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San Diego Unified Goes For Parcel Tax

Audio

Aired 7/16/10

We'll explore whether the San Diego Unified School District's plan to put a parcel tax on the ballot in November will gain the support of voters.

GLORIA PENNER (Host): Politics and partisanship were busy dismantling this potential new revenue source for the City of San Diego, meanwhile the San Diego Unified School District Board voted to put their potential new revenue source before the voters in November. Just what you were talking about, JW, give the voters a chance. It would be a temporary parcel tax. So, Barbara, let’s start with why the district wants a parcel tax.

BARBARA BRY (Co-Publisher/Opinion Editor, SDNN.com): Oh, the district wants a parcel tax because they’ve had to cut hundreds of millions of dollars over the last few years. You know, they’ve been impacted by the economic recession, the decline in property tax revenues around the state, and they see this as a way of making up part of their shortfall.

PENNER: And how much is the district hoping to raise?

BRY: They hope that it would raise about $50 million a year.

PENNER: Okay, and the money would be used for what?

BRY: Teachers’ salaries, vocational ed, you know, math and science, reducing class size in K-thru-3, kindergarten through 3rd grade.

PENNER: Okay, so it’s a…

BRY: No, they so no administration, would not go toward any administrative costs, none.

PENNER: All right, now we’ve set it out, we know what the parcel tax is about, how much it’s supposed to raise, what it’s going to go for. Now the question is will the voters go for it, and who is supporting this in the community and who is opposing this? And while I’m asking those questions, let me ask our listeners, all right, you’re going to have a chance to vote if you live in San Diego Unified School District, which is the biggest district in San Diego. How would you vote on a parcel tax? How much would it be per parcel?

BRY: Well…

PENNER: About $98.00?

BRY: …$98.00 for a house, $60.00 for each condominium and apartment, and I wonder if apartment building owners would pass it through to renters? And $450.00 for each industrial and commercial property, and it would be a five-year tax. I guess they’re hoping that the economy would get better during the five years. I mean, personally, I see this tax as dead on arrival.

PENNER: You do?

BRY: Yes, I do.

PENNER: Well, first of all, it would take a two-thirds vote in order to get it passed. What do you think, JW, it would take to convince homeowners in the city as well – or in the whole school district, as well as business owners that this tax is a good thing? How do you win them over?

JW AUGUST (Managing Editor, KGTV 10News): How would I run the PR campaign? Well, I wouldn’t mention the project labor agreement that the current board had approved which was that union – it involved when they let contracts out, they had to have union involved, which I think still burns in the gut of a lot of business community. They’re still pretty much ticked off at that and they continue to be ticked off. So that’s who the people you’re going to have to convince on this. I think a lot of regular citizens like ourselves, or like myself, would vote for it because we realize the schools are jammed up. They’re – Something needs to be done. And to thin out the size of the classrooms and for the early grades, that’s very, very important.

PENNER: Our number is 1-888-895-5727. Let’s hear from John in San Diego. John, what is your impression of voting on a parcel tax?

JOHN (Caller, San Diego): Yeah, I’m a lifelong resident of San Diego. I went to city schools. I’ve supported them long. I would never, never, never vote for this tax. First of all, it’s a regressive tax. Second, this board is in the union, the school union’s lockbox. The school union has been inflexible on anything and everything. And when your kid does well, the teacher’s union says it’s due to the great teaching quality of our staff. When your kid does poorly, they blame it on, oh, lack of money or too many kids are poor, the parents don’t care. They want it both ways. This tax will go – proposal will go down to a flaming, flaming defeat.

PENNER: Well, I guess you have at least one person here who agrees with you. Barbara.

