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BHUSD May Dramatically Raise Measure E Tax Rate

The Board of Education says that a hike in the tax rate is needed in order to fund renovations at all five city schools.

The Board of Education may more than double the bond tax rate of Measure E to raise funds needed to continue renovations at all five city schools, board officials said this week.

When the $334 million was approved in 2008, voters were promised a tax rate of $49.71 per $100,000 of assessed property value. The board , however, that the original Measure E bond sale schedule was not viable, and in February the board directed staff to devise a way to fund Measure E renovations. Working with the district's bond consultants Keygent Advisors, staff recommended that the board raise the Measure E rate to $114 per $100,000 value, the maximum rate allowed under Proposition 39.

“I am uncomfortable because I was part of the board that went out and sold the community on this notion that tax rates would be flat, but the reality is the bond allows for us to go as high as $114,” President Brian Goldberg said Tuesday at a Measure E study session. Goldberg noted that he abstained from the original board vote to put the measure on the 2008 ballot.

The district currently has about $60 million in Measure E funds available from its first round of bond sales in 2009. It is using those funds to start construction at Horace Mann School this summer and at Hawthorne School soon afterwards.

Along with the option of raising the tax rate came a warning from the , a citizen panel that advises the Beverly Hills Unified School District on financial matters.

“The district should not delay informing the community of the fallacy of the Measure E pledge of no increase in the property tax rate,” committee chairman Herb Young said at the study session. “The current school board, administration and district finance committee…did not create this problem, but given the information we now have, if we decline to address it proactively our collective credibility will be undermined.”

The committee urges the BHUSD to issue a press release “as soon as possible” about the changing tax rate and the total estimated costs of essential upgrades at all five school sites, Young said. The district should pledge to issue additional press releases as further information becomes available, he added.

The board members did not specifically promise to take all of the committee’s advice, but they did endorse a publicity campaign to inform the public about why the original bond sale was flawed and the ramifications of a revised Measure E bond sale.

Under the original Measure E schedule, the last and largest batch of bond sales were to take place in 2018. However, a weak economy combined with flat assessed valuation property rates had voided this schedule; without any change in the bond tax rate, the last bond sale would be pushed back to 2030.

“I can say with certainty it’s going to cost more [in 2030] than it’s going to cost today” to renovate all the schools, Goldberg said.

Superintendent Gary Woods told board members that he hoped to bring back more details about raising the bond tax rate to the May 5 BHUSD board meeting.

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