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San Diego Unified To Push For A Parcel Tax

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In his State of the District address, San Diego Unified School Board President Richard Barrera said the district must secure a parcel tax in November to offset deep budget cuts to education.

— San Diego Unified school board president Richard Barrera says the district must secure a parcel tax in November to offset deep budget cuts to education. He made those statements during his State of the District address on Wednesday. But challenges are already stacking up against the possible ballot measure.

A parcel tax levies fees on property owners within a school district's boundaries. San Diego Unified's tax would pay for employee salaries, math and science programs, and new technology.

District officials say this is the only option they have to avoid layoffs and preserve programs. They’re hoping local residents will pay about $100 a year for five years.

But San Diego’s unemployment rate is still at an all time high. And voters passed a $2 billion school construction bond for the district just two years ago.

Larry Remer is the district’s campaign consultant. He says it’s also hard to assemble a broad-based coalition to push the initiative forward.

“I just think that the leadership structure, the elected leadership structure, the corporate leadership structure, the opinion leadership structure has gotten atomized for whatever set of reasons. So it creates a lot of challenges,” Remer said.

Even so, Remer still thinks there is enough local support for a parcel tax. His preliminary polling numbers show about 64 percent of San Diego voters would lean towards supporting a parcel tax. That's a few votes shy of getting the two-thirds needed to pass a parcel tax in California.

But the San Diego County Taxpayers Association is not convinced. President Lani Lutar says a parcel tax on the November ballot comes at the absolute worst time. She also doesn’t believe district officials would spent the money responsibly.

“The (school administration) has had a very spotty record in terms of their governance, and we've seen this with the changing of superintendents. It’s an issue of concern,” Lutar said. “If the governing board is not managing its existing dollars wisely, you have to ask if they could manage new revenues appropriately.”

Lutar says her group will take an official position once the district releases its final plan. The plan is expected this summer.

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