News

Survey: Voters would easily approve $294 million bond measure for high schools

The survey results are in for the Sequoia Union High School District and what might be done to make room for a projected 20 percent or more additional students by the 2020-21 school year. Voters would likely approve a bond measure to significantly rebuild campuses, including Menlo-Atherton and Woodside, and raise taxes by as much as $16 per $100,000 of a property's assessed value.

The survey didn't specify what a $16 tax rate would mean in terms of total available capital, but board President Allen Weiner told the Almanac that the district would have $294 million to work with.

The board met Wednesday (Feb. 12) and heard from San Mateo-based pollster Brian Godbe. To pass, a school bond measure needs the approval of 55 percent of the voters. A survey of 800 likely voters showed a June or November election easily exceeding that threshold in seven of the eight elementary school districts in the Sequoia district, and seven of the district's nine communities.

"You're in a pretty good spot, considering we're just starting with this," Mr. Godbe said.

Voters were queried on their support at five different tax rates between $16 and $8 per $100,000 of a property's assessed value. The curve showed about 65 percent support at $16 and a sharper upward trend at around $9.95, with an $8 rate gathering 75 percent.

"That ($9.95 break point) is just the psychology of human beings and purchasing behavior," Mr. Godbe said.

The research found no important differences between a June election, when turnout is typically lower, and November. One data point of statistical significance: Households with children supported a bond measure by 54 percent, compared with 40 percent for households without children.

The survey percentages reflected voters who would "definitely" or "probably" vote in favor of or against the question being asked; each question had five options for response.

The survey assessed voters' openness to arguments opposing a bond measure; a vote exceeding 45 percent would indicate a winning argument. In the survey, 44 percent voted no. "As this question goes, that's a pretty good place to be," Mr. Godbe said. "This is a pretty good sign that (the opposition's) best argument, at least that we've tested, doesn't reach that 45 percent."

Common practice is not to include the amount of a bond measure in communicating to voters, Mr. Godbe said. "It's such an abstract number that people don't get it. There's no sticker shock," he said.

He compared voter analysis to buying a car. "Until you get to telling him the monthly payments, it's not real. That's the same thing we're talking about here."

Board member Chris Thomsen asked about the chances of winning 55 percent support for a $16 tax rate. "I think you'd have a very good chance at being successful," Mr. Godbe said.

Polls are one thing, and success in an election is another, said Sarah Stern-Benoit, a partner at San Francisco-based TBWB Strategies. Informing key members of the public with a compelling plan and getting volunteers to run an effective campaign are critical to success, she said.

Board comment

In opening up the discussion to the board members, Mr. Weiner asked his colleagues to explain what would be necessary to have their support for a June election -- their "big ifs." His were a "confident and thorough" analysis of the district's needs to meet the enrollment projections, and an effective leadership team for the campaign.

"We'll get a smaller turnout in June, so we'll be mobilizing a smaller community," Mr. Thomsen said, and suggested that the board consider a measure of $250 million to $260 million.

Board member Alan Sarver proposed a "very aggressive" approach to create public awareness of the enrollment projections and what they mean for the campuses.

Board member Olivia Martinez asked Ms. Stern-Benoit to talk about the benefits of hiring professionals to run the campaign, a service that TBWB Strategies provides. Such a team could map a strategy, work on getting endorsements and fundraising, manage phone banks, and get the district's message out there. "It helps to really hone that time into what has to be done locally," she said.

Volunteers are valuable in their status as "being of the community and knowing the community," Ms. Stern-Benoit said.

A June election is better, and the board should go "for as low a number as possible," Ms. Martinez said. California is one of the highest-taxed states in the country, she said. "It's very tempting to go for the maximum."

She added, "We can't afford to wait any longer. It's far easier to put a lot of effort into a short period of time rather than string it out. ... I think telling (the Sequoia district's) story is really overdue."

The board is expected to decide later this month on the ballot measure.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kahle Berner
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 13, 2014 at 9:32 pm

Only a few years ago the SUHSD used hundreds of millions of taxpayer to build facilities totally unnecessary for the core function of educating our children : football lighting, extravagant performing arts centers, Olympic sized pools, new gyms, and more. A waste of money on "nice to have" facilities. Now they are back to the well for money they really need. This is exceedingly poor planning by elected trustees and SUHSD administrators.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 14, 2014 at 8:02 am

A year doesn't seem to go by without one of the school district asking for more money for one reason or another. And the taxpayers somehow always seem to fund them.

