With only five days remaining until the election, Beverly Hills' $2.5-million parcel-tax initiative has failed to attract any major opposition, but proponents still fear that there is a "silent 'no' vote" in the community.
So far, the Yes on K Committee, the group supporting the measure to aid the financially beleaguered Beverly Hills Unified School District, has gathered more than 1,200 endorsements from residents and won the support of the City Council, the Board of Education and all major organizations in the city.
But few voters attended the more than 50 small gatherings held recently in homes throughout the community to win support for the measure, which requires approval from two-thirds of those voting on Tuesday.
"There has been a deathly silence, and there is no way to read that until election day," said school board member Frank Fenton.
His wife, Judie Fenton, the co-chairwoman of the Yes on K Committee, said that "there is a silent opposition out there, and we won't know how powerful it is until election day."
"I'm scared of that silent 'no' vote out there because people may say one thing, but they are reluctant to vote to dig into their own pockets," she said. "They don't want to tax themselves."
There is an organized opposition group called the Committee to Save Beverly Hills from Itself. But even though the group claims to have more than 200 members, only three members--attorneys Sherman A. Kulick and Stephen Richter and Kurt Haber, a construction engineer--have chosen to speak publicly on the issue.
Kulick said that few residents are willing to challenge the proposition openly because "coming out against it is like coming out against motherhood, America and apple pie."
Plugging Budget Deficit
The tax would levy a flat fee of $270 on each of the more than 9,000 parcels of property in the city. The money would be used to help reduce a $3.5-million shortfall in the school district's $26-million budget.
School officials have said that without additional revenue, the district may face serious cuts, such as laying off 50 teachers or closing a school.
Kulick's group contends that the district will not cure its budgetary problems through increased taxes but should live within its means.
Richter said that only 10% of the households in the district have school-age children, but that these families represent a small but determined pressure group that has forced the parcel tax on the rest of the community.
He said his group was seeking to dispel the "myth" that cuts in school spending would drive families out of Beverly Hills leading to a decline in property values.
"Over the last 10 years, our district has been declining in enrollment at the same time property values have gone up 10 times," he said.
Richter also accused the district of wasteful spending and said that a tax would hurt the elderly on fixed incomes.