Sound fiscal stewardship leads to approval of Prop L

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\”Call the Tune\” by Mike Anthony

In adopting a budget for the coming school year earlier this month, the Lindbergh Board of Education did something it had not done since 2002 — it approved a balanced budget.

It’s no secret that voter approval of a 65-cent tax-rate hike — Proposition L — last November is the reason the board was able to adopt a balanced budget for the 2011-2012 school year.

While other school districts and taxing entities have been unsuccessful with ballot measures seeking to increase their tax rates, it’s a testament to the fiscal stewardship of Lindbergh administrators and board members that Prop L was approved by voters.

Some may wonder how Lindbergh officials were able to obtain voter approval of a 65-cent tax-rate increase during the worst recession since the Great Depression. The answer is simple: They did everything right.

For example, cognizant of the financial difficulty residents and businesses were experiencing as a result of the recession, Lindbergh officials pledged in late 2008 not to seek a tax-rate increase for at least 24 months, opting instead for a planned spend down of district reserves.

Faced with a cumulative loss of $15 million in tax revenue since the 2007-2008 school year, the Board of Education’s decision in June 2010 to place the tax-rate increase before voters came after making nearly $7 million in cuts over two years.

For the 2010-2011 school year, 60 positions were eliminated, including 45 teaching positions.

With Prop L, district officials were not asking voters to approve a wish list — they just wanted to keep Lindbergh Lindbergh as the consequences would have been devastating had Prop L not passed. Eighty teaching positions would have had to be eliminated, and, as a result, class sizes would have increased to the mid-30s from the current size of the mid-20s.

But even after doing everything right, Prop L just barely passed with 53.69 percent of the vote.

We believe the reason voters approved the tax-rate increase is because of Lindbergh’s longstanding fiscal tradition of taking only what’s needed.

In fact, from the 1994-1995 school year through the 2004-2005 school year, the district voluntarily rolled back its tax rate, leaving more than $30 million in taxes uncollected.

We believe that’s something voters remembered. That type of credibility is a result of the long-term leadership provided by both district administrators and Board of Education members.