With all the money going to our schools one would think we should have a superior educational system with students excelling in their education, but I don't think that's the case.

Interesting comment from above: "Common practice is not to include the amount of a bond measure in communicating to voters, Mr. Godbe said. "It's such an abstract number that people don't get it. There's no sticker shock," he said."

Let's not tell the voters how much money we need!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Taxman
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 14, 2014 at 8:41 am

I won't vote for this. Show me a full accounting of all the previous money we've been fleeced for first! (Like that would ever happen).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2014 at 10:37 am

Who is paying for this campaign against property owners who are stuck with paying the tax if it passes?

"Board member Olivia Martinez asked Ms. Stern-Benoit to talk about the benefits of hiring professionals to run the campaign, a service that TBWB Strategies provides. Such a team could map a strategy, work on getting endorsements and fundraising, manage phone banks, and get the district's message out there. "It helps to really hone that time into what has to be done locally," she said."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Arts Professional
a resident of another community
on Feb 14, 2014 at 4:31 pm

There is always someone who described the PACs as "extravagant." The PACs in the Sequoia UHSD are not extravagant, by any stretch of the imagination, unless you're the type of person who views the performing arts as inherently extravagant (in which case, we obviously don't see eye-to-eye because I view performing, visual and fine arts as core academic subjects for any well-rounded education.) The PAC at M-A has more bells and whistles, but it also had additional funding outside of the bond measure. The other PACs are modest, but appropriate facilities for students to learn and practice performance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 4:50 pm

The Greeks managed very well with an outdoor amphitheater. Shakespeare and O'Neill, Miller and Williams, Shepard and Becket, all the elegance in language and drama that one could ever want and available for a couple of bucks. And let me not forget the musicals so popular in high school.

An outdoor amphitheater in 2014 is a bit much, but I fail to see how the fundamentals of being on stage and having sets changed by hand by an ordinary stage crew is somehow beneath the dignity of high school students.

What is wrong with using one's imagination and asking the audience to do the same? Why does the venue have to be so magnificent? It is commonplace but I will note anyway that when working in the creative arts, there are huge benefits when doing that work within limits.

It's the race to keep up with the private schools that we are paying for when we build these monuments. I've never been to acting school, but I will bet that peripheral matters such as automatic backdrops and perfect lighting and sitting in the audience and controlling with a laptop have nothing to do with learning the fundamentals of being on stage.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 14, 2014 at 4:57 pm

And I might add that acting troupes all over the Bay Area change sets by hand. Public high schools having stellar equipment when actual working theaters are successful with ordinary facilities is ridiculous.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by voting NO on the bond
a resident of another community
on Feb 15, 2014 at 12:36 pm

I agree. The SUHSD over spent and took advantage of tax payers when building the performing arts centers. The newest PAC at Carlmont was too extravangant for a high school and now very expensive to run. Local community theater groups can't use it because of the high cost to rent it out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 23, 2014 at 9:27 am

The District's contract with TBWB Strategies, interesting reading, can be found here: Web Link
I have requested cost information for that contract. The Godbe poll cost $34,710.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by I've got MINE
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 23, 2014 at 10:42 am

And my kids are out of the district and moved away and will never use the district, so I'm pulling up the ladder behind me and urging a NO vote!

No way that investing in education is good for the area. We can import all the foreign engineers we need for silicon valley.

Vote NO. We'll all be dead, anyway, when the lack of education really hits the area and the American economy.

#VoteLibertarian
#IveGotMine
#SelfishBas****




(#CanYouBelieveTheseGuys?)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2014 at 11:02 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"No way that investing in education is good for the area. "

Actually INVESTING in education is a great idea. What is a horrible idea is for a high school district that has only $112 million of annual revenue (only 80% of which are assured via taxes) and only $16 million of non-special reserves to have over a $1 BILLION in debt.

Blindly supporting any class of public expenditure is a very dumb idea and suggesting that education should get a special exemption from the reality test of its ability to service debt is even dumber.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 23, 2014 at 11:12 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Note that the outstanding General Obligation Bond debt of the District as of June 30, 2013, is already $336,340,000.

