A wise man once stated that “the key to seventy per cent of life is merely showing up” and one could guess the San Marino school board feels the same way as local voters once again passed a twenty-two year-old parcel tax – first set before voters in 1991 – aimed at generating dollars for local students.
Measure R, placed on a primarily mail-in ballot (though voters had an opportunity to personally deliver their docket all day Tuesday at city hall) passed with an approval rating of 71.69% with 2,107 in favor and 832 opposed. With 9,922 registered voters, the figure marks a turnout of slightly over 21%. By law, parcel taxes require a two-thirds plus one majority for passage.
The six-year, $330 per parcel tax, which raises more than $1.6 million annually for San Marino’s schools, received a similar approval at its last renewal in March, 2007 when 2,315 (71.5%) voted in favor with 921 stating their dissent. Almost forty per cent of San Marino’s voters materialized for that election, which also included two contested seats on the city council.
In an unprecedented move four years ago at the depth of the nation’s financial collapse, the district placed before voters Measure E, an emergency tax that burdened residents to the additional tune of $795 per parcel, raising $3.7 million per year. Half of the city and school district’s then-9,759 voters cast ballots in the mail-in election, with 3,476 – or 71.19% – saying yes with 1,407 opposed. Measure E itself funds sixty teaching and counseling positions within the district and sunsets in 2015, when the board can decide if it wants to ask voters for a renewal. Currently, the SMUSD operates on a $30 million annual budget.
“On behalf of the San Marino Unified School District, I truly appreciate our citizens supporting Measure R,” said School Board President C. Joseph Chang. “It continues to help maintain our existing educational programs and make the SMUSD the top public school district in California.”
Superintendent Loren Kleinrock struck a similar tone.
“Once again, the community has stepped up to support its schools, allowing us to move forward in providing an exemplary education for the children of San Marino,” said Kleinrock. “At a time when the state still has not restored the dollars that have been cut over a number of years and has also continued to defer additional dollars that are owed to districts, the local funding that the parcel tax provides is essential, allowing us to retain programs, keep class sizes smaller, and attract and retain quality teachers. The community should be proud of its support of the schools, and we are truly grateful that we will have the resources that will allow us to remain committed to the continuous improvement of our educational experience.”
Monies generated by the parcel taxes cannot be used outside the district. On official ballot literature circulated by the Los Angeles County Board of Elections, Measure R did not have an argument against passage.
“It is important to understand that these taxes do not go to Sacramento. These are local dollars spent right here in San Marino,” Kleinrock continued. “The state cannot cut them. The recently passed Proposition 30 does not bring any new money for our schools; it only prevents further cuts. Without the renewal, the district would have lost approximately $1.6 million per year, forcing us to reduce teachers, increase class sizes and potentially cut programs.”
Kleinrock also touted “a near-perfect graduation rate,” 99% of students typically going on to college, all four of San Marino’s schools earning California Distinguished School status with three recognized as National Blue Ribbon Schools.
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