Sacramento property owners won’t pay $75 tax for schools as Measure G fails

Students walk through the halls between classes at West Campus High School on Thursday, November 10, 2011.
Students walk through the halls between classes at West Campus High School on Thursday, November 10, 2011.

Backers of a Sacramento school parcel tax on the November ballot have conceded defeat and plan to launch a similar measure within the next four years.

Measure G would have imposed a $75 annual tax on Sacramento City Unified School Disctrict property owners to generate $7 million a year for programs in a district that mostly serves disadvantaged students. The proposal received 65.3 percent of the vote as of the latest Sacramento County count released Tuesday, just shy of the 66.7 percent threshold it needed to pass.

“I think we recognize we are not going to be able to make up the ground we need,” said Sacramento City Unified Trustee Jessie Ryan, who initially hoped that tens of thousands of ballots counted in the week following the election were going to turn the tide. “We knew this was going to be a heavy lift. Unlike some of the local bond campaigns that other districts were launching, we had such a high threshold for passage. The crowded ballot made that much more difficult.”

Ryan, who chaired the district’s three-person parcel tax committee, said the large simple majority in favor of the measure signals that “we can successfully pass an education parcel tax in the future.”

She said supporters are disappointed. But, she added, “They’re ready to get together and roll up their sleeves for 2018. If we could come this close, there’s no reason … we couldn’t try it again in 2018 and be successful. If not 2018, then 2020.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Sacramento County Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine’s staff had counted 124,000 ballots in the Measure G race. Of those, more than 12,000 voters did not vote on Measure G.

LaVine said Tuesday that another 12,000 vote-by-mail ballots still need to be hand-counted because they include write-in names. And 34,000 provisional ballots still must be verified before they can be counted. Those numbers are countywide; the district covers much of Sacramento city.

The measure also drew fiscally conservative critics who cited lack of spending specifics.

“The promised citizens’ oversight committee can’t ensure accountability without it,” the opposition wrote.

But Ryan said there was solid reasoning behind the campaign approach.

“We did not want to earmark funds for every school without allowing our administrators and teachers to weigh in on their unique needs,” Ryan said in response. One school might seek a program with strong focus on music and arts, she said, while another might want counseling and other student supports. “We felt the way the measure was written allowed for maximum accountability and the flexibility of individual school sites based on their needs.”

Some voters, she said, may have been put off by the campaign’s emphasis on using funds for needy students.

“One of the lessons learned: Next time around we need to strongly communicate to voters in Sacramento that … when we provide access to our struggling students, our city as a whole benefits.”

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