The total requirements to amortize through 2044 these General Obligation Bonds outstanding as of June 30, 2013 is $558,520,819.

Now add $265 M more in debt which would take $530 M to retire and the SUHSD would now have a total amortized debt of $1.08 BILLION !!!

Please correct my figures if they are wrong.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 23, 2014 at 11:15 am

Can you believe well in excess of $1 Billion(including state matching funds) and no cafeterias? Web Link

Here's an excerpt from that article by David Boyce:
"High school cafeteria. The words go together like pepperoni pizza or grilled cheese sandwich. And yet in the four comprehensive schools in the Sequoia Union High School District, including Menlo-Atherton and Woodside, there are no cafeterias."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm

As a senior, there is a limit to what I can pay. The voters ignored seniors in the recent bond issue and now they are back for more. In response to the poster who said "I've got mine", some of us never had a child in public school yet we have paid the tab for some 50 years. You are forcing the elderly to pull up stakes and move away from everything they have ever known. Shameful.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Elementary School Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 23, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I think that "I've got MINE" was satire and not this person's actual opinion (at least I hope it was). I think they are trying to take an extreme position to poke fun of some of the reason's people might vote no.

I plan to vote 'yes'. More kids are coming and they need more classrooms. I also support the past expenditures on PAC's and sports facilities that help provide students will a well rounded high school experience. We are so fortunate to have these strong public high schools in our community and I hope we can keep them strong for all the kids that are coming. I think it is very important to invest in our young people and their education.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Elementary School Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 23, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Oops, sorry for the few typos in my post. I think I need to clean my glasses.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by hsparent
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 23, 2014 at 4:30 pm

If the district sent more kids to Woodside High (ie, Los Lomitas)-- then they wouldn't need to tear down as many classrooms at MA to build 22 new ones (big construction zone for the next year or so). Unlike MA, Woodside still has some room to build and is still under-enrolled (tho still slated to build 12 new classrooms). Also, this would eliminate a few hundred kids from traveling west to east over El Camino each day -- send kids to school closest to their homes. Filling the seats at Woodside HIgh would show fiscal responsibility and finally show the SUHSD Board's support for a really great high school.

I will vote YES for this but am also suspect about the district's plan to construct 2 new small Charter high schools in Menlo Park Area. This is going to most likely mean more traffic -- again more people traveling west to east and will this really offset MA's population? Curious -- how many kids within MA boundary currently attend Summit and Everest?

Fill the schools we have before building new ones........


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Arts Professional
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Joe:

You are incorrect. Performing arts technology is part of any appropriately equipped performance venue in 2014. The Greeks did make some great theater, as did Shakespeare. They also made do without school buses, electricity, computers, telephones, etc. Shall we have our students write in the dirt with sticks? Seriously - part of the art and craft of performing arts is technology. And it is cheaper to run the lights from free software on a laptop, so that was not a very good example. Performing arts, including theater, music, dance, opera, film, television, are interrelated and increasingly technologically complex. They are also a large economic force in our state in particular. Some school districts use their performance venues as vocational training for future stage and film technicians. Next time you watch a film, watch the credits roll all the way to the end. Everyone of those people is drawing a paycheck. Most, if not all, got started in the "business" because something clicked for them in the performance world when they were in high school. Danny Ortega, creator of the High School Musical franchise, got his start right here in San Mateo County. Don't short change the futures of our community's children by limiting their options.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Arts Professional
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2014 at 5:30 pm

...oops. I got so expressive I gave Kenny Ortega the wrong first name...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 23, 2014 at 7:14 pm

> Peter writes:
> What is a horrible idea is for a high school district that has only $112 million of annual revenue (only 80% of which are assured via taxes) and only $16 million of non-special reserves to have over a $1 BILLION in debt.

> Blindly supporting any class of public expenditure is a very dumb idea and suggesting that education should get a special exemption from the reality test of its ability to service debt is even dumber.

Ignoring for the moment that you are equating future value dollars with today value dollars, do you really not understand how GO Bonds are financed?
Hint: debt service will be directly funded to the precise amount from taxpayer rolls (ie, taxes will go up sufficiently to pay the bond amount).

