Parcel tax continues to lead Hermosa Beach options

A possible date of decision came and went with Hermosa Beach city school board members continuing to study ways to cut expenses, raise revenue or do both.

Board members last Wednesday further narrowed their options, leaving a parcel tax ballot measure and a charter school conversion still prominently on the table.

“We started the process whittling down what we wanted to do,” board member Jack Burns said.

A lengthy study of the future of Hermosa schools continued to narrow the focus toward a parcel tax ballot measure more than any other option. The option of merging with a neighboring school district continued to lose steam.

“Unification is pretty much off the table. It’s not completely dead, it’s just pretty low on the priority scale,” Burns said.

Although neighboring school districts are larger, they must deal with state budget cutbacks as well, Burns said. In addition, a merger would require Hermosa property owners to take on a share of another district’s point bonded indebtedness, which would be much larger than Hermosa’s.

Members of a study committee for a parcel tax, which would go before Hermosa voters, were continuing to study the alternative of a boost in the local sales tax to benefit the schools.

“It seems the parcel tax took the lead, but we do need to look at the sales tax component – can we go that route, would it be beneficial,” Burns said.

The option of converting Hermosa schools to public charter schools continued to draw interest as well, and members of a study committee were asked to “pencil in an outline” of how that might work, Burns said.

Burns said Hermosans want to “retain local control” of their two-campus school district “until we can’t hold on any longer.”

Asked if local control will one day go by the wayside, Burns said, “If I had a crystal ball I’d own my own island somewhere. Being small has its advantages, and it also has its disadvantages. At some point in time we may not be able to hold on any longer. If the economy kept going south, at some point it would be very tough, very tough.”

A parcel tax might be the best way to try to “weather the storm,” he said.

Meanwhile, worst-case scenario budget cuts did not materialize fromSacramentoin recent weeks, and the school board approved a budget for the next school year, using volunteer fundraisers and about $100,000 in district reserves to forestall further cuts in academic programs.

“We anticipate deficit spending, a little bit, but we can’t keep doing it every year,” board member Cathy McCurdy said.

The private fundraisers – parents and other community members – covered the costs of a third-through-fifth-grade science lab, first-through-fifth-grade physical education, a program to limit class sizes in kindergarten through third grade, the middle school electives of art, technology, computers, Spanish, music, speech and drama, and a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade reading specialist.

Once again teachers and all other district employees will take five unpaid furlough days.

Since 2007, school programs axed or reduced include an instructional aide at the kindergarten-through-second-grade Hermosa View School, an assistant principal, music for grades one through five, middle school academic counseling, aides for middle school technology and fourth and fifth grade science, a maintenance and operations coordinator, an operations worker, hours for a library/media technician at the second-through-eighth-grade Hermosa Valley School, health aides at both schools, and two clerical workers.

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