San Diego voters will probably be asked next year to approve higher property taxes so needed school construction and renovation can move forward in the San Diego Unified School District.
The city school board strongly indicated its intent Tuesday to move forward with a ballot plan that could raise as much as $25 million annually through the year 2003 for new facilities. A master plan adopted last year for capital needs through the year 2000 would cost about $350 million to fund completely.
Under the proposal from school district officials, a simple majority of city voters would be asked to approve a boost of up to 7.325 cents in the current school facilities property tax to 9.575 cents per $100 assessed valuation from the current 2.25 cents.
Should the 9.575 figure be approved, this portion of the property tax on a $100,000 home would rise to $95.75, from $22.50.
The 2.25-cent levy stems from voter approval in 1974 of a proposition allowing the district to sell revenue bonds to build 21 schools. At the time, the voter approval permitted the district to levy a rate up to 38.3 cents per $100 assessed valuation. But after the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, the property tax limitation, the maximum levy dropped to the 9.575-cent level. The district subsequently needed only 2.25 cents of that maximum to pay off the bonds for the 21 schools.
Normally, because of Proposition 13, the district would have to seek two-thirds approval from voters for additional taxes. But a bill passed this year by the state Legislature specifically for the district allows a simple majority vote by framing the ballot measure as a reinstatement of taxing authority authorized in 1974 and not as a new tax.
Schools Supt. Tom Payzant asked the board Tuesday to approve the holding of an election, the appointment of a special citizens' committee to push for voter approval, and a list of schools that would be built if the ballot measure is passed. Under the state law, the district must identify on the ballot the individual schools that would be funded.
The board agreed to begin selecting names for the committee this week and to get the committee's advice on whether to hold an election in April or June.
A special election in April would highlight the school district's needs, but the district would have to pay the full $800,000 election administration cost, Payzant said. A June vote would cost the district far less administratively because it would coincide with the 1988 primary election. However, Payzant said, the importance of the school measure could be lost amid other propositions and partisan elective office races.