Also, please compare and contrast how you think the Menlo Fire Protection District is doing relative to financing its capital obligations. Hint: read the recent prop 13 financing report that you yourself commissioned from district staff carefully before tackling this one.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2014 at 7:00 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"debt service will be directly funded to the precise amount from taxpayer rolls (ie, taxes will go up sufficiently to pay the bond amount)."

Yes and then there will have to be parcel taxes to pay for the additional operating costs.

So what will be the cost per student/per year after all this debt is incurred?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Susannah Hill
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Apr 24, 2014 at 7:47 am

The bond measure is for accommodating the 20% enrollment growth over the past 12 years. I seem to remember there is predicted to be another 20% in the coming 7 years. Since the elementary districts have grown dramatically it makes sense that those students are heeded toward high school.

For example, apparently there are not enough bathrooms for the students at M-A and waiting for a stall to open up can make girls late to class. They can roll a portable classroom onto campuses but things like bathrooms and labs require construction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2014 at 9:25 am

> please compare and contrast how you think the Menlo Fire Protection District is doing relative to financing its capital obligations.

How very unlike you to ignore a question about the Menlo Fire Proection District. Why, oh why hasn't it needed to have a bond measure to finance its capital construction costs?

Is it because of excellent management and fiscal responsibility, or is there another reason? (hint: initially, State Bailout)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2014 at 9:28 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the Fire District property tax revenues analysis:

Web Link

Hint, hint - there is no State bailout, and no parcel tax - the Fire District lives within its means and provides the SAME level of service to all of the citizens whom it serves.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2014 at 9:36 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" please compare and contrast how you think the Menlo Fire Protection District is doing relative to financing its capital obligations."

The Fire District routinely allocates current revenues to capital improvement accounts to pay for capital facility upgrades and uses revenue support bonds - see a recent Treasurer's report:

Web Link

Note total reserves and that interest costs are paid out of current revenue income.

So now after fwiw's attempt at distraction let's get back to the SUHSD questions:

So what will be the cost per student/per year after all this debt is incurred?

How are they going to pay the interest on this $1 billion debt?

How are they going to pay the operating costs for this huge expansion of facilities?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2014 at 10:02 am

> Hint, hint - there is no State bailout, and no parcel tax

That's only what you think because you understand nothing about the implications of Prop 13.

Once upon a time (1978) every Local Agency District had its own tax rate. The statewide average of all of these taxes (county, city, education, fire, police, etc) added up to 2.67% of current year property assessments.

But then "we" passed Prop 13, and all of these 2.67% taxes were pooled together and compressed into a cap of 1% (as a county collected/pooled tax) + voter approved bond tax/bond measures.

Obviously 2.67% is a LOT more than 1% and yet no fiscal crisis occurred in 1979. Why is that? That's because the state had a huge surplus at that time. So, for 3 years, the state made all of these LAFCO districts whole via, wait for it, a STATE BAILOUT. So through 1981, the impact of Prop 13 was very muted.

But in 1981, legislators woke up and realized, oops, we can't make these guys whole forever or we're going to obviously go broke. They had already proportionally allocated the property tax from 1979 (ie, if your district was charging say, 10% of the collected (2.67%) tax in '78, then you were getting 10% of the new 1% cap in '79 and being BAILED OUT by the state for the rest.

So, what did they do in 1981 going forward. The state bailout was ending, how would we everybody survive? Well, police and fire went to the head of the line and received re-diversion of the 1% county funds to replace, wait for it, 95%(!) of the BAILOUT amount.

And where did those back filled funds some from? Wait for it.... DIRECTLY from County Education funds!

But then you say, how did schools survive? Well, 95% of them switched over to being directly funded by the state at a significantly reduced rate based on per student days but without any direct provision for capital construction.

But the you say, well, the state is the one subsidizing your education costs, and for 95% of the state, that would be a true statement. But our Sequoia High School District is a "basic aid" district, which means that since our local property taxes exceed the state allocation, the California Constitution lets us keep the total amount of our local apportionment. But while that local apportionment is indeed greater than the state allocation, it is still only half of what we would have been allocated as a percentage in 1978.

Today, it's less (way less) because that money is being allocated to, wait for it, police and fire.

Now in 1992, the state realized that it wasn't going to be able to continue financing all of education, so they asked for some money back from the local districts (ERAF). And that sucked for police and fire how now found themselves short financed. So they took it to the ballot in the form of Prop 172 which exempted them from the worst of the ERAF reallocation.

