Pasadena City Council members and Mayor Terry Tornek are banking on residents to pass Measure I, a three-quarter cent sales tax increase that would result in $21 million annually.
Measure J, a companion advisory measure, suggests spending priorities should Measure I be adopted. Among them are maintaining present levels of essential public safety services such as police, firefighters and paramedics. It would also be used to improve neighborhood and school safety, repair streets and sidewalks, address homelessness, and maintain after-school programs and senior services.
City officials say that without the increase, they will be forced to cut services and lay off employees at City Hall.
According to a city survey, most residents considered using the money for first responders as the top priority. Addressing homelessness, repairing local streets and roads and maintaining vital health services were also prioritized ahead of supporting quality neighborhood schools, followed by improving local math, reading and science programs and sustaining afterschool and summer youth programs.
And one-third of that money — $7 million — would go to the PUSD annually to help the district, which has been plagued by declining enrollment and rising pension costs.
Last week, district officials announced that they may have to close three schools to help close a $10 million shortfall.
Without the city’s help, the situation could get worse, with the Los Angeles County Office of Education threatening to take over the district.
“Measures J would provide stable and consistent local funding to strengthen academic and enrichment programs in Pasadena Unified schools,” said Hilda Ramirez, PUSD communications manager.
Despite the crisis, many are not happy with the decision to help the financially strapped district.
Members of the local chamber of commerce who responded to an internal poll strongly opposed using the money from the tax increase to help local schools.
According to the results of the poll, 62.8 percent of the members were against allocating the money to the district.
A similar poll conducted by the city found that local residents placed using money from taxes for infrastructure issues and public safety over supporting quality neighborhood schools, followed by improving local math, reading and science programs and sustaining afterschool and summer youth programs.
The chamber’s board of directors voted to oppose the measure after hearing presentations from Tornek and Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Brian McDonald.