Prop. 30 funds keep SMC afloat

Nearly a year after it was approved by voters, Proposition 30, also known as the “Temporary Taxes to Fund Education” bill, is already helping keep California state schools with stable budgets. While states like Illinois and Texas are slashing school budgets, Prop. 30 is already serving as an example of how Californians are willing to give a little extra in terms of taxes to keep an institution like Santa Monica College offering a full crop of high-quality classes.

As a result of the proposition being passed, a net worth of $1 million was approved for SMC.

“Prop. 30 does not give us any new moneys, it just changed the pot from where we got the money from,” says Robert G. Isomoto, vice president of business and administration for SMC.

State funds would usually come in through a system known as general apportionment, which just means money for schools coming directly from state coffers. Prop. 30 added a slight revision to the California tax code, raising taxes so there would be enough money to keep current school budgets unchanged.

“It’s a quarter-cent tax on the dollar,” says Isomoto. “It stabilizes a source of money for us.”

When the Great Recession hit in 2008, SMC was not immune to the aftershocks of the market collapse.

“We are still below the funding that we received in 2008,” says Isomoto. “We haven’t recovered 100 percent from 2008.”

It might be hard to fathom, but before the Prop. 30 vote in November of 2012, SMC — like most public colleges — was literally on the brink of catastrophe, Isomoto says.

“We would have had 30 percent fewer classes and instructors and everything,” he says.

“We do have less classes, not a great deal less, but we do have a few less classes,” Isomoto says about the side effects of the economic meltdown, which is still being felt worldwide.

In the current climate, seeing Prop. 30 passed was a task due to opposition from certain sectors.

“Those against Prop. 30 were business people because of the tax,” Isomoto says. “It also included a progressive tax on the wealthy, those making over $250,000. They were dead set against it also. There are always two opposing sides and that’s the way it’s always going be.”

Nancy Grass Hemmert, chair of SMC’s communication studies department, agrees that the passage of Prop. 30 has been positive for the school.

“I am very relieved that it was passed,” Hemmert says. “It has made a really good difference for all of us. Concurrent with 30 passing, the fiscal crisis in the state might finally be getting behind us.”

For the next four years, funding for community colleges will remain stabilized.

However, Isomoto warns that Prop. 30 will only stand for that specific amount of time before it expires. If the economic situation has not found renewed balance by then, possibly new battles will loom on the horizon.

“We’re lucky we live in a democratic state where they fund education and different entitlement programs,” Isomoto says.

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