Still, overall the Sequoia District has seen significant and consequential reductions of its property tax base while, say for example, the Menlo Fire Protection District has not.

And that is why at $16 per $1000 of assessed value, the cost of this bond is still less (by a wide margin) than the amount lost from Prop 13 tax base reduction.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2014 at 11:06 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

fwiw - lots of assertions - please cite your sources for all of your gross approximations of the "truth".

Feel free to use the Fire District's excellent analysis of post Prop 13 revenues - and I challenge you to find a single error.

So now after fwiw's attempt at distraction let's get back to the SUHSD questions:

So what will be the cost per student/per year after all this debt is incurred?

How are they going to pay the interest on this $1 billion debt?

How are they going to pay the operating costs for this huge expansion of facilities?


Why does SUHSD need so much more bond funding per capita than any other high school district in the state?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2014 at 11:58 am

> fwiw - lots of assertions - please cite your sources for all of your gross approximations of the "truth".

> Feel free to use the Fire District's excellent analysis of post Prop 13 revenues - and I challenge you to find a single error.

wtf?

The Fire District's analysis is not incorrect. For practical purposes it's spot on. I can point you at the excellent 83 page analysis written by an analyst in the Santa Clara County Tax Collector's office (I believe there is a link on the SM County Tax Collector web page).

But let's just turn straight to the Menlo Fire District "Property Tax Allocation Overview" linked right above the staff report:

"Pre-Proposition 13:
$10.3 billion collected State-wide on 1977-78.
2.67% State-wide average rate"

"Proposition 13 (June, 1978):
Property tax receipts dropped by approximately $7 billion in the first year."

"Post-Proposition 13 – SB 154 (1978-79):
"Bailout" funds allocated from State surplus: $2.5 billion to schools and $1.9 billion to other local agencies.

SB 154's 1978-79 property tax receipts became "base" for local agencies."

"Post-Proposition 13 – AB 8 (1979-80):
State increased 1978-79 base of non-school agencies by shifting portion of schools' base to them and backfilling schools with State general funds (Special Districts received a base increase equivalent to about 95% of "Bailout" funds)."

There is one place that I am, however, generalizing. I've read the 2.67% number as a statewide average in several places, but as an honest disclosure I don't have easy access to a 1978 local property tax bill to see exactly what "our" local agency taxes were in 1978. So you're right, I'm generalizing a bit, but I, at least, would not call it grossly.

I stand by my statement that while the Menlo Fire Protection District saw a very modest drop in revenues as a result of its 95% bailout funding in 1981 while Basic Aid School Districts saw absolutely no back filling from the state. You only got state funds if you switched your funding model to the state.

Now, my turn:

Please stop referring to $1B of debt. That's like saying that somebody who takes out a $1M mortgage is carrying $2M of debt because the total financing cost is going to include interest. I find it to be either ignorance of the facts or simply disingenuous for rhetorical purposes.

How will they finance it? What are you talking about? These are GO Bonds whose principal + interest are directly financed as a $16 per $1000 assessment on your property taxes in addition to the $3.13 per $1000 assessed value that you currently pay.

> Why does SUHSD need so much more bond funding per capita than any other high school district in the state?

Your turn to cite sources. I sincerely doubt this to be true but I am open to being proven wrong. What I can definitely tell you is that I am certain that we will be well in the median range of school bond assessments as cost per $1000 across the state, and I'll go find the exact number if you dispute this with more than just a talking out of the side of your mouth statement.







 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Argh. Of course I meant $16 and $31.3 per $100K of assessed value respectively.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I asked - How are they going to pay the interest on this $1 billion debt?
"How will they finance it? What are you talking about? These are GO Bonds whose principal + interest are directly financed as a $16 per $1000 assessment on your property taxes in addition to the $3.13 per $1000 assessed value that you currently pay. "

Yes, that is correct - more taxes.


"Please stop referring to $1B of debt. That's like saying that somebody who takes out a $1M mortgage is carrying $2M of debt because the total financing cost is going to include interest." Debt is debt - both the principal and the interest must be paid back - as you note
in your comment "GO Bonds whose principal + INTEREST are directly financed as a $16 per $1000 assessment on your property taxes".

