It’s time to vote!
Ballots asking registered voters to renew a parcel tax, which proponents say will to help maintain the city’s high quality public education, were mailed this week.
The ballots must be postmarked by Feb. 27 in order to be counted in the final vote.
Passage by 66.7% of South Pasadena voters will renew existing funding at the current rate of $386 per parcel over the next seven years, with annual adjustments for inflation not to exceed 3%.
Organizers behind the tax say it will fund nearly 30 teachers and school staff and support academic programs in science, technology, engineering and math. Funding, they say, will also maintain programs in music, visual and performing arts and support smaller class sizes.
The co-chairs of the Yes on Measure S campaign are Sara Shaffer and Saida Staudenmaier, who have spent long hours studying the issue, conducting meetings, organizing phone banks, walks through precincts, social media efforts, and urging voters to post signs of support in front of homes throughout the city.
“I thought it was important to get behind the tax because I can’t imagine a school system that doesn’t have the funding to accomplish the things the parcel tax does,” said Shaffer. “We moved here for the school district. We appreciate the arts, drama, and the smaller class sizes that come with the parcel tax. I can’t imagine what the school district would look like without the programs that the parcel tax affords us.”
In addition, Shaffer stressed the importance of needing art, drama, STEM and robotic classes “so that our kids can continue to receive a well-rounded education that’s not just based on English, math and science.”
Parcel tax funds also support counselors, computer aides, library services, music, art, science specialized instruction and more.
Staudenmaier and her husband are products of public education, “so it was really important for us when we had kids to have them in public schools,” she said. “We actively sought out the best scenario for our kids to get a public education. We started in South Pasadena right before the first parcel tax was passed, and we heard about massive class sizes and lack of arts education. Teachers won’t have the resources they have now and just leave. Our kids will not have the resources they have now. It will just disappear. The idea that there’s an alternate source of funding that will keep the libraries open or pay for a counselor is false. It doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
Like many in the community, both Shaffer and Staudenmaier recognize that local schools rank among the top in the state and statistically more than 90 percent of South Pasadena High graduates move on to college or postsecondary training. They are also aware that outstanding schools protect and increase the value of real estate in the city. “Our teachers and staff are top notch,” said Shaffer. “They come here because they know how amazing our district is, and it draws the best of the best. They’re passionate about our children and the education they’re providing. They’re drawn here because of things like the parcel tax, our PTA’s and SPEF (South Pasadena Educational Foundation) and all of organizations that make our community that cares. If we didn’t offer these programs, I don’t know if we’d be drawing the best of the best to our district.”
Added Staudenmaier: “What makes us the best, even in the nation, is there’s a buy-in among the teachers, parents, civic leaders and business owners where our entire town is important to us. This is where we want to raise our children. We remain here after our children leave the school district because this is our community. We have parents involved in every aspect of the town. We’re friends with the small business owners, we know our administrators. It’s a rare opportunity where you can live in a town and effect policy and be involved in how curriculum is planned and executed. It’s a safe environment because of that. We treat this school district and the city like a family and we’re all in it for this common interest.”
Shaffer and Staudenmaier have spent hundreds of hours behind-the-scenes in recent month making certain the message was clear that “the parcel tax really is necessary,” she Shaffer. “The notion that the district is over funded and has tons of money is just not accurate. People need to know just how important it is to keep this funding and what we will lose if we don’t keep it. The more we can get the message out to the community, the more I know our community will step up and participate in making sure it passes.”
Effectively communicating the reasons for the parcel tax is also vital to Staudenmaier, who stressed that it is a continuance of what already exists. “We are fighting and working for all of us,” she stressed. “Everyone benefits from having this resource for our community.”