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Voters Soundly Reject Property Tax Hike To Fund LAUSD; Officials 'Stunned'

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - A parcel tax that would have generated an estimated $500 million a year for the Los Angeles Unified School District was easily defeated in Tuesday night's special election.

Measure EE fell short by a margin of 54.32 to 45.68 percent, far lower than then two-thirds majority required for passage, according to semiofficial results from the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder.

LAUSD teacher strike
Striking teachers and supporters rally outside Los Angeles City Hall as negotiations resume on Jan. 18, 2019, between United Teachers Los Angeles and the L.A. Unified School District. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

The LAUSD Board of Education "made the right decision to place this on the ballot," Superintendent Austin Beutner said defiantly at a news conference Wednesday outside Western Avenue Elementary School in South L.A.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti grew emotional during the press conference, composing himself as he pledged to continue the fight.

"We've got fights coming, and we're going to be there," he said, "And you're right we're going to punch back."

If approved, it would have imposed a levy of 16 cents per square foot of building improvements on properties within the district. On a 1,700-square-foot home, that would have amounted to another $272 of tax per year.

The parcel tax would have remained in effect for 10 years and would have raised an estimated $500 million a year.

A parcel tax is not based on the assessed value of a property, but is generally a flat fee based on square footage. It requires a two-thirds margin for approval.

LAUSD desperately needed the tax to pass in order to cover the increase in costs associated with the latest teachers' union contract.

In January, LAUSD's 34,000 teachers went on a 9-day strike, the first such strike in 30 years. It finally came to an end when the district reached a deal with teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which included a 6 percent pay hike for teachers and an increase in support staff at each school, such as librarians and counselors. The deal also included a reduction in class sizes.

"Ninety-five percent of our money goes to schools," Beutner told CBS2 Monday. "We're reducing the administrative side, we're reducing health care costs. All those things are being done. [Measure EE] is just a referendum on whether we believe in public education."

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl and Beutner, who are often at loggerheads politically, presented a unified front on the campaign trail in support of the measure, insisting it is vital for district's financial future.

The measure was vocally opposed by business interests, led by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber contended there was no guarantee the money raised by the measure would go toward reducing classroom size or funding nurses and librarians in schools -- all while the district has no plan for addressing its "unfunded pension obligations, increasing healthcare costs or cost structure of a large organization with declining student enrollment."

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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