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SMMUSD Funding Measure Arguments Released  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

March 15, 2010 -- Proponents of Measure A, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) tax proposal, say its passage is “critically needed” to bridge a budget shortfall that could be as high as $14 million. But opponents call the measure regressive and say it allows Santa Monica businesses to “get off cheap.”

Arguments for and against the $198-per-parcel measure were released last week. They will appear on the ballots that will be delivered to voters for the mail-in election on Aril 26. Rebuttal arguments will be written later this month.

Those signing the argument in favor were Harry Keiley, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association; Wendy Sidley, president of the Malibu High School PTA; Patricia Hoffman, chair of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights; community activist Tom Larmore and Barry Seid, an AARP official.

The opposition argument was signed by attorney Mathew Millen, who has led the campaign against all the recent Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and Santa Monica College funding measures; Art Casillas, a Pico Neighborhood activist; former Malibu Parks and Recreation Commissioner Doug O’Brien; Pierce Watson and Clara Benrey, who is listed as a school teacher.

The proponents’ argument lays out the SMMUSD’s bleak financial outlook, including a drastic cut in revenue from its largest contributor, the State government.

“Without additional revenue, our schools will be forced to cut up to 75 of our 580 teachers, increase class sizes by 30 percent, lay off counselors and librarians, close libraries and cut back instruction in science, math, reading, writing, art and music,” the argument states.


The opposition argument gives “11 reasons to vote no on Prop A.” Among them are the tax charges everybody the same amount regardless of property size, that more money should go to the District from the City of Santa Monica and that other money-generating efforts should be made. It also notes some District spending the opponents did not agree with.

Additionally, the argument speaks to Malibu voters about their lack of representation on the Board of Education.

“The Santa Monica political machine controls the elections,” the argument states. “Malibu will never see a resident elected to the SMMUSD board. No taxation without representation!”

District funding measures proposed in the past decade have garnered support from a majority of the voters. But with two-thirds voter approval needed for passage, even limited opposition puts a measure in jeopardy.

A 2003 funding measure for $300 per parcel failed to pass when it received 60 percent support. A $225-per-parcel tax was proposed less than a year later, and passed by a slim margin.

Measure A would generate an estimated $5.7 million for the District. It has a five-year lifespan. People ages 65 and older can file for an exemption from the tax. The deadline to turn in ballots is May 25.


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