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Beverly Hills Schools May Try Again for Parcel Tax

June 11, 1987|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

A parcel tax in Beverly Hills, similar to the one defeated in a March election, is once again being offered as a possible solution to the school district's financial problems.

Betty Wilson, who was installed as president of the Beverly Hills Board of Education Tuesday night, included the tax initiative among several options she wants to pursue to raise money for the district.

The ill-fated parcel tax measure was put on the ballot to relieve continued pressure on the district to balance its budget, projected at $26 million for the 1987-88 school year.

No Agreement With Teachers

The most immediate problem confronting the district is failure to reach a 1986-87 salary agreement with the teachers after a year of negotiations.

The Beverly Hills Education Assn., the union representing the district's 300 teachers, increased the pressure by calling a strike vote for today at the Beverly Hills High School Little Theatre at 3:45 p.m. District Supt. Leon Lessinger has vowed to keep the schools open in the event of a strike.

In her speech Tuesday night, Wilson said, "Both sides need to look at more cooperative modes of collective bargaining based on reality, not rhetoric."

One of the realities of the district is that little money is available, she said.

The district's plans to strengthen its financial footing were dashed in March by the failure of its $2.5-million parcel tax to win voter approval. The measure, which would have placed a tax of $270 on each of the 9,000 parcels of land in Beverly Hills, received 59.3% of the vote but needed 66.6% to pass. The district trimmed the budget by $2 million after the defeat.

'So Close'

"We were so close," Wilson said. "Maybe there is something small we can do to push it over the top."

Critics said the measure failed to pass because the voters felt it was unfair to place the same flat tax on a mansion as on a condominium.

Wilson said that the fairness of the new measure would be an issue that the board should explore when it considers placing the tax on another ballot.

"I think the board needs to sit down and discuss (whether to have another initiative), how to change it because the one that we had was not successful," she said.

Other board members agreed.

'Try Again'

"I would be in favor of trying it again," board member Frank Fenton said. "But I think we should study the voting patterns in the city so that we have a better chance of winning."

"I believe we should try again," board member Dana Tomarken said.

In addition to raising money through a parcel tax, Wilson said the district should consider leasing school properties and soliciting contributions in the form of endowments.

She also suggested that the district do more to ease the transition of students whose primary language is not English. And as a final goal, she said she wanted to improve the writing skills of students.

The school board president is selected by the five board members under a rotation system. Wilson will serve a six-month term as board president, replacing Mark Egerman whose turn as president expired.

Board presidents normally serve for one year, but Egerman and Wilson agreed to share a one-year turn so that each will have the opportunity to hold the gavel during their four-year terms on the board.

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