April 23, 2009 - Mail ballot argument is called misleading
Title: Mail ballot argument is called misleading
Wording supports sales tax rate hike
Date: April 23, 2009
Author: Tanya Sierra
CHULA VISTA — A mail ballot argument supporting Chula Vista's proposed sales tax rate increase says part of the additional money would “maintain” two popular after-school programs, prompting complaints the ballot language is misleading.
Although the city contributed about $400,000 a year toward the programs, the Chula Vista Elementary School District operates them and pays most of the cost, about $1.65 million annually. The city cut its funding in January for next fiscal year.
At public workshops prior to several budget cuts, hundreds of parents and students begged city officials to maintain the funding for Safe Time for Recreation, Enrichment and Tutoring for Children, also known as STRETCH, and Dynamic After-School Hours, known as DASH. Several said they believed the programs – which are free to participants – would be cut without the city funding.
The school district has since contracted with the South Bay YMCA to run the programs. And district officials say since the YMCA employee costs will be lower than the cost for city employees, they plan to expand the programs to two more campuses next school year.
Parents like Bob O'Keefe, whose two daughters are in STRETCH, say residents may vote for the sales tax rate increase thinking they are saving the children's programs.
“I think that's misleading,” O'Keefe said. “It really has no effect on the after-school program.”
Assistant City Manager Scott Tulloch said the ballot argument was written in February. Officials will consider restoring half the funding for the after-school programs if the sales tax measure passes, he said.
The ballot argument in favor of Proposition A, written by Mayor Cheryl Cox, says the increased sales tax would “maintain after-school programs like STRETCH and DASH that keep kids away from drugs, gangs and crime.”
The two programs are on 33 campuses. Students are recommended by teachers for STRETCH and must apply and be selected by lottery for DASH.
Mail ballots are being sent to Chula Vista voters this month asking whether they want to increase the city's sales tax rate one percentage point – from 8.75 percent to 9.75 percent. City officials say the increased tax revenue is needed for basic services, including police and fire protection.
The city has projected a $20 million budget deficit in each of the next five fiscal years. About 32 employees are retiring, about 41 positions have been eliminated and 111 employees have been laid off.
Of the 104,755 ballots mailed so far, 16,505 had been returned as of last Friday. Ballots will continue to go out until next week.
They are due back to the Registrar of Voters on May 5. Results will be posted after 8 p.m.
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