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Consultant outlines possible support for school tax measure

Taxpayer support for a $98 property tax increase to raise funds for the San Diego Unified School District is similar to initial support for billion-dollar bond measures which went on to be approved, the Board of Education was told Tuesday night.

Larry Remer, a political consultant who led the 2008 successful campaign to pass Proposition S, a $2.1 billion construction bond measure for the district, told members of the board that 64 percent of people surveyed over four days in October said they would consider voting for the parcel tax, while 22 percent were opposed.

Initial surveys for Proposition S generated similar numbers, Remer said.

The levy would be placed on each piece of property within the school district’s boundaries annually for five years, and would be included on the owner’s property tax bill.

The assessment would need to be approved by two-thirds of voters to take effect.

“Sixty-four percent is not two-thirds — 64 percent is not a winning margin,” Remer said. “Sixty-four percent with 14 percent undecided is a viable starting point for a campaign.”

The catch is that Proposition S required only 55 percent approval to pass. However, it eventually won the support of 68 percent of voters.

Backers of the proposal, including all five members of the school board, contend that a parcel tax would stabilize funding for the district and give local officials at least a little bit of control over their funding, instead of depending on the uncertainties of the state government.

No numbers were offered at the board meeting, but when the concept arose last year, supporters suggested the tax could raise approximately $30 million.

The proposed tax will come back to the board in May or June, when members will decide whether to place it before voters in November.

The board looked less favorably on a staff presentation to raise money by placing advertising on the district Web site and Internet sites for individual schools, and for advertising on campuses.

District Relations Officer Bernie Rhinerson said it was estimated that the district could generate $100,000 annually from Web advertisements and an additional $40,000 to $50,000 per year per high school for ads on lunch tables and hanging banners.