District Trustees endorsed Proposition 30, a tax measure driven by Gov. Jerry Brown, in a 10-to-2 vote on Oct. 8.
“If the day after the election it doesn’t pass, there will be a significant cutback in our programs,” Trustee John Hanna said. “There’s nothing else in the ballot that will save our bacon.”
Proposition 30 proposes a temporary seven-year increase in personal income tax for those who earn more than $250,000 annually.
It also includes a temporary quarter-cent sales tax increase on every dollar spent, or about a nickel for every $20. Revenues are estimated at an average of about $6 billion annually.
The dissenting trustees expressed some reservations about endorsing the measure.
“We’re already taxed enough. The state is going bankrupt. If they wanted to balance their budget and support schools they would do it, but they’re holding us hostage with this proposition,” Phillip Yarbrough, president of the Board of Trustees said.
Small business owner and trustee Arianna Barrios said the details of the tax measure “would make it difficult to keep my business viable.”
Some college faculty leaders questioned Barrios’ objectivity to serve as an elected official.
“She is elected to support education, and her complaints against it were personal agenda on taxes on her business,” Santa Ana College Academic Senate President Raymond Hicks said. “For two board members to vote against this, it makes you wonder if they’re qualified to sit on the board.”
However, Yarbrough defends his position by saying his personal opinion is that the state is giving in to the demands of labor unions by soliciting voter support under the guise of educational funding.
“My personal opinion is what I feel is best for the district,” Yarbrough said. “I frankly am very upset about being used as a pawn by the governor and the Democratic party.”
The governor’s office has estimated about $8.5 billion in revenues for the first year if the measure passes. However, this estimate is overstated by about $800,000, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Even if Proposition 30 passes, Rancho Santiago Community College District will probably lose $2 million in funding due to state budget cuts, Vice Chancellor of Business Operations and Fiscal Services Peter Hardash said.
The July LAO reports showed that 40 percent of the Proposition 30 revenues would be designated for education, while the rest would be up to the governor’s discretion.
“If the ballot measure passes, the state may give us $1 million in restoration funds to add some classes back,” Hardash said. “But we’ve already been put on notice by the State Chancellor’s Office not to expect that money.”
Should Proposition 30 fail, the state will initiate a series of cuts, with the district set to lose about $8.6 million that has already been planned in the budget.
“A mid-year budget cut of this size would lead to a reduction of classes probably in the hundreds,” SAC President Erlinda Martinez said.
RSCCD has enough reserve funds to absorb the budget cuts for a year, Hardash said.
Opponents of Proposition 30 say it is misleading and that there are better ways to fund education.
Reed Royalty, president emeritus of the Orange County Taxpayers Association, says that cutting salaries is one solution.
“Execute pay to public employees. They get top-flight salaries with inflation adjusted for life. We could cut those salaries and have billions to spend, perhaps on education,” he said.
Proposition 38 is a competing tax measure that would fund K-12 education.
If passed, it will increase personal income tax for 12 years for any Californian whose income exceeds about $7,000 a year.
Annual revenues are projected to be about $10 billion.
Should this measure receive more votes than Proposition 30, higher education will not receive funding.
And if voters don’t support Proposition 30, “this will push a lot of districts over the edge of financial bankruptcy,” said Hardash. “The good days will come back. We just don’t know when.”
WHAT IT MEANS IF PROP 30 FAILS
California expects to raise $6 billion a year, with about 60 percent of it going to K-12 schools and community colleges. If Proposition 30 fails, the across-the-board cuts to state services including public education means costs would be passed down to students, as college officials brace for possible fee hikes to make up for the cuts.