Fontana election to decide $50 million plan
Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/21/2011 10:26:59 PM PDT

FONTANA – On a 3-2 vote, the Fontana Unified School Board on Monday night approved a special election for a new property tax to prevent or delay some $50 million in cuts approved in recent years.

The $96 annual tax on individual real-estate parcels will require a two-thirds majority to pass and could provide more than $16 million to the district over a period of four years.

“I am not in favor of the tax, but I am in favor of the process of letting the people decide,” said Brandy Segal, one of several Fontana residents speaking Monday who asked the board to let voters make the ultimate decision.

The election will be held at the end of June, either on its own or merged with a statewide election on tax extensions Gov. Jerry Brown is seeking.

The $96 amount was chosen because it is divisible by 12 and it is an amount that studies have shown would be palatable to the voters, said Gail Carson Hedrick, a financial analyst with San Francisco-based Dale Scott and Co., a firm which advises school districts on financial issues.

The $96 yearly tax works out to $8 per month.

Leticia Garcia, the vice president of the board, said, “The tax is not going to provide all our needs but will allow us to restore some services.”

In recent weeks, the school board has voted to potentially eliminate all 68 of FUSD’s counselors as well as 51 teachers and 26 library specialists, close its adult school and suspend summer school next year.

If the voters approve the tax, the board would decide which programs it should restore.

During the public hearing portion of the specially called Monday night meeting, Salvador Lopez told the board that “this is the worst possible time to ask people to pay more taxes. I know money has been tight (at the district). Aren’t there other ways, by cutting pay at the administrative level? I know teachers sacrifice, but can’t they do a little more?”

Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks said that all district employees have taken five furlough days.

One speaker was critical of the board’s hiring a consultant to advise them on the parcel tax. But Hedrick said her firm will not be paid anything unless the voters approve the tax.

It will cost the district $150,000 to $200,000 to hold the election.

“That’s a small investment to make when you consider the district could raise $16 million over four years, Hedrick said.

Garcia said she has already secured $10,000 from local businesses to help defray the election costs and will seek more contributions.

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