The two school parcel taxes will make an encore on the November ballot, as the Santa Barbara Unified School Board agreed Tuesday night to solicit voters for their generosity one more time but to reduce the asking price to about $40 each as opposed to $54. Measures W and X, which were narrowly defeated in last week’s election, would have raised about $16 million for secondary and elementary schools over four years. Two similar parcel taxes, H and I, will expire at the end of the next school year. Without extensions, the district will be forced to cut music and arts programs and to reduce sections in foreign-language and math classes. That’s on top of coping with a withering $5.9-million budget cut due to state shortfalls.
For the measures’ advocates, much hair has been split trying to explain why they failed to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to approve a new tax. Representatives from the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, which led the campaign, said at the meeting that they believed low voter turnout foiled the measures. But boardmembers Susan Christol Deacon and Kate Parker said they felt that some voters were turned off by the amounts of the taxes, which were double those of Measures H and I — a decision made because the districts’ coffers have shrunk by more than $20 million since the previous parcel taxes passed. Trustee Ed Heron felt that opposition from the Montecito Journal, Santa Barbara News-Press, and Republican Party played a role. Complicating the calculus more is the fact that even if, as past polling data suggests, voters in the general election will be more favorable to parcel taxes, they will be competing on the ballot with statewide tax-increase measures. “This is going to be an electrifying election,” said Heron. “And so, I think, it won’t be easy.”