Deja-vu. The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District may float another parcel tax and/or construction bond proposition next election. The Board of Education on Thursday discussed reconvening the district’s citizen scoping committee and began the process of evaluating parcel tax and bond proposals.

With the ball now rolling, it’s probable another tax, bond or “emergency measure” will be on the November ballot. A total of $50,000 was also authorized for polling to assess voter reaction to various tax or emergency funding proposals.

Last fall, voters approved a City Hall proposal for a half cent increase in the sales and use tax — now 10.25 percent — to “maintain essential city and public safety services.” Measure Y will generate about $12 million in revenues annually, half of which is supposed to be shared with “education.”

Voters also approved advisory Measure YY that endorsed splitting Y’s revenues with schools — which could also include Santa Monica College or other educational entities. City Hall is trying to determine a legal way to share Y’s revenues because one governing entity just can’t give away money to another without a consideration or fair exchange for that money.

Measures Y and YY came about because a previous “emergency” school tax, Measure A, which would have implemented a $198 per parcel tax, fell short of the two-thirds voter approval needed for parcel tax passage in the May, 2010 election.

Measure R, a permanent tax measure approved in 2008, merged two previous parcel taxes into a $358 per parcel charge. It generates $10.5 million for the schools, annually. Measure BB, a $268 million school construction and renovation bond measure which required a 55 percent approval for passage received over two-thirds of the vote in November of 2006

The latest revenue raising proposals comes on the heels of the board’s approval of record-setting pay for the new superintendent of schools. Sandra Lyon comes to the SMMUSD from the Palmdale School District where she was Chief Leadership Officer. She officially begins work July 1.

I’m hearing that she was chosen in part because of her strong “social justice" philosophy. This will be Lyon’s first stint as superintendent for a multiple-school district, thus her organization and management skills remain to be proven.

Lyon’s package includes $230,000 base pay for the first (222 day) school year — $10,000 more than her predecessor Tim Cuneo, a one-time moving allowance of $12,000 and a car and phone allowance of $900 per month. She will not receive the $38,400 housing allowance Cuneo received. There is also $12,000 included for a “coach” to mentor her during her first year in the job. Speculation is that Cuneo will be the coach.

Once again, the school board has opted to pay a salary near the top end. To put it in perspective, Lyon will receive more than the the Governor’s annual $173,987 or the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction’s $151,127 (salary figures from the California Citizens Compensation Commission), as well as most current Los Angeles County school superintendents.

Back to the latest fiscal crisis. District leaders are apparently oblivious to the $6 billion windfall that state politicians claim they just found and who’ve (once again) promised restoration of $3 billion to schools.

School board members also continue to ignore SMMUSD Teacher’s Union president Harry Keiley’s nearly 60 grand annual “no show" teaching job — money that could be better spent compensating a school nurse or teaching assistant for a year.

Low- and moderate-income residents and those on fixed incomes could be hit with a double whammy this year. In addition to another monthly rent fee (landlords will pass any and all parcel tax expense to tenants if the proposed measure passes), is a proposed 3.5 percent annual jump in the maximum allowable rents on rent controlled apartments.

This proposed increase is one of the largest in recent years and will cost tenants in a $1,000-a-month rent controlled apartment an extra $35 each month. An approved parcel tax/bond proposition could easily add another couple of bucks to monthly rents.

A public hearing on the increase will be held June 9 by the Rent Control Board.

High five for Ron Hooks

I’m stoked. My friend, Ron Hooks, who heads West Coast Care, is writing a monthly column dubbed “Stories from the Street” for the Daily Press on his non-profit’s work with Santa Monica’s homeless population.

West Coast Care has a contract with the Santa Monica Police Department to provide counseling and outreach services to the homeless in conjunction with the department’s Homeless Liaison Program (HLP Team).

Ron has plenty of interesting experiences to write about because of the extensive amount of time he and his crew spend on Santa Monica’s streets working directly with folks in need. Props to editor Kevin Herrera for bringing “Pastor Ron” aboard.

Hook’s first column “Desperately seeking shelter” appeared last Wednesday, May 18 on Page 4. It can still be found online at

Bill can be reached at

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