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School Board Favors Parcel Tax but Decides Not to Seek a Vote

January 30, 1986|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

The Palos Verdes Peninsula school board endorsed the idea of a flat property tax at a public hearing this week, but backed away from putting it on the June ballot after concluding that it had little chance of success until the district improves its credibility with voters.

In acknowledging widespread skepticism over the schools' financial needs, the trustees vowed to make a concerted effort to update the district's master plan, expedite the sale of closed schools and generally get the system's financial house in order before asking taxpayers for more money.

"We need more time to apprise the public of our problems and deal with the credibility issue," said board President Jack Bagdasar, who joined in a unanimous vote to postpone the parcel-tax election to March, 1987.

"We don't want to be in the position of crying wolf when we really didn't need the money."

Future Not So Bleak

Reports from district administrators appeared to support the view that the district's financial picture is not as bleak as previously believed. Business Manager Janet K. Konzak said her mid-term analysis indicated a deficit of $800,000 in next year's budget, down about $300,000 from earlier projections.

She also estimated the district's share in the state's first allocation of lottery money at $530,000, up from previous estimates of $400,000. However, the increase does not help with the district's projected deficit, because the board last year agreed to spend the first installment of lottery money on bonuses for teachers and other employees in lieu of salary raises.

Supt. Jack Price, who last month had predicted a "catastrophic collapse" of the school system if the parcel tax were not imposed in June, said the lack of money from that source will still cause "severe problems" in the 1986-87 budget.

He said income projections without the tax left "little hope in the way of salary improvements" and no hope for restoring programs cut in recent years as the district struggled to cope with a 42% loss in enrollment.

More Retiring

Layoffs are always a possibility, he said, but may be avoided because there is a high percentage of senior teachers in the district, an increasing number of whom are retiring.

"We will put on a Band-Aid for one more year and see if we can limp along," Price concluded in an interview.

A 30-member citizens committee, set up by the trustees in December to study the feasibility of a parcel tax, had recommended last week that the measure go on the June ballot.

The three-year tax, if approved by the voters, would have raised about $2 million a year by imposing a flat fee of $84 on about 24,000 parcels in Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estates, Palos Verdes Estates and Rolling Hills--the four cities served by the Palos Verdes Unified School District.

But while endorsing the tax proposal as a stopgap measure, the committee made clear that the district would have to face up to its long-range financial problems if it hoped to maintain support from the community.

May Close More Schools

Some committee members said solutions may require closing more campuses and abandoning the neighborhood-school concept.

"We felt that the tax would give you a breather," said committee Chairman Joseph D. Vinso, a USC professor of economics. "But after that, you had better have your ducks in line."

Several trustees said the results of a parcel-tax election, if it were held next year, would provide a referendum on the district's success in lining up its ducks.

They said the vote also would tell the board what kind of school system the community wants. Only about 18% of families on the Peninsula send children to the public schools.

"The community needs an opportunity to state whether it wants to maintain the old school traditions," said Trustee Jeffrey N. Youngren. "If people don't want what we have, then we have to face the consequences."

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