Mayor Mum on Meeting with Education Foundation

Some Members Expressed Concern over Her Four-Point Ballot Initiative Campaign

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider declined to provide details of a meeting she had last week with members of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation (SBEF), some of whom expressed concern the mayor’s four-point ballot initiative campaign for this November could undermine their efforts to extend two parcel taxes this June. Schneider said she has yet to finalize all the details of the agreement she worked out with SBEF boardmembers, and would not feel comfortable discussing the details until she had.

Schneider unveiled plans two weeks ago to begin collecting signatures for a four-part ballot initiative to raise the city sales tax by half a cent, to split the proceeds with the Santa Barbara Unified School District, to require city union members to pay the maximum contribution allowed by law into their retirements, and to increase the business tax on downtown bar owners to defray the cost of law enforcement associated with patrolling lower State Street on weekends. Combined, this would generate $10 million in revenues and reduce city costs by an additional $2 million.

But Brian Robinson, a member of the SBEF board and a professional campaign consultant, hotly objected the mayor’s initiative would cloud his group’s efforts to pass the parcel tax measures this June and expressed anger that Schneider never bothered to consult with them first. Even though the two measures take place at different times — the parcel tax is in June, Schneider’s initiatives, should they qualify, in November — Robinson expressed concern the confusion alone could prove fatal to the parcel taxes. Robinson likewise declined to discuss the meeting with Schneider, stating SBEF agreed to let her reveal its outcome.

Schneider said she did not see the two measures as being competitive and said it was incumbent upon all parties interested in increased funding for education to do what they could to ensure the parcel tax measures passed. But, she added, the Santa Barbara school district has weathered $20 million in budget cuts over recent years and could be looking at another $5 million. That happens to be the same amount the district would get, she said at the kickoff press conference announcing her package.

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