School board President Richard Barrera will ask the rest of the San Diego Unified board tomorrow to withdraw plans for a parcel tax to fund local schools, less than two weeks after the board voted to put it on the November ballot.
Barrera said he decided to reverse course on the school tax, which he’d championed, after he and Superintendent Bill Kowba had a series of meetings with Mayor Jerry Sanders and two City Council members over the weekend.
Barrera said he became convinced that it would be extremely difficult for the parcel tax to pass this November with a city sales tax increase also on the ballot. The school tax would need two-thirds of voters to pass, while the sales tax would only need 50 percent. Putting both on the ballot could damage their chances.
“My feeling was it just wasn’t going to be realistic,” Barrera said. “And it’s just more possible that their measure would have a real shot at passing.”
Barrera said he would try to redirect the energy of parents, teachers and other community members who would have backed the measure to instead oppose state budget cuts. He said Sanders and Councilmen Ben Hueso and Todd Gloria have agreed to help lobby against deeper state cuts to school budgets, to push for a lower 55 percent threshold for passing school parcel taxes and to help pass a school parcel tax if San Diego Unified pursues one in the future.
If voters approved it, the temporary tax would raise an estimated $50 million annually for local schools over the next five years.
Critics argued that even exploring the school tax was a waste because it had slim chances of passing. The school district has already invested in polling on the potential tax. Barrera said exploring the tax was “due diligence” and the parcel tax campaign could be revived as soon as next year.
School board member John de Beck said he would back Barrera in withdrawing the tax because he didn’t think it was going to pass in the first place, but was worried by the way it came about.
“The mayor didn’t want it to compete with his sales tax. It’s too bad that we had to be muscled to make that decision,” de Beck said.
As for the promise the mayor would help lobby in Sacramento, de Beck wasn’t convinced Sanders had any sway. “Well, rah rah for that,” he scoffed.
— EMILY ALPERT