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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 8:37 am | Fair 43º


District Officials Consider Next Step After Apparent Defeat of School Parcel Tax Measures

With Measures W and X falling just short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval, Santa Barbara officials may elect to try again in November

Following the apparent defeat of the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s parcel tax Measures W and X, the Board of Education could consider trying again in November.

Semi-official results from the Santa Barbara County Elections Office show that Measure X, the elementary district’s parcel tax, with 65 percent of the needed two-thirds voter approval — 66.66 percent — while Measure W, the secondary district’s initiative, got 64.3 percent.

“It’s heartbreaking,” board President Susan Deacon told Noozhawk on Wednesday.

The board put the $54-per-parcel tax on the June ballot to replace Measures H and I, which were passed in 2008 and expire next summer. Those funds are used for foreign language, math, science and arts programs.

There are still about 16,200 ballots to be counted for the county, a portion of them within the district boundaries, and Santa Barbara Education Foundation board president Lynn Rodriguez said she’s holding out hope, perhaps unrealistically, that the outcome can change.

All of the unprocessed vote-by-mail ballots, about 13,400 of them dropped off at polling places on Tuesday, should be counted by Friday, election officials said. Final, official election results will be certified in 29 days.

“All we’re doing right now is having the raw emotional reaction — we missed it by a hair!” Rodriguez said.

Both the foundation board and district board meet next week, when they’ll talk about options.

The timing of the election, doubling the per-parcel amount and the low voter turnout — 35.8 percent for the county — could have contributed to the defeat, Rodriguez speculated.

“Right now, we’re just disappointed,” she said.

A study by Godbe Research found overwhelming community support for another round of parcel tax measures, and the $54-per-parcel amount was accepted by consultants and the board. The district decided to push ahead for June to avoid competition with Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative will be on the November ballot.

It’s impossible to predict the full impact of outside forces, and it was hard to overcome the overall anti-tax, anti-public employee sentiment in the statewide and national dialogue, district trustee Ed Heron noted.

Going forward, the board could consider trying again in November or later.

“We have a very good community that will support us in other ways I think; I’m sure they’ll come forward and help us solve the problem one way or another,” he said. 

The bottom line is: The district will be missing out on $1.6 million in program funding starting July 1, 2013, if the measures aren’t extended. 

The district plans to balance the budget this year with seven days of furloughs by employees, an early-retirement incentive program and administrative reorganization. Before the furloughs were negotiated, the board authorized more than 100 layoff notices, and considered cutting positions, increasing class sizes and eliminating school-specific program funding.

If the parcel tax funding disappears next year, major decisions will have to be made.

“All I know is, I will look at every single program that’s funded by Measures H and I, determine the priority against every other program, and some will stay and some will go,” Heron said.

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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