By Rick LaPlante, New Haven Schools Direct of Parent and Community Relations
For the second time in just over a year, a substantial majority of New Haven Unified voters supported a parcel tax that would have helped mitigate cuts forced on the school district because of the ongoing state budget crisis, but the measure once again fell short of the two-thirds majority necessary for passage.
Measure H, which would have raised approximately $3 million to help the District minimize cuts to the school year and increases in class sizes, received 62.3 percent of the vote, falling 939 votes short of passing. A similar effort, Measure B on the May 2011 ballot, lost by 82 votes.
"Once again, a large majority of voters voiced their support for our schools and our students," Superintendent Kari McVeigh said, "but the bar for a local parcel tax is set very high. We needed everyone who supported us to get out and vote, and that obviously didn’t happen."
Voter turnout across the state was low for Tuesday's presidential primary. Only 7,149 voters cast ballots on Measure H, compared to 11,819 in last year's special election to decide Measure B.
"What's a bit frustrating is that if everyone who had voted for Measure B has joined us again for Measure H, we would have won overwhelmingly," Ms. McVeigh noted. "More people voted yes last year than voted either way this time."
Superintendent McVeigh said the District and the New Haven Teachers Association have been in negotiations about how to mitigate a $12 million budget shortfall for the 2012-13 school year. A tentative agreement has been reached, details of which will be announced pending the teachers vote on the proposal next week.
“The teachers association has been a remarkable partner during this very difficult time, collaborative, and with an obvious commitment to keeping our students’ needs at the top of the priority list,” Superintendent McVeigh said. “We’ve had to work with two sets of numbers – one in hopes Measure H would pass, the other if it didn’t – and it’s just very unfortunate that we’re having to deal with that second set of numbers.”
Budget projections adopted by the Board of Education in March include another increase to class sizes for the 2012-13 school year and another reduction of the instructional year. More than 100 precautionary layoff notices were issued this spring.
“Our teachers have been so collaborative during our negotiations, so concerned about our students, that we hope to be able to mitigate some of those cuts, pending their vote and negotiations with our administrators and classified employees,” Superintendent McVeigh said. “It is going to require great personal sacrifice on the part of our employees, though, and I hope the community understands and appreciates that.”
James Logan High School teacher and NHTA President Charmaine Banther thanked “all the advocates for our students (who) set aside their lives for the past few months to work on Measure H for our kids.” She also looked ahead to a statewide tax measure on the November ballot that would ease cuts to public education.
“We’ll need to make the necessary reductions to start the school year,” she added, “and then re-group for the Governor’s tax initiative in November.”