A unanimous vote of the city council has put forth two propositions, Y and YY, which would guarantee a sustainable source of funding for Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) public schools, generating over $6 million for schools and another $6 million for vital city services such as police, fire, paramedic and emergency 911 response.
“As we know, the state continues brutal cuts to school funding. Some cuts we were able to reverse, but both of those [efforts] were one-time moneys. We’ll have to start all over again if these measures don’t pass,” board member Ben Allen said.
Unlike this past summer’s Save Our Schools campaign, which raised money for the 2010-2011 school year, Propositions Y and YY will continue to provide funding indefinitely.
Like the school district, the city of Santa Monica has seen sharp cuts in funding from the state of California.
Proposition Y would create a 0.5 percent “transaction and use” tax similar to a sales tax for purchases within Santa Monica. An additional 0.5 percent sales tax would be added to Santa Monica’s existing 9.75 percent sales tax, raising the total sales tax to 10.25 percent. Prop YY is an advisory measure that dictates that 50 percent of the Prop Y revenue must be used to support neighborhood public schools, with the remaining 50 percent going to vital city services.
There is much debate on the issue of Props Y and YY between the city and various business owners in Santa Monica. Local businesses fear losing customers to businesses in other parts of the county due to the increased sales tax.
“I really don’t want [propositions Y and YY] to pass because [my company] will lose money, and it will drive a lot of my customers away,” Omar Alsibai, manager of MacMall Santa Monica, said.
Other people in the community are also against the propositions for various reasons, including being against a raise in taxes of any sort, and being wary of alledged or potential mismanagement of funds by the city, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.
On the other hand, education advocates strongly believe that the passing of these propositions will strengthen the sustainable mission of our local community.
“I think this is probably such a small increment that most people probably won’t even feel it. I think when it’s that kind of painless, while I can sympathize, I think it’s probably the best thing for us,” I-House Principal Renee Semik said.
According to Allen, if the measures fail, SMMUSD will once again be faced with teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, closing of elementary libraries, and other harmful cuts.
“Measure Y and YY money would help continue the programs that we already have; some of the things we really enjoy – drama, athletics, music, dance, as well as classroom supplies and things like that,” Semik said.
According to Allen, a recent study done on a city in a financial predicament similar to that of Santa Monica and Malibu. After the increase in sales tax, no one claimed to be negatively impacted by this increase. “The positives dramatically outweigh the negatives,” Allen said. “[If the propositions were to pass] Santa Monica and Malibu would not be significantly burdened. I would ask [people opposed to the propositions] to take a step back, and ask them to consider how important investing in schools is.”
According to Semik, students who want to get involved should talk to their parents to make sure they are informed about propositions Y and YY. Also, little things like putting a sign in your front yard or making a poster can help the community become more aware of the proposition.
There are also many ways for students to get more involved in the campaign; a number of Samo students have participated in phone banks for measures Y and YY, contacting people in Santa Monica to let them know about the propositions.
Samo Junior Rebecca Sherouse, who volunteered at one of the phone banks, had this to say, “With all the budget cuts going around, [the passing of propositions Y and YY] would give the school a bit of relief. We’re the one’s who are impacted. It’s going to impact the kids, our siblings and the future of Santa Monica. [The proposition] is definitely not enough, but it will help.”
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