Measure R, the $346-a-year parcel tax for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District that was on the ballot “Super Tuesday,” February 5th, was overwhelmingly approved by voters in Santa Monica and Malibu.

Out of nearly 31,000 people who voted in the two cities, 73 percent — or 22,309 people — voted “yes” for Measure R, which combines and renews two existing local parcel taxes for the school district that would otherwise have expired in 2009 and 2011.

Twenty-seven percent — or 8,446 people — voted “no.”

The measure required two-thirds of the vote to pass.

The tax is the same on each parcel of land, including vacant land, so a home and a large commercial project pay the same $346 annual amount. Renters will continue to pay what they currently pay — an average of about $3.50 a month.

“On behalf of all our children, certificated and classified staff and Board of Education, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the voters of the Santa Monica-Malibu community for their overwhelming support of public education,” said school district superintendent Dianne Talarico.

Santa Monica Malibu Classroom Teachers Association (SMMCTA) union president Harry Keiley was also thankful for Measure R’s passage.

“Teachers are grateful to the voters in the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu for their vote of confidence in approving Measure R,” Keiley said. “Our commitment to the voters and the families of Santa Monica and Malibu is to provide all children with a high quality education.”

There was strong support for Measure R by elected officials, including the entire Santa Monica City Council, community leaders, key organizations such as the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, among others, but some — specifically in Malibu — spoke out against the parcel tax, including Malibu City Councilmember Andy Stern.

Much of the opposition in Malibu stems from the fact that the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District school board reduced the amount of Measure BB bond money that was originally set aside for school improvements at Malibu High School and increased the amount for improvements at Santa Monica High School.

But supporters of Measure R argue that it preserves high-quality education in local schools with no new taxes and will allow schools to retain excellent teachers, protect smaller class sizes and preserve science and technology instruction, among other things.

Without Measure R, supporters say that schools “would be forced to lay off more than 70 teachers, increase class sizes and cut important education programs.”

But Measure R, which will generate over $10 million a year for the district, has passed and these issues are no longer a concern.

Spending will be tracked and reported annually to taxpayers.

Measure R, whose funds are allowed to go directly into the classroom for programs and staffing, requires annual audits by an Independent Citizens Oversight Committee.

Senior citizens, age 65 and over, may receive an exemption.

What is important, Talarico says, is that students in Santa Monica and Malibu “will continue to thrive knowing that the outstanding education they receive in their classrooms is strongly supported by their communities.”

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