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Record Bond Measure for Santa Monica Schools Draws No Opposing Ballot Arguments


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September 12, 2018 -- The largest School District bond measure in Santa Monica history will have no opposing arguments on the ballot when it goes before voters in November.

Measure SMS -- the record $485 million bond to upgrade and replace outdated facilities in Santa Monica schools -- drew the traditional supporting arguments from civic and education leaders.

But for the fist time since 2000, voters will not be presented with reasons to oppose a school funding measure, in this case the first to cover only Santa Monica schools.

School Board member Oscar de la Torre said he was surprised to see no opposing argument submitted.

"It's surprising because the price tag is so high," de la Torre said.

De la Torre noted that polls commissioned by the District showed two-thirds of the voters would back Measure SMS, which needs 55 percent of the vote for approval.

"Most property owners realize good schools raise property values," de la Torre said. "And people know it's very difficult to defeat the establishment on this.

"I can't explain it otherwise."

Mathew Millen, a local landlord who has opposed previous District funding measures, declined to comment on why he didn't file opposing arguments for SMS.

In the past, Santa Monica's major landlords and their organizations have traditionally stayed on the sidelines for School District funding measures ("Future Bonds in Jeopardy if Rent Board Nixes Pass-Throughs, Santa Monica Property Owners Warn," March 21, 2018).

But political activists have written ballot arguments opposing every school funding measure over the past 18 years.

In 2012, the last time a funding measure was placed on the ballot, opponents included education leaders who filed statements against the $385 million measure, which was approved by voters.

In his opposing statement, School Board member Ralph Mechur said there were "too many unanswered questions."

“I feel we can do this in 2014 either June or November and we will be better prepared," he wrote.

And School member Craig Foster, who was then president of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools, also opposed ES, arguing that Malibu residents paid a disproportionate amount of the bond.

"We will get back a fraction of what is spent, as we have done, in aggregate, on all prior bonds,” Foster wrote in his opposing argument.

That will not be the case this year when Malibu voters will decide whether to approve a $195 million bond for schools in their city ("Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Votes to Place Record Bonds on the Ballot," July 30, 2018).

This time, Santa Monica property owners will be picking up the entire tab on the $485 million bond for local schools.

The support seems to be there. A poll of Santa Monica voters found that a $485 million bond "seems likely to pass with initial support at 66 percent,” according to the findings of Goodwin Simon Strategic Research.

Santa Monica and Malibu voters have traditionally approved School District funding measures. Of the seven measures that have been placed on the ballot since 2000, five have passed.

Voters have approved two bond measures -- Measure ES in 2012 and Measure BB, a $268 million bond in 2006.

But parcel taxes, which require 66 percent of the vote to pass, instead of the 55 percent for bonds, have not fared as well.

Two parcel taxes have failed since 2000 -- Measure EE, an annual $300-per-parcel tax in November 2002, and Measure A, a $198-per-parcel tax in May 2010.

In 2002, opponents wrote in their arguments that reform was needed before taxpayers agree to give the District money.

Three parcel taxes have passed since 2000 -- Measure Y, an annual $98-per-parcel tax that was continued for ten years in 2000; Measure S, an annual $225 parcel tax for six years approved in 2003 and Measure R, an annual $346-per-parcel tax renewal with no sunset provision approved in 2008.

Measure Y was the last School District funding measure that drew no opposing argument.

In the ballot arguments for Measure SMS on the November 6 ballot supporters stressed the need for funding to modernize schools and replace outdated facilities.

"Our teachers are outstanding and our schools are among the best in the country," wrote supporters, who include State Sen. Ben Allen, a former School Board member.

"However, urgent repairs and upgrades are needed to meet 21st century academic and school safety standards."


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