Irvine property owners have until 7 tonight to cast their ballots on a recreation fee that would raise $3.2 million annually for the cash-strapped school district.
District officials hope to announce election results Wednesday. If approved, the fee -- about $48 a year for most homeowners -- would mark the first time Irvine voters have agreed to charge themselves to fund local schools.
Four times in the last two decades, Irvine voters have refused to raise their taxes through school bonds.
This time, the district is proposing a special assessment district to pay for installation and maintenance of recreation facilities at Irvine's public schools. Such an assessment needs approval by a simple majority of voters instead of the two-thirds margin previously required for school bond initiatives.
State law allows public agencies to create special districts to impose fees if they can prove property owners receive extra benefit from a facility, such as a school playground. Such measures have passed in several California cities and two school districts.
The public can comment on the proposed fee tonight during Irvine Unified's regular board meeting at the district office.
Money generated would help offset the effects of proposed state budget cuts by freeing millions of dollars now spent on maintenance for classroom programs, officials said. Irvine schools may lose up to $7.5 million in state funds.
Education dollars should not be used to maintain facilities used by the larger community, especially given the current budget situation, Irvine Unified Supt. Dean Waldfogel said.
By Monday, the district had received about 6,000 ballots, said Assistant Supt. Vernon Madeiros, chief financial officer.