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Taxpayers in Los Angeles won a dramatic victory on June 4 when voters said no to a huge increase in property taxes placed on a special-election ballot by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Measure EE would have imposed a new parcel tax of 16 cents per square foot of every building within LAUSD boundaries. The special tax required approval by two-thirds of district voters, but it failed to reach even a simple majority, garnering just 46% of the vote.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association fought hard to defeat the tax proposal and was joined in the effort by Los Angeles–area business groups. It turned out to be a coalition that the school district could not beat, even with the help of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and large infusions of campaign cash from unions representing the district’s employees.

HJTA formed a separate campaign committee to raise and spend money on the “No on EE” campaign, as required by state law. Donations to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation, which are nonprofit organizations, cannot legally be spent on campaigns for or against ballot measures, whether local or statewide.

HJTA’s “Reform LAUSD” committee ran ads on local radio stations and sent out a campaign mailer to voters to inform them about the June 4 special election, which was hastily called by the school board in late February. Reform LAUSD also had a dedicated website and printed up yard signs, distributed with the help of hundreds and hundreds of people who were angry enough about tax hikes to pound a sign into the lawn to show that they have had enough.

Political experts were shocked at the margin of Measure EE’s defeat, given that the “No on EE” side was vastly outspent. The district also spent $1 million of taxpayer funds on an “informational” campaign that appeared to encourage a yes vote without explicitly saying, “Vote yes.”

The taxpayer victory was a demonstration of the power of grassroots politics and a reminder to politicians that California taxpayers expect good value for their tax dollars and responsible budgets from their public officials.

LAUSD has provided neither, and on June 4, voters said no to paying for a bailout of the district’s mismanagement.