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Time to vote. Again.

June 2, 2009 |  6:18 pm

Vote David McNew Getty ImagesAnd you thought you were through with elections for a while. No such luck, at least for voters in several fairly wealthy Los Angeles County communities. School districts in South Pasadena, Palos Verdes, La Cañada, West Covina and adjacent areas are going to the ballot this month with parcel taxes to make up for deep state cuts to education.

They are following in the wake of tiny and tony San Marino, which conducted a mail-only vote that began in April and concluded May 5. Voters there agreed overwhelmingly to a whopping $795 tax on each parcel of property. Measure E needed two-thirds of votes cast to pass; it got more than 71%.

South Pasadena voters have already begun sending in their ballots on Measure S, which would impose a $288 tax on parcels, or $95 a unit on multi-unit parcels. Deadline for returning ballots is June 16.

Voters in the four cities on the Palos Verdes Peninsula that make up the school district there face a parcel tax of $165 (for four years only); deadline for Measure V ballots is June 23. In La Cañada, it's Measure LC, $150 per parcel for five years, with a deadline of June 30. Same deadline for the Rowland Unified School District's Measure E, a five-year, $120 parcel tax covering property in West Covina, Rowland Heights, La Puente and City of Industry.

In each of these communities, Republican registration is high (for Los Angeles County) and anti-tax sentiment is strong. But they also have some of the best public schools in the state, and residents like it that way. It's a good bet that they will follow the lead of their San Marino counterparts and tax themselves to ensure that state cuts don't undermine their educational achievements. Note the restrictions on most of the ballot measures -- there is a citizen oversight panel,  the money may not be used for administration and the tax comes up for review periodically (in Palos Verdes, this would be a third tax renewal).

Expect to see this model repeated across California, especially in communities where trust in state government is low but regard for high-quality education is high. The problem is that, as rich districts support themselves, poor ones are left with their diminished state funding. Now, layered on top of the complex and bizarre school finance structure is the prospect of a widening education and achievement gap.

Could this be the coming model for other city services as well? More local control, more local decision-making on taxing and spending? And, perhaps, more segregation of wealth and poverty?

Photo: David McNew / Getty Images

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