The Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education on Thursday voiced its collective support for a city tax that would support local public schools.
Proponents have not yet hammered out the details of the tax, which is expected to appear before voters in the November elections, but the school board authorized Superintendent Sandra Lyon to write a letter to City Manager Rick Cole stating the board’s backing of such a measure.
The potential tax would support affordable housing and education, city Housing and Economic Development director Andy Agle said. No official ballot language had been developed yet, but City Council is expected to provide input on the affordable housing component and district officials will offer recommendations for the schools wording.
The impetus for the possible transaction and use tax, Agle said, was the combination of market conditions and Ellis Act evictions that have had dramatic effects on Santa Monica’s housing supply.
“We’ve been struggling to do what we can,” he said.
Agle said polling has indicated support for such a tax, which could raise upwards of $16 million annually for the City and the school district. Polling results will be presented to City Council on Tuesday, he said.
After Lyon learned that City officials were considering asking voters for a tax increase, she organized a committee to explore how local schools could benefit.
Lyon said fluctuating state revenues make education funding difficult and added that a local tax would provide some stability, whether it supports maintenance, technological upgrades, preschool or other programs.
“We would be derelict in our duty if we said no to eight million dollars,” board member Oscar de la Torre said. “I think it’s a win-win for affordable housing advocates and public education advocates. Hopefully this can pass.”
Shari Davis, a school funding advocate who has served as co-chair of Community for Excellent Public Schools and worked on the city’s Measure Y and Measure YY campaigns in 2010, noted the impact those dollars have made on schools. She said she believes another local tax can have similar benefits, lamenting that the state does not adequately fund education.
“I see this as an opportunity for resources that will contribute to the high quality of our education in the community,” said Davis, who is also involved in the effort to pass a $295-million bond measure for expansion and improvement projects at Santa Monica College. “We’ve created a unique environment of collaboration between the district, the city and SMC that’s been nurtured and cultivated over the years. This would further that.”
Iao Katagiri, a community relations director for RAND Corporation and a member of the city’s child care and early education task force, discussed the potential for future initiatives in local schools. She said it would be unfortunate, for example, if the district weren’t able to expand its upcoming pilot preschool program due to a lack of funding.
“[A tax will] benefit the district,” she said. “The community has a long track record of supporting education-related measures.”