There would be a graduation incentive fee for “super seniors” who have taken more credits than are required to graduate, fees for students who take more than 18 units — the average class load is 12 — and students who re-take classes, according to the Public Affairs Office.

No student would be charged more than one of these three fees in a given term, and the “price signals” are meant to make students think more carefully about registering for classes.

The CSU System has had tuition fee increases every year for almost the past decade. From 2006 to 2011, full-time resident undergraduate tuition has increased to $5,472 from $2,520 for one academic year. The CSU Board of Trustees then voted to increase that another 9 percent for this fall, although that money will now be refunded to students.

Those fees don’t include campus-based mandatory fees, out-of-state fees or graduate student fees, which can account for thousands of dollars more per year.

According to data collected by KQED and adjusted for inflation, total campus fees for CSU undergraduate resident students increased 9 percent in the 2008-2009 year, 27 percent in 2009-2010, 10 percent in 2010-2011 and 8 percent last year.

UC tuitions for undergraduate residents increased to $11,160 in 2011-2012 from $5,406 per year in 2006-2007.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.




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