A proposed school parcel tax brought an unusually large number of La Canada Flintridge voters to the polls Tuesday, but failed by a tiny margin.
The measure, which would have raised $1.25 million a year for local schools for the next four years, fell short of passing by only 62 votes. It would have increased taxes locally to compensate for cuts in state funding.
The narrow defeat of the measure will result in an increase in class sizes in the fall in the La Canada Unified School District, as well as cuts in science, language, arts, honors and athletic programs, district officials said. The austere budget will be presented Tuesday to the district board.
About 43% of the more than 11,800 eligible voters participated in the special election to assess property owners $250 a year per parcel.
Preliminary results released by the county registrar-recorder on Wednesday tabulated 3,334 votes in favor of the measure--65.4%--and 1,760 opposed. Passage required a two-thirds majority or 66.7%.
A similar measure in La Canada Flintridge five years ago failed with 56% of the votes.
Despite the narrow defeat, district officials said they were buoyed by the high turnout and strong support of the schools by the community.
"The spirit that was developed out in the community was really tremendous," Assistant Supt. Andrew Meyer said. "The effort that was made in coming as close as we did to passing it was really encouraging. The enthusiasm is still there."
Officials declined to comment on whether another attempt will soon be made.
County officials said late absentee ballots and provisional votes remain to be hand-counted over the next few days. They were unable to say how many such ballots were cast in the La Canada district election.
Similar tabulations have changed results of a few elections in the past. Final results might not be certified until July, officials said.
The vote marks the 65th defeat of a school parcel tax in California since Proposition 13 imposed restrictions on new property taxes in 1978.
Only 40 other attempts throughout the state have been successful, including four in March, all in Northern California, according to EdSource in Menlo Park, a nonpartisan watchdog on school financing. Also, another proposed parcel tax on ballots Tuesday for a Saratoga school district near San Jose was narrowly defeated, according to EdSource.
Proponents and opponents of the La Canada tax predicted before the election that poor economic conditions would have a detrimental effect on passage of the measure.
More than 300 volunteers worked block by block throughout the community to overcome opposition and urge supporters to vote. The campaign was organized more than 18 months ago by the volunteer Committee for Quality Education.
Opponents argued that young parents and new arrivals in the community are overburdened by high taxes because of the inequities created by Proposition 13.
The measure appeared to be narrowly winning in early returns cast by absentee voters, who accounted for one-third of the ballots.
More than 68% of those voters supported the tax. But the issue slipped to defeat late Tuesday after ballots were counted from nine precincts.