The Irvine Unified School District has hired a private firm to measure the level of community support for a proposed parcel tax on residential and commercial property.
School board members say the tax is needed to help stabilize the financially troubled district during difficult years ahead. But they concede it would be an uphill battle to win the two-thirds voter approval necessary for the proposed tax, especially if voters next month pass Measure R, the proposed half-cent county sales tax.
"We must find out whether this is truly something the community wants," said school board member Mary Ellen Hadley, a veteran of two prior unsuccessful parcel tax elections. "It is a really, really tough election to win."
The school board Tuesday night voted to hire George K. Baum & Co. for up to $10,000 to conduct the survey. Trustees expect to review survey results and consider a parcel tax election at their June 6 meeting. District officials say the election could take place in early October.
A yearly tax ranging from $100 to $182.50 on each of the city's 36,200 eligible residential and commercial parcels could earn the district an extra $3.6 million to $6.6 million a year, according to tax advocates. The district is cutting $2.2 million from next school year's $100-million budget.
Residents age 65 and older would be exempt and the tax would have an expiration date.
Irvine residents Mark Petracca, a liberal UC Irvine political scientist, and Hugh Hewitt, the conservative co-host of the PBS television show "Life & Times," have formed an unlikely political alliance to encourage the board to put a parcel tax on the ballot.
"It takes a lot of people to pass something like this," school board member Michael B. Regele said. "We need to have as much information as possible before we make that final decision."