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EDUCATION MANDATES, TIGHT STATE BUDGETS FORCE STATES TO CONSIDER OTHER FUNDING ALTERNATIVES

Faced with tight education budgets, some states are asking voters to reach into their wallets and provide extra funding for schools by approving an increase in their property tax rates. Last week, voters in New York and California, states with two of the largest budget gaps, were asked to consider raising taxes at the local level that would benefit education funding. As expected, there was widespread approval in New York, but elected officials were surprised that there was only scattered support in California.

In New York, 94 percent of the nearly 700 school districts approved the proposed tax increases for schools. That is one of the highest approval rates on record, and is well above the average approval rate for tax increases (82 percent) over the last 30 years. According to the New York Times, “The sweeping approvals mean that, with few exceptions, school budgets will go up by an average of 4.1 percent in the coming academic year, all at a time when the state’s contribution to education has shrunk.” To pay for the increases, school districts are expected to raise local property taxes by 7.4 percent.

When presented with a similar opportunity to increase funding for education, California voters were not as willing as their east coast counterparts to accept a new tax. Statewide, voters approved a new “parcel tax” in only nine districts out of a possible 19 that considered the new tax. In the nine districts where it was approved, the parcel tax will be “a set amount added to each piece of property for a special period of time,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Of the 11 districts that failed to get the two-thirds vote in favor of the tax, district leaders say they will be forced to increase class size, lay off teachers, forgo buying textbooks, and cut music, art, and other programs.

Read the New York Times article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/05/nyregion/05EDUC.html

Read the Los Angeles Times article at: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-election5jun05,1,4965824.story

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