Community

SMUSD Reeling From Defeat Of Measure E

Though supporters of Measure E — the parcel tax which partially funds the San Marino Unified School District — received an increase in votes this past week, the final numbers weren’t enough to approve the parcel tax, which went down to defeat. Measure E was a funding source which provides more than $4 million to the district’s coffers.
Early returns released on the evening of March 2 showed Measure E trailing by just under 4%. Though it made small advances last week until the final results were tallied in Friday, it still fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage.
Measure E raised $968 per parcel, adjusted by the lesser of the Los Angeles Statistical Area Consumer Price Index or 3%, including commercial properties within the boundaries of the school district. First approved by voters in 2009 for a six-year term, the parcel tax was renewed in 2015 and will now expire in June 2021, erasing approximately 10% of the district’s budget.
The San Marino School Board on Tuesday night was scheduled to approve a resolution calling for the elimination of more than 41 teaching and advisory positions in order to balance the budget for the 2021-22 school year. By law, the district must provide layoff notices for the upcoming school year to employees by this Monday, March 15. The reduction of services will be predicated on enrollment projections through the 2021-22 school year as well as positions that are currently funded by “one-time money,” such as donations that are funneled through the San Marino Schools Foundation.
Superintendent Jeff Wilson said he is “profoundly disappointed” in the loss of Measure E.
“Our students are hurting right now thinking about losing many of their beloved teachers — some of the best educators you will find anywhere,” said Wilson. “Our teachers and counselors are devastated facing the loss of their own jobs or their colleagues’ jobs, having just spent a year completely iterating their instructional processes and doing it without complaint to continue to deliver on the promise of a world class education here in San Marino.”
Wilson said he will immediately work with the school board to determine a future parcel tax election date. The board had originally hoped to put the parcel tax before voters again on Tuesday, June 8, but Wilson said that current election laws make that impossible.
“The board will be discussing this soon,” said Wilson. “We will not be defeated by this and we will work as hard as we can to partner with the community to better understand what their desires and dreams are for a bright SMUSD future.”
Wilson also praised several community members for their passionate support of Measure E.
“I am so thankful for the efforts of the Measure E campaign team, Jennifer Chuang, Chris Maling and Alan Chen, along with the scores of volunteers who fought so valiantly for our kids,” Wilson said. “I am especially thankful for Beth Davis and Karla Domier, who worked so many hours with students to make direct contact with voters. I know of students who made upwards of 1,000 calls in support of Measure E.”
Chuang, Chen and Maling also released a statement to The Tribune.
“While we are disappointed by the result, it does not invalidate the tremendous effort and hard work of the many, many school and community volunteers that fought for our children, for which we are grateful,” the trio said in a joint statement. “This is a devastating blow to our schools. The superlative education enjoyed by generations of San Marino children is now at risk and the cuts will be felt painfully by every child at every site. The community must understand the full consequences of no longer having Measure E supporting our kids’ education, and we hope that we can all come together to support a future measure to restore the positions and programs that will be lost next year.”
The lack of a sunset provision on the Measure E parcel tax stirred opposition in some circles of the community. The official ballot statement said that the tax will be assessed in each fiscal year “until ended by voters.” Wilson cited data compiled by True North Polling and presented to the school board on Oct. 27, 2020, that claimed findings of the public survey indicated 78% of voters would “definitely” or “probably” vote “yes” on a continuation of Measure E, even if it did not contain a sunset clause.
“It is important to focus on the facts that over 63% of San Marino voters said ‘yes’ to continuing Measure E,” said Wilson, who called it “a decisive majority and that in today’s world and political climate, it is very difficult to get 67% of people to agree on anything.”

Now in his 25th year at The Tribune, Mitch Lehman is Editor and Sports Editor in addition to being the public address announcer for ten sports programs at San Marino High School. Mitch is one of only a handful in the community to receive the ‘Very Special Person Award’ from the San Marino PTA at the annual Founder’s Day ceremony, was acknowledged as a 'Terrific Titan' by the San Marino High School PTSA, was named an Honorary Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of San Marino and received a National Honorary Merit Badge in Journalism from the Boy Scouts of America. He has received two independent Pulitzer Prize nominations and in the past three years, Mitch has won seven awards and is a thirteen-time finalist in the California News Publishers Association's Better Newspapers Contest. In 2015, the press box at Titan Stadium was re-named 'Lehman's Loft' in his honor. You can reach Mitch at mitchlehman@sanmarinotribune.com.

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