According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2016, Los Angeles schools spent $13,230 per pupil. That’s considerably less than the $22,000 that Boston schools spent or the $24,000 that New York City schools spent per pupil. However, the Los Angeles Unified School District — the second largest school district in the country — faces a structural budget deficit that’s resulting in excessively large classes, too few teachers and counselors, and a lack of upkeep of schools and school grounds.
For this reason, the school district proposed Measure EE this year. By increasing parcel taxes for homes and businesses by $0.16 cent per square foot of indoor space for 12 years, Measure EE was intended to raise approximately $500 million per year. NBC Los Angeles reports that the school superintendent stated the tax was needed in order to decrease class sizes, hire more teachers and counselors, and improve the upkeep of school property. Moreover, without the tax, the school district could wind up in the red.
Measure EE wasn’t without opponents, however. The Los Angeles Business Federation and the L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce both countered that the school district has the financial reserves — but isn’t using them in the right manner. They claimed that there was no guarantee the extra revenue would benefit students, stating it was more likely to go into teachers’ pension funds, as well as healthcare costs for both active and retired educators.
The backers of Measure EE needed a two-thirds majority for it to pass during the vote on June 4th. And with the support of Mayor Eric Garcetti and earlier funding measures for transportation, parks and homeless services having been successful, many had hoped to win — yet they were disappointed. The Los Angeles Times reports that the tax earned a mere 45 percent of the vote.
One possible reason for the loss is that there was an incredibly low turnout for the vote. After all of the votes are counted, the turnout is expected to be 10 percent. And it’s a well-known fact that elections with a low turnout usually attract older, less tax-friendly and more conservative voters.
What all of this means is that for now, Los Angeles homeowners and business owners don’t have to worry about an additional levy on their properties. Nevertheless, with the ongoing budget problems in the school district, it’s possible that the school district will propose another parcel tax plan. If it does, the vote is likely to be held on an election date that’s expected to have a higher, more liberal turnout. Moreover, the school district will probably start campaigning sooner and much more aggressively to convince voters of the necessity of the tax.
In the event that a similar measure is passed in the future, the current flat taxes on properties — that basically levy the same amount of tax on a single-family home as on a mansion — will be replaced with a more progressive “per square foot” tax. That will benefit the owners of smaller parcels of land, while owners of larger properties will probably see their taxes increase.
For more information about Measure EE and how a similar measure could impact you, please contact Peak Corp.