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Chamber Supports School District Tax  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

March 15, 2010 -- The campaign for the School District parcel tax received a boost late last week from the business community. The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce endorsed Measure A, a $198-per-parcel tax measure that will be the lone item in a mail-in election. Ballots go out next month.

“The Chamber has overwhelmingly endorsed Measure A to ensure local students continue to receive a strong education that prepares them for college and careers,” said Chamber President and CEO Laurel Rosen in a press release. “As a Chamber, our top priority is job creation and encouraging a healthy local economy, and high quality local schools are directly connected to both.”

Local Realtor Mike Gruning called Measure A “a fiscally sound proposal.” He noted a citizens’ oversight committee would be formed and annual audits would be done if the measure passes.

“Good schools help protect property values, and keep our community a safe and desirable place to live,” Gruning said in the press release.

Mathew Millen, who is leading the Measure A opposition campaign, said he was not surprised to hear of the Chamber endorsement. Millen said because the tax will charge everybody the same amount regardless of property size, the commercial property owners will not suffer much.

“How long will it take the Loews Hotel to make up $198? It would take one night,” Millen said. “A homeowner could take a week to come up with that money. This is a regressive tax on the poor.”

When asked about Millen’s comments, the Chamber directed the Lookout News to Paul Silvern, a member of the District’s Financial Oversight Committee. He also sat on the committee that came up with a proposal for the Board of Education on a parcel tax measure after nearly six months of meetings.

“That strikes me as a completely silly argument,” Silver said of Millen’s comments. “Because as I read the Chamber’s press release, what is of concern to them is that the future labor force is equipped to fill the jobs in the future.”

He added that the parcel tax committee looked into a square footage-based property tax, but it was determined that would be a risky proposition due to legal issues. This type of tax passed in 2008 in the Alameda Unified School District, and a lawsuit was filed. A legal settlement is before that District’s Board of Education to put a new measure on the ballot this summer.

“It would be irresponsible to propose anything else (than a uniform parcel tax) and have to (legally) defend it,” Silvern said.

Silvern said he would not speculate if the Chamber would support Measure A if it were a square footage-based property tax. But he noted that owners of larger properties pay higher tax amounts on their annual property taxes, of which a portion goes toward the School District


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