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Measures would aid schools

Voters in seven districts will decide whether to keep taxes, impose new ones or issue bonds.

May 28, 2008|Robert J. Lopez | Times Staff Writer

From the San Gabriel Valley to the South Bay, voters on June 3 will decide the fate of seven local ballot measures that would keep existing taxes, impose new ones or authorize bond measures to pay for school improvements.

In Hermosa Beach, supporters say a parcel tax is needed to help pay for music, science and technology programs, as well as maintain smaller class sizes for students in kindergarten through the third grade. Measure E would authorize the Hermosa Beach City School District to levy a tax of $257 per assessor parcel. The tax, which would last five years and increase 5% annually, is expected to raise $1.7 million during the first year, school district officials say.

With state funding cutbacks in recent years, the 1,100-student district has raised money through a local nonprofit foundation and donations from PTA members.

But with another round of state education cutbacks being considered, it's time for property owners to shoulder some of the burden, District Supt. Sharon McClain said.

"When the police chief says, 'I need a new officer,' he doesn't have a bake sale," McClain said. "I believe it's a community responsibility."

The measure must get at least two-thirds "yes" votes to pass.

Opponents, such as longtime resident Linda Igo, say the school district should tighten its spending rather than increase taxes.

"There's probably a lot of extra money floating around," said Igo, who has lived in Hermosa Beach for more than 30 years and whose two children attended district schools.

In Covina, a measure to extend an existing utility tax is back on the ballot after voters rejected a similar proposal in March 2007. Measure C would extend the 6% tax for 10 years. The tax raises about $5 million a year, or roughly 20% of the city's general budget.

Failure to pass the measure, according to supporters, would force the city to shut down its only library, cut back on services for the elderly and eliminate crosswalk attendants at local schools. The measure must get a simple majority of "yes" votes to pass.

"The lifestyle and community that we all enjoy and love is very much threatened," said resident Charles M. Kemp, a board member of the Covina-Valley Unified School District.

Opponents argue that city reserves are flush with cash and say the tax is being pushed primarily by business owners and others who live outside the city.

"This thing is pure special interest," said Steve Millard, a retired aerospace manager and longtime city resident.

In South Gate, proponents say a city sales tax measure is needed to help preserve municipal services in the working-class town in southeast Los Angeles County. The measure needs approval from a simple majority of voters.

Measure P would create a 1% city sales tax that would raise up to $7 million annually for new police officers and gang-intervention programs, as well as park maintenance and street improvements, according to supporters.

"If this doesn't pass, we're going to be really hurting," South Gate Councilman Bill De Witt said.

The other measures are:

Measure A in the Centinela Valley Union School District, which would create a parcel tax of 4 cents per square foot for nine years. The money would be used to help pay for teachers, upgrade computer and science labs and fund music, arts and science programs in the district, which includes Lawndale and part of Hawthorne. It needs approval from two-thirds of the voters.

Measure H in the Hawthorne School District, which requires 55% approval to pass, would authorize $20 million in bonds to be issued to improve and build schools. The bonds would also finance improvements in security and help build gymnasiums and athletic fields.

Measure M in Los Nietos School District, which would authorize $31 million in bonds to upgrade schools. The money would be used to replace roofs, renovate classrooms and improve security at schools in the district, which serves Whittier and Santa Fe Springs. It requires 55% approval.

Measure T in Torrance would extend an existing 6.5% city tax on land-line phone users to wireless phones. The tax would apply to all people using phone service in the city and would be used to finance police and fire services, street repairs, parks, libraries and recreation programs. The measure requires a simple majority vote to pass.


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