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Measures C & D

Measures C and D propose parcel taxes for property owners in the city school district. Measure C calls for a $28 parcel tax for four years to benefit the city's high schools. Measure D similarly asks for $70 for the elementary and middle schools. The $2.2 million that the taxes would generate yearly would support librarians, counselors, arts programs and school supplies. Both measures require a two-thirds vote to pass.

Supporters say that the taxes would provide a lifeline to save city schools from financial crisis, since the district has already whittled away all cuttable administration costs and further cuts would mean eliminating arts, music, counseling and library programs. Whether the measures pass or not, the district may have to increase class sizes and close one elementary school, but a yes vote on both measures will give the district more time to make these decisions more carefully.

As high housing prices drive young families out of Santa Cruz, enrollment in the district has dropped by almost 15 percent since 1999 and is expected to drop 10 percent more over the next few years--a projected loss of about 1,000 students. The declining enrollment means declining revenue from the state because state revenue to schools is based on attendance.

The school district has made $3 million in budget cuts over the last few years, resulting in fewer teachers, support and administrative personnel and fewer dollars for supplies. In addition, several large grants the district depends on to fund arts and music programs are about to be reduced, and the governor is anticipated to announce a decrease in funding for education in this year's state budget. The district faces having to make $2.5 million in additional cuts, possibly losing librarians, counselors, and other services, and putting student success in jeopardy.

The money would also go to maintain basic classroom supplies, which too many teachers and parents pay for out of their own pockets.

The measure of any community is in its commitment to educating its students.

Recommendation: Vote YES

Measure L

Currently, every Santa Cruz County household pays a 7 percent utility tax, thereby supplying $10 million dollars annually to programs for health care, recreation, senior services, child care, emergency response and road repairs. Measure L proposes to repeal this tax, in effect since 1991.

Repeal supporters argue that county expenses and employees have increased disproportionate to population growth. They believe the county can make do without the funds, which add up to 14 percent of the county's discretionary budget. Yet they have not entered into a clear dialogue about how the loss will affect the county or where it will replace the funds.

Supporters also argue that the utility tax is illegal because of Proposition 62, a mandate indicating that cities and counties must obtain voter approval before imposing any taxes. It's true voters never had a chance to approve the tax, but it complied with existing court decisions when it was created, and no judge has declared this tax illegal.

Measure L opponents say losing $10 million would be devastating to a number of county programs. According to a county administrative officer's report, the loss of the funding would result in 18,600 hours of child-care reduction, 10,800 fewer meals to the frail and elderly, 87,000 fewer meals provided through the food banks, 3,400 fewer hours of counseling provided by nonprofit mental health providers, 240 fewer treatment days for Alzheimer's patients and 20 fewer deputies in the Sheriff's Departments. And that's only a partial listing of cuts mentioned in the report.

We think the economy is too fragile for the county budget to take such a hit. It seems to us that most people supporting Measure L can afford to pay the tax, and that the repeal would adversely effect the most needy and jeopardize vital services.

Recommendation: Vote NO


Voter's Guide: Local Races, State Propositions, Voter Reference Guide


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From the February 27-March 6, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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