City to Students: Let Them Ice Skate!
The state has repeatedly slashed funding for our schools. The Santa Monica- Malibu Unified School District budget has been drastically reduced by the state cuts.
As a community and as individuals, our first priority must be the well-being of our children, which means, among other things, that we are obliged to do what the state has failed to do. We must give the schools the money they need to give our children what they need: a first-rate, complete education, including the arts.
Luckily, the current City budget is over $554,000,000, half-a-billion-dollars! Surely the City can make some changes or adjustments, or delay some programs or projects in order to give the schools the money they need now.
But the City staff proposed an astonishing alternative: that voters approve a 1/2% “transaction and use (sales) tax” (Prop Y) that would add $12 million a year to City coffers, with $6 million going to the schools and $6 million for “vital services.”
A very small town (eight square miles) with a small population (est. 88,000) and a half-billion-dollar budget should not have a vltal services “crisis” in advance of every election. As bad, in addition, Prop Y is accompanied by Prop YY, an “advisory,” which asks voters whether they think the City should give some of the tax’s revenue to the schools, but the City is not obilged to abide by the voters’ decision. And Santa Monica College has announced that it wants some of the school funds.
According to Jeff Segal, “…YY has a much more fundamental problem. The supporters have been implying that YY asks City Council to double the city’s current annual contribution to the school district. But that is not what Prop YY says. YY only asks City Council to split the income from the proposed new transaction and use tax; there is no request that the new revenue be added to the existing contributions from the general fund. Remember the California lottery. Remember all the public school supporters lining up to tell us how it was going to be providing a whole bunch of additional funding for the schools. Well, today all the lottery profits do go to the schools, however the schools’ contribution from the state’s general fund, has been reduced by an amount equal the profits from the lottery, making the net benefit for the schools — zero. Think how easy it will be for city staff to say that now that the school district has its own source of funding, it no longer needs to share in the city’s general fund.”
The only way to ensure that the City allocates suffient funds to the schools is for the City to find said money in the $554,000,000 budget. After reviewing the budget, Segal wrote, “…I found that approximately 3/4ths of all city expenditures go to the salary and benefits for city employees…the average job exceeding $70,000/year, with many jobs paying over $100,000/year, and top employees making between $250,000 – $300,000/year. These salaries are way in excess of the salaries of the vast majority of the people who live in Santa Monica….(and) the city’s website shows that the minimum salaries, of Santa Monica employees, have increased by 6.1% to 6.6%, depending on the job. Doing a little math, the salary increases have been approximately 6.3% * 3/4th of the city’s $554,000,000 budget, equals $26,000,000/year. If that $26 million/year overcharge was reversed, the city fiscal problem would be immediately solved, with plenty of extra money to help out the school district.”
Unless the City takes Segal’s suggestion, and reverses the recent raise now, no matter how the November 2 vote goes, the schools, teachers and our children will remain in limbo for some time. But ice skaters can look forward to the opening of “Santa Monica Ice”on November 5, thanks to the City’s largesse.
Shortly before the City proposed the perhaps tax, it paid $45 million for a 52,000 sq. ft. parcel, which will ice up for several months for the next four years.
It was Marie Antoinette who said, “Let them eat cake.”
Now City Hall seems to be saying to our children. “Let them ice skate.”
And it should be noted that the millions of Americans on Social Security didn’t receive a cost of living
increase this year and won’t receive one next year.