BRY: Well, in the past, Gloria, when this community has passed new taxes or bond measures like the, I think it was, Prop M was the one that – where the project labor agreements are involved, you’ve had a broad coalition of sort of community groups and business. And, as JW pointed out, on this one the Associated General Contractors are quite upset with the school district because of the project labor agreements. And, also, you know, needing a two-thirds vote is very, very difficult. I actually – This is going to be way off the wall but I, personally, think, you know, I agree that the schools are underfunded. It’s a statewide issue and it’s really time to step back on a statewide basis and look at how the schools are being funded and what’s being required of the schools and maybe we need to, you know, think about doing away with things like categorical funding. I mean, you know, where you just get sort of pots of money that you can only spend on certain things and then you have to account for each dollar, and giving local schools more control over how they spend the money. I think it’s really time to take a bigger view of school spending.

PENNER: Okay. John, thanks for the call. Let’s hear from Trevor in San Diego. Barbara, you raised so many issues and we only have about five minutes left, otherwise I’d go around and get some reaction to what you just said, including reaction from me, but we’re going to hear from Trevor. Trevor, you’re on with the editors.

TREVOR (Caller, San Diego): Hi, thanks for taking my call.

PENNER: Sure.

TREVOR: I guess I’m kind of mirroring the other caller in that I would have a hard time supporting this specific board just because of the project labor agreement. I don’t trust them. I feel for the lack of money. I have kids in school myself. But I just don’t trust them to use the money wisely. I saw my bond money basically get less value because of the project labor agreement.

PENNER: All right, thank you very much, Trevor. He raises something rather interesting. Scott, there is a group proposing to add four new members to the school board, not voted in but appointed by a coalition and this group seems to be business oriented. What might be the connection, let’s say, for the push for a larger board and the passage of a parcel tax?

SCOTT LEWIS (CEO, voiceofsandiego.org): I don’t know. I think we’ll find out soon if this is true that they are pursuing some sort of reformation of the board. I think that it would be something – it could be, if we look at things optimistically, perhaps we would – another sort of compromise. We’ll do some reforms in exchange for supporting this type of a parcel tax but in the most – in a polarizing view, it would be not only don’t do the parcel tax but let’s completely throw out the whole system. And I think that, you know, let’s – we’re going to have to see how this comes about. I don’t – This board that would appoint the board would be made up of university presidents, taxpayers, parents and, you know, they’re hoping to make a representative group. We’ll see what happens.

PENNER: You know, we have only seconds left but I want Angela to get a chance to come in. Angela, will you make it really brief? Otherwise, we’re going to be off the air with you.

ANGELA (Caller): Thank you for having me on. I just wanted to say, you know, my children go to Del Mar Union School District and we already pay $800 per child extra a year, every year, to help out with the SRC program. And I think the gentleman before made a good comment. But, you know, we need to, as parents, trust the school boards. It’s not an issue about whether the money’s going to be used properly or not or what – the issue is whether or not we’re going to support our children’s education, and that’s the most important thing.

PENNER: Thank you so much, Angela. JW, you didn’t have a chance to weigh in on this one and so I’m giving you about 15 seconds to make your comment.

AUGUST: Well, when Angela – but lives in Del Mar, but, you know, any kind of a tax – are you talking about the board or the tax? The expanding of the board or the tax?

PENNER: I don’t think Angela’s there anymore.

AUGUST: Oh, okay.

ANGELA: Oh, I’m here.

AUGUST: Oh, hi, Angela.

PENNER: Oh, okay.

ANGELA: Hi. I was talking about…

AUGUST: I disagree with her in that they could afford it in Del Mar. They certainly can’t afford it down in San Diego Unified. People in Encanto don’t live quite as well as folks in Del Mar.

PENNER: Well, that’s going to be one of the concerns whether this is another regressive tax. Well, I thank you all very much. Listeners, callers, you were terrific. And Barbara Bry, thank you for being with us again, and from SDNN.com. And Scott Lewis, see you tonight on San Diego Week, Scott. Scott Lewis from voiceofsandiego.org. And JW August from 10 News. Thank you.

AUGUST: Thank you.

PENNER: This has been the Editors Roundtable. We’ll be back next week. I’m Gloria Penner.

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