If the tax fails, more programs will be cut, and once they are cut, it's hard to bring them back, said Trustee David Grant.
The trustees' move received applause.
"I think each one of us needs to fight for this to save our district, to save our classes for our students," Trustee Lorraine Prinsky said. "I really fear for what it is going to be like the day after election day if this measure fails."
Already the district, which oversees the Orange Coast, Coastline and Golden West colleges, has cut $20 million, as the state axed community colleges by an estimated $700 million over the last three years.
The district's students, along with those across the state, have dealt with higher fees, decreased class offerings and the prospect of fewer transfer opportunities as the University of California and California State University systems limit their enrollment.
Brown's ballot proposal would increase the sales, use and income tax rates for the state's highest earners to bring in an estimated $8.5 billion, according to the May Revise Budget. If the initiative fails, another estimated $6 billion will have to be cut, primarily from education.
Trustee Mary Hornbuckle said the tax initiative doesn't sit well with her, but it is one way the district won't suffer as much.
Other trustees echoed the sentiment.
"This is something we have to do," said board President Jim Moreno. "This is something, as Trustee Hornbuckle indicated, it's something we're being forced to do."