Davis Joint Unified School District leaders sounded the alarm and voters responded, narrowly passing parcel tax Measure E to maintain funding for the district's schools.
The measure needed two-thirds approval. It received 69 percent and, with it, funding to stave off millions of dollars in projected cuts in 2013-2014.
"I was proud to live where I live where people support education," said Richard Harris, the outgoing Davis Joint Unified School District trustee, a key proponent of the measure.
Incumbent school board President Susan Lovenburg, who won re-election and supported Measure E, said she was "extremely pleased. We are very happy with the success of the measure."
Measure E, the fifth such measure brought before Davis voters since 2007, extends Measure A, a parcel tax pitched as an emergency funding measure two years ago. Measure A expires in 2013.
After absorbing millions of dollars in cuts since 2007-2008 and facing cuts of several million dollars more, district officials convinced Davis voters that the stakes were too high to turn back the latest tax measure.
Davis Unified School District leaders said the district would lose $3.2 million from the budget in 2013-14 if Measure E failed.
The district had planned an immediate $3.7 million cut from its 2012-13 budget, or about 5 percent of its total revenue, if Proposition 30 was defeated, district officials said.
"The renewal of Measure A, we put that in place as an emergency. That emergency hasn't gone away the lack of state funding. We were able to maintain that with Measure E," Harris said. "We were looking at $7 million in cuts. That's what was on the line 25 percent of the workforce. You take 100 FTEs (full-time employees) out of a district like ours and it would've been draconian."
But Proposition 30 Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative to avert further cuts in K-12 school and community college funding survived.
"We're stabilized. We're going to be at the whim of state funding, but this is a base we will have for the next four years," Harris said.
Not everyone was convinced by the dire scenario. Nearly one in three Davis voters rejected Measure E, with most of the no votes cast in the city's north and south areas.
And school board candidates openly fretted about tax fatigue in financially tight times for local families.
School board candidate and CSU Sacramento engineering professor Jose Granda vigorously opposed the measure, making its defeat a driving force in his campaign, saying that the school board leaned too heavily on voters' pocketbooks.
As results were still trickling in late Tuesday, he said the result showed school leaders that they need to curb spending and bring more fiscal discipline to the district.
But Granda failed to persuade voters to elect him to the board.
Harris said the vote affirms Davis' connection to its schools.
If Measure E had failed, "we wouldn't have been different than Anytown, Calif.," Harris said.
"We're not that. Schools are what drive the value of a community."