A bill providing a way for five Santa Clarita Valley school districts to collect a tax of up to $6,300 on every new home has been signed into law by Gov. George Deukmejian.
The legislation provides a mechanism for the district to collect a tax from builders to construct schools in the Newhall, Saugus, Castaic, Sulphur Springs and William S. Hart school districts. Voters overwhelmingly approved the tax on June 2, but only the state Legislature could authorize its collection.
The bill also directs state courts to give priority treatment to a lawsuit challenging the tax filed by the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California and the California Building Industry Assn. The lawsuit claims school districts do not have independent authority to pass special taxes.
Last month, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge refused to invalidate the election, and the developers have filed an appeal. The new law says developers will not be required to pay the tax until the lawsuit is resolved.
The measure, carried by state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia), was a compromise between the schools and developers.
"This community owes a real debt to Ed Davis," said Clyde Smyth, superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District. "It was a tough battle for him and he took on one of the strongest of the special interest groups in the state."
Reed Montgomery, superintendent of the Castaic Elementary School District, said he believes the bill "implements the will of the people."
"All we're asking for is the ability to build schools on time."
Richard Wirth, spokesman for the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California, called the bill unnecessary.
"My feeling has been all along that the bill should never have been introduced at all until the litigation was decided," he said.
The solution to the school-funding problem "lies with the state of California," Wirth said. "I would like to know why state money is not going where it's needed."
Wirth proposed that builders and school district officials work together to find out why four of the five Santa Clarita Valley districts were denied state funding.
"I can think of nowhere else in the state where it's needed more," he said. "I want some answers from the state."