Angling for a parcel tax

School officials work on proposals to seek the community’s help amid money woes.

December 19, 2009|By Max Zimbert

WEST BURBANK — School officials Thursday laid the groundwork for a possible parcel tax as four competing consulting firms presented their plans for winning the public over.

The Burbank Unified School District took no action on the proposals, but invited the four companies back to present their qualifications and strategies to manage potential parcel tax and bond extension campaigns. Members are expected to make a decision in January whether they will pursue a bond extension, parcel tax or both for a municipal election in April or November 2011.

A parcel tax, which won in Culver City and failed in Long Beach in recent elections, could preserve programs and athletic teams that might face additional cuts as state financing continues to drop, officials contend. Pasadena and Los Angeles unified school districts are expected to have a parcel tax measure on next year’s ballot.


“We really need both,” Burbank Supt. Kevin Jolly said. “Programs have been hit hard under the budget, and buildings always need repair . . . but [meetings] in the community would really determine this.”

School board members are running out of belt-tightening tools. Thirty-four teachers were let go in May, and the board has already voted to increase class sizes. Burbank Unified loses roughly $1 million for every $1 billion cut in the state budget, officials said.

The early pitches Tuesday did not include cost estimates of how much bond extension and parcel tax campaigns might cost.

The Burbank Teacher’s Assn. has not taken a position on any potential ballot measure.

“A parcel tax would help funding, but my concern is they’re looking at how much will pass and not how much we need,” union President Jerry Mullady said. “The public needs to see what it is. They need to see the programs and the results.”

Presentations did not favor one ballot measure over another, nor did consultants delve much into the state of education in Burbank or California.

Some companies were blunt about the difficulty of passing a parcel tax and bond extension at the same time.

“Difficult to put together because then voters shop and split it,” said Jon Isom, vice president of Dale Scott & Company.

The school board appeared to favor tying the campaign to a citywide election, thereby forgoing the extra cost of holding a separate election. The vote would also be via mail-in ballot, which poses various hurdles, consultants said.

A few companies presented initial findings of Burbank voting patterns that in their strategy would figure centrally in what measure is placed on the ballot. According to Dale Scott & Company, 60% of registered voters do not have children in school, and 25% of voters are born in a different county.

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