Oct. 25, 2012
By Kit Stolz, OVN correspondent
If voters fail to approve one of two ballot propositions to raise taxes and replace the loss of about six billion dollars in cutbacks to public education in California, the Ojai school year will be cut by up to 15 days, Ojai schools superintendent Hank Bangser told a small crowd of parents and supporters at Matilija Auditorium Tuesday night.
“This one makes me angry,” he said. “I’m angry that at this time, in this state, that a proposition that could result in a 160-day school year this year and next year is barely hanging on at a 50 percent approval rating. I can’t fathom how the citizens of California would allow this to happen.”
Bangser said Ojai schools have already been hit hard by cutbacks, due to a one-third drop in enrollment since its high water mark in l997.
“A perfect storm came together, and we not only lost the amount of money per child that every other district lost [due to state cutbacks], but we’re also losing children,” he said. “And after four years of cuts, the kindergarten through third grade class size has gone from 20 to 31, and every other average class size is going up as well.”
As a result, Bangser said the District decided that if both propositions 30 and 38 fail, Ojai schools will not lay off more teachers but will close early.
“We know that we might have to find up to $1.2 million dollars,” he said. “If [the education funding propositions fail] we’re going to have to lose more than 10 school days but may be able to keep it to less than 15. If we’re at 12 days lost, that would take us to the Friday before Memorial Day.”
Bangser stressed that his presentation was intended to be informational.
“The point is not to get people out to vote for Prop. 30 or 38 because numerically we’re a small community,” he said. “What I want is for the community to know what will happen here in Ojai if voters across the state reject the propositions.”
In his presentation, Bangser explained the differences between the two propositions. Prop 30, which was backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, is designed to avoid further cuts in K-12 funding by raising the state sales tax from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent for four years, and by hiking the income tax on high earners, those earning $250,000 or more a year as individuals, or $500,000 or more as couples. This will generate an estimated $6.8 billion this fiscal year, enough to replace the revenues lost in cuts to the state budget to close the deficit gap. This will also allow school districts to avoid mid-year budget cuts, but it gives the schools no additional funding.
Prop. 38, which is backed by philanthropist named Molly Munger, increases the state income tax on a sliding scale for nearly all taxpayers. Those earning as little as $7,316 pay 0.4 percent more, while those earning up to $2.5 million annually will pay 2.2 percent more. This is expected to generate $15 billion in 2013-14, with new revenue for schools, but Prop. 38 has no funds available immediately to help districts avoid cutbacks slated for this school year. Bangser said he believes if it passes, a way will be found to borrow against future revenues to avoid mid-year school cuts.
If both propositions pass, the one receiving the higher number of votes will be implemented.