LAUSD wants accountability on possible tax, but Valley groups aren’t impressed
The Board of Education action on Tuesday to create a parcel tax oversight board was pitched as an accountability measure, but not all are buying it, including some in the San Fernando Valley.
The governing board of the Los Angeles Unified School District moved Tuesday to form an independent oversight committee that would report on the district’s use of revenue acquired as a result of Measure EE, which would levy a tax on property owners within the massive district’s boundaries and requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass in the June 4th special election.
But the action did not quell concerns from San Fernando Valley business groups, who slammed the formation of an oversight committee as a toothless measure.
Board Member Dr. George McKenna, who introduced the resolution, said he hoped that the promise of an oversight committee will help convince voters to trust LAUSD with with their tax dollars. The school board made the decision to put the tax on the ballot in February when polling data showed high levels of support in the wake of the teachers strike.
“We must be accountable for what we intend to do,” said McKenna at the board’s first meeting after spring break. “There’s no question as to when it passes we will have a celebration, and a deliberation in how we show people what were doing.”
“Were communicating to the public on June fourth, that we will work with the public on oversight,” said board President Monica Garcia, who recently announced her entry into the race to replace city councilmember Jose Huizar.
Per the board’s move Tuesday, a nine-member committee of experts in academia, school finance and management would be required to publicly distribute yearly reports on basic revenue quantities, expenditure plans, and progress report on student achievement – using measures like graduation and subject proficiency rates – to provide “an enhanced level of accountability for the allocation and expenditure of Measure EE parcel tax funds.”
Oversight committee members would be selected by a panel of seven representatives from various governmental bodies including LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, the LA county department of education and board of supervisors, and serve three year appointments.
The special property tax – called a “parcel tax” – is expected to bring in $500 million in new annual revenue for a period of 12 years for a financially strapped LAUSD. Supporters of the measure, which levies a 16 cent tax on all taxable property, say the money from taxpayers would lower class sizes by hiring teachers, counselors and school nurses.
Because the measure charges 16 cents per square foot of property rather than the same amount for any property, the tax has been described as disproportionately affecting commercial and industrial property owners.
A coalition of business groups, including Valley organizations like the Valley Industry and Commerce Association and Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, LA Chamber of Commerce and BizFed launched a NO on EE campaign in recent weeks, alleging financial mismanagement in the district.
On Tuesday, the United Chambers of Commerce in the San Fernando Valley expressed its opposition to the tax.
“It is irresponsible to ask for smaller class sizes, hire more non-teaching positions, be under fiscal watch by the LA County Board of Education, promise raises and incur additional costs, and then ask property owners for more money,” wrote the organization in a press release.
President of VICA Stuart Waldman, who backed the NO on EE campaign, was unimpressed by the district’s stated commitment to oversight.
“They could have done this before,” he said. “We brought up oversight with them in the 48 hours they gave us between introducing the measure and putting it on the ballot, and they chose not to.”
“It’s a committee that’s only required to meet once a year and has no control over how the money is spent. No, this doesn’t actually produce any measure of accountability.”
This Article was originally published online at LA DailyNews.com by Ariella Plachta on April 23, 2019.