A developers' group collected at least $232,500 to defeat six school-tax ballot measures in the Santa Clarita Valley, with more than half the funds coming from three builders with large housing tracts on the drawing boards.
The propositions on last week's ballot proposed taxing developers about $6,000 on each new residential unit to pay for school construction in the crowded William S. Hart Union High School District and the Castaic, Newhall, Saugus and Sulphur Springs elementary districts.
All six measures narrowly failed to receive the approval of two-thirds of the voters that was necessary for passage.
"The bottom line is that we were up against a very highly financed, professionally done campaign," Hart Supt. Clyde Smyth said.
Smyth included the campaign-spending statements in an election report presented Tuesday night to Hart district trustees. He also sent to superintendents of the four other districts the figures that were filed Oct. 24 with the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder's office by the Santa Clarita Residents Against Unfair Taxes, the developers' group.
Proponents Collect $3,600
Smyth said a volunteer group that worked for the measures' passage, Citizens for Adequate School Housing, collected about $3,600, all in small donations.
"All but approximately $100 was spent on the campaign," Smyth said. "The remainder will be given as a donation to the Santa Clarita Valley Scholarship Foundation Inc."
The report filed by the developers' group, covering contributions received through Oct. 18, listed contributions of $40,000 each from Newhall Land & Farming Co. of Valencia, South Western Financial Investment Co., an Encino-based group associated with developer Jack Shine, and G. H. Palmar Associates of Los Angeles.
Newhall Land & Farming, which developed the community of Valencia, plans several large projects in the Newhall-Valencia area. Shine's American Beauty Homes and the Palmar group have developments on the drawing boards in Canyon Country. Shine's 5,400-unit project east of California 14 at Via Princessa was approved Oct. 17 by the Los Angeles Regional Planning Commission.
Contributing $20,000 to defeat the tax measures were Larwin Construction Co. of Encino, Seco Canyon Development No. 2 of Santa Monica, Dale Poe Development Corp. of Agoura Hills and Shapell-Monteverde Partnership of Beverly Hills.
Other developers contributed from $2,500 to $10,000.
Funds Spent on 9 Mailers
The report stated that, as of Oct. 18, the anti-tax group had spent $56,367, mostly for professional management and consulting services of First Tuesday, a Santa Monica-based company. Most of the funds were spent later on nine campaign mailers to the area's more than 52,000 voters after the Oct. 18 reporting deadline, according to Richard Wirth of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California, a spokesman for the developers.
Smyth predicted that final disclosure reports, due Jan. 1, will show a far greater total collected by developers to defeat the tax measures. Wirth declined to disclose the total collected by the anti-tax group.
School officials have projected that at least 24 schools must be built at a cost of $300 million within the next 15 to 20 years because of rapid growth in the area. They attributed the defeat of the tax measures to the money spent by the developers' group on the last-minute mailings.
May Try for June Ballot
Smyth and the four other superintendents said district trustees will consider trying again to get the tax measures approved in the June election. Meanwhile, they said, they will seek other ways to finance school construction, including applying for state money.
"We'll fill out the papers, get in line and hope there is some money left for us," he said.
School officials also said they will begin levying developer fees made possible by the passage of Proposition 53, an $800-million state bond issue for school construction. The state measure allows fees of up to $1.50 a square foot of construction, with the proceeds shared by the high school and elementary school districts.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last Thursday ruled that the Hart, Sulphur Springs and Newhall school districts have demonstrated that they are overcrowded and voted to allow them to begin collecting developer fees for temporary facilities.
Under a bill approved by the Legislature last year, the districts, with county officials' approval, can collect developer fees ranging from $669 for a two-bedroom home to $2,343 for a home with five or more bedrooms to finance temporary classrooms. The fees can only be collected until Jan. 1, when the districts begin collecting the $1.50 per square foot from developers, Smyth said.