Tax facts support ‘S’

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    Sometimes, things are said in campaigns that are so egregious that they cannot be ignored. This is one of those times. Malibu residents deserve the facts.

    After the failure of measure EE, the school board appointed an Ad Hoc Committee to examine the options available to help the district with its impending financial crisis caused by the state’s budget cuts. We served on this committee that consisted of a broad spectrum of people, all with some stake in the education of our youth, including some citizens who opposed Measure EE in November. The committee was charged with analyzing objections to the previous failed campaign (Measure EE) and examining other parcel tax options that would be acceptable to the citizens of our communities.

    The goal of the committee was to design a parcel tax (the only legal way in our state for a school district to raise money) that wouldn’t unfairly burden those people who have the least to gain from a great school system. We also invited members of the public to share their concerns and criticisms with us so that the committee could consider those issues. Toward this end, we made dramatic changes from Measure EE to Measure S, the current school funding measure. First, we reduced the amount of the tax by 25 percent. Second, the new tax will be in place for six years with no cost of living adjustment, rather than 12 years with an added COLA. Finally and most importantly, there is a senior exemption for those seniors who live in and own their houses. To qualify for this exemption, senior citizens simply request an exemption form, fill it out and send it to the county. This exemption is not at the discretion of the school district; it is available to any senior homeowner who applies.

    Our opposition claims that “wealthy senior homeowners” will get exemptions. While this is a possibility, it is our hope that seniors who have the ability to pay will not request the exemption because they want to support our schools. The opposition also claims that “thousands of wealthy senior landlords” will be exempt. Remember, you must live in the apartment building you own to actually qualify for the exemption. Senior citizens who rent may pay a small increase in the form of a renter pass through if the landlord chooses to pass the cost on to the renters.

    During the committee meetings there was much discussion about a parcel tax that would have taxed each parcel based on the square footage of the improvements on the parcel. The alternate tax reviewed would have resulted in the same revenue to the District as will come from Measure S. This tax was rejected for a number of reasons. The most compelling reason for rejecting the tax was based on square footage. Renters (mostly Santa Monica citizens) would have paid the biggest proportional increase under the square footage formula. Historically, these renters don’t have kids in public schools and they don’t benefit from increased property values that accompany great school districts. Further, while the opposition complains that Measure S will place an unfair burden on Malibu homeowners, the square footage formula would have had most homeowners in Malibu paying much more than the flat tax. Under both formulas, the average homeowner pays approximately the same amount.

    Our opposition also claims that it is unfair that a big commercial project on one parcel pays the same tax as one house on a parcel. When we were deciding on the tax structure, the committee was more concerned with not unduly burdening our homeowners and it is false to suggest that the alternate square foot method would have dramatically changed the amount the business community would pay. We also realized that we are fortunate in both cities to have business communities that support our schools in so many ways. Business leaders who were members of the Parcel Tax Committee never claimed that they would not be supportive of either tax. Conversely, they have always worked very hard to find additional revenue sources for our district.

    We are so privileged to have excellent public schools in our district. Malibu High School is now a California Distinguished School and our elementary schools have never been better. We live in a community that has the power to accomplish so much if we work together. Historically, the citizens of Malibu and Santa Monica have wholeheartedly supported our schools. During this time of financial crisis, it is up to each of us to protect our schools and our children. Ultimately, quality education benefits the entire community. We have a great opportunity to ensure that our children continue to receive the education they deserve by voting Yes on Measure S. Without the added financial assistance Measure S will bring to the school district, every child in the community loses.

    Laura Zahn Rosenthal and Kathy Wisnicki

    Malibu Co-Chairs, Yes on Measure S