SAN MARINO — Despite a massive campaign for its passage and endorsement by every major civic organization, a special tax for schools failed Tuesday for the second time in seven months to get the necessary two-thirds voter approval.
Measure K, which proposed a tax of up to $145 a year for four years on each parcel of property in the school district, received 64.1% of the votes cast. A similar measure received 60.5% of the vote when it appeared on last November's ballot.
Unofficial returns in Tuesday's balloting showed 3,658 voters favoring the tax and 2,048 voting against it. There are 9,900 registered voters in the city.
Mary Snaer, president of San Marino Unified School District Board of Education, said that all five board members had worked for its passage.
She said she thinks the board will "put the issue on hold for now. But we probably will maintain a wait-and-see attitude and will respond if there's a community demand for a similar measure some time in the future."
Snaer said that without the estimated $700,000 a year that the measure would have provided, the district will have to impose some major cutbacks. Class sizes will increase and a hiring freeze imposed earlier this year will leave the district without librarians and a school nurse, Snaer said.
"I cannot approve any expenditure for items that do not benefit kids' learning," she said. "Therefore, the community is going to see the visible signs of poverty that we have tried to cover up, such as (lack of) maintenance and gardening."
About 350 volunteers worked for several months to pass Measure K, which had the support of the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the San Marino City Club.
Snaer attributed the measure's defeat to "the public's confusion about state lottery funds" and to "the calculated lies of the opposition."
The only person who actively opposed the special levy was Ben Austin, a local anti-tax crusader who last week distributed a newsletter attacking the parcel tax as unnecessary.
He said Wednesday that he credits himself with "getting the facts out" for the measure's defeat.
"I'm delighted, and I hope this puts an end to this constant assessment situation in San Marino," Austin said.
San Marino was one of three California school districts that tried unsuccessfully to pass a special tax in Tuesday's primary.
In its second attempt, the Cupertino Union School District in Santa Clara County got 51% of voters' approval, a drop of almost 10% from its first attempt two years ago. The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, trying for the third time in three years, received 63.7%. Both needed two-thirds voter approval, and spokesmen for both districts said they probably will not try for another ballot measure.
They also said that they think the public's belief that state lottery funds would have a greater impact on school finances may have contributed to the failure of the measures.
Since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, which resulted in loss of state funds for schools, 40 school districts in California have attempted to pass special taxes and 10, including Santa Monica-Malibu and Chino Unified in Southern California, have succeeded.