Fontana voters reject effort to restore funds
Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer
Created: 06/22/2011 06:31:20 PM PDT

FONTANA – Measure E, the parcel tax initiative that would have brought $16 million in additional funding to the Fontana Unified School District, was defeated in a special election Tuesday.

The tax increase issue lost because it needed a super majority (66.7 per cent) vote, but only receiver 52.09 percent of the vote.

“The majority of the voters were willing to invest in the school system,” said Leticia Garcia, board vice president who brought the parcel tax idea to the board several months ago.

“But the super majority was not so sold on the idea,” Garcia said, of the election where 4,153, or 52.09 percent, voted for new tax and 3,820, or 47.91 percent, voted against it.

The final results will be certified Friday, but the numbers won’t change much – if at at all, said Kathi Payne, elections analyst with the County of San Bernardino Registrar of Voters.

If it had been approved, Measure E would have cost property owners $8 per month and expire after four years.

The $4 million in annual funding would have been directed primarily into three areas: counselors, library services and class size reductions.

Fontana Unified’s budget woes – set in motion by state funding cuts and payment delays – resulted in the controversial termination of all 68 of the district’s counselors. Hundreds of other employees also lost their jobs or had hours cut.

The parcel tax was seen by board members as a way to get some local control back in the district’s budget.

But the election came at a time when many taxpayers are disgusted with how federal and state governments are tackling budget shortfalls. And many people – in Fontana and around the country – are financially hurting due to a poor economy.

“We put up a good fight,” Garcia said. “We were gaining momentum. But we had very limited time and very little money (for the campaign).”

Among those voting against Measure E was Frank Scialdone, a former Fontana mayor and police chief.

“My personal opinion is that people don’t want to pay any more taxes for anything…They are tired of government spending gimmicks and are not about to give any more money,” Scialdone said.

“I think this is sad,” said BarBara Chavez, Fontana school board president of the election results. “The ones who lost are the students.”

“We will go on. We will find other ways to bring in money,” she said.

The campaign for Measure E proceeded with the school district’s unions standing on the sidelines. But individual union members helped the campaign.

Several terminated counselors worked tirelessly on the campaign “and that impressed me,” Chavez said.

Said Shauna Ricks, one of those fired counselors who campaigned for Measure E by making cold calls to registered voters: “I was disappointed in the outcome but satisfied with myself in that I did all that I could have.

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