School board President Richard Barrera says he still wants to withdraw a proposed parcel tax meant to help San Diego Unified blunt the impact of state budget cuts, even though the city now will not ask voters to approve a sales tax.
Barrera told us today that he proposed cancelling the tax because, among other things, fears that the school and city taxes would be on a collision course. But on Monday afternoon, City Council voted not to put its tax on the ballot.
The end of the sales tax idea would seem to put an end to those worries. However, Barrera said he still believed the parcel tax wouldn’t be able to succeed. That is even more stunning because just two weeks ago, Barrera was one of its biggest champions.
“It’s asking people to put time and effort into something when they’d be better off doing something else,” Barrera said.
He wants supporters to throw their energy into opposing state budget cuts instead after getting signs from State Sen. Denise Ducheny and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher that the state could be persuaded to keep school funding level.
Barrera’s switch was unnerving for fans of the tax, who were gearing up for an energetic campaign to spare teachers and help preserve programs. “I feel a little used by the whole process,” said Doug Porter, a parent activist. “Now it’s gone and I don’t see how the students benefit.”
But Barrera said even before talk arose of a sales tax he had become uneasy that school district boosters would be able to raise the money needed to get the tax passed this November. Consultant Larry Remer earlier told me that he planned to raise $1.5 million for the campaign; Barrera wasn’t convinced, saying he thought they would only raise $400,000 or $500,000 at most.
“It was always going to be challenging to raise money for this,” said Remer, who was hired by the school district to research and do polling on the tax. “It’s not a convention center so you don’t have hotel people lining up to pay for it. And it’s a very difficult time to raise money.”
Barrera said that even though the city tax is no longer a factor, the mayor and City Council members Ben Hueso and Todd Gloria still made a commitment to back a future school tax, if the district goes for one. They also pledged to help lobby against state cuts and for a lower threshold for parcel taxes to pass.
The school board is slated to vote on whether to take the proposed parcel tax off the ballot tomorrow afternoon. Board member John de Beck said he would vote along with Barrera to withdraw the tax; board member Shelia Jackson said she was undecided. I haven’t heard back from the rest of the board.
— EMILY ALPERT