So what will be the cost per student/per year after all this debt is incurred?

How are they going to pay the interest on this $1 billion debt? New taxes

How are they going to pay the operating costs for this huge expansion of facilities?

Why does SUHSD need so much more bond funding per capita than any other high school district in the state?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Dear Arts Professional: I have to wonder why stage craft can't taught somewhere else so high school can concentrate on academics.

Does it take semesters of work, whether in the classroom or in the theater, to learn how to work backstage? I don't see why we should be spending all this money on something as ephemeral as technical tricks so that high school students can be titillated by raising and lowering a backdrop or tuning up a perfect lighting system. They can learn that later if they're interested.

If they want to participate in a high school drama, they're young, they're fit and they're not going to be harmed by using tried and true ways of putting on a stage performance. And neither is the audience.

Everybody has to start at the top these days. The stories are everywhere about youth who don't want to pay their dues, from the railroad yards to Wall Street banks.

They don't need $32 million theaters to run South Pacific or Our Town or Rent or whatever it is. They need gumption and the ability to carry a tune and all the rest, as any stage actor from any century over the past 2,000 years could attest.

Where is "The 2,000-Year-Old Man" when we need him?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Too bad education doesn't get the magical bailout card that the fire district gets.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:11 pm

"Too bad education doesn't get the magical..."

I don't recall the FD receiving a bailout, and I've lived here 25+ years. I don't recall the FD imposing a parcel tax or putting it's hand out every or every other year.

Maybe the problem lies that education isn't sufficiently funded or districts don't know how to manage their resources sufficiently.

Does "fwiw" know that ERAP takes at least $1M annually from the FD budget to supplement educational funds?

I plan to vote NO -- not because I don't support education, but because I don't support poor financial management and oversight.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Revisionist history. Everybody got bailed out by the state 79-81. Only fire police got county to use their bail out amount to set their apportionment going forward.

Read the link on the Menlo fire district website. It explains it all except for the prop 172 get out of eraf free card.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Postscript to my post about the $32 million theater: I was criticizing the titillating of students by enabling them to raise and lower a backdrop from a laptop out in the seats.

There's no need for this. The money the school district spent on features like this is money that could have been better spent on academics. I can see the project manager with a list of technical capabilities in the realm of the possible and no one to rein him or her in with the realities of stage craft and the value of doing things the old fashioned way for a change.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If fwiw does not like the consequences of Prop 13 and SB 154 and AB 8 then I suggest he complain to the voters and the legislature and not to the Fire District.

Why doesn't the SUHSD accumulate current funds to pay for new facilities?

What will be the total capital assets of the SUHSD when this building binge is over?

So what will be the debt cost per student/per year after all this debt is incurred?

How are they going to pay the operating costs for this huge expansion of facilities?

Would any private company be able to incur this much debt in comparison to its revenues?



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 24, 2014 at 4:50 pm

TBWB Strategies, campaign firm hired by the District, has received $47,843 so far this year.
Some of you might want to weigh in at:Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2014 at 6:17 pm

On another thread it was Peter that asked why can't schools do as well as the fire district. I'm just explaining that's not because the fire district is especially frugal competent but because they get to play by different rules. It is what it is. I'm not all that bent out of shape about it, but I also try to recognize that $16 per $100k assessed is still doesn't come close to making schools whole relative to prop 13. The fire district got a get out of prop 13 card; bully for them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is a better link to the excellent property tax revenue memo prepared for the Fire Board:

Web Link

I encourage interested people to read it.

fwiw - Note "The State shifted property taxes from the schools to support this base increase and provided an equivalent amount of State general fund money to the schools to offset the loss."
Please enlighten us, with references, as to why SUHSD did not befit from this - you state that it did not but what evidence is there to support that assertion ?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Apr 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm

Interesting article on school bonds :

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 24, 2014 at 8:07 pm

> enlighten w references why suhsd does not benefit from the state mitigation

Dude. You're pretty demanding for somebody who is making some pretty wild assertions about the size of this bond. :-). Anyway, its easy to do but I'm on my mobile at the moment. I'll get back to you but consider that the def of basic aid district is that money only comes from property taxes which dropped from 2.67% to 1% at the same time that some special lafcos got to retain a disproportionately larger share than pre prop 13.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2014 at 8:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"who is making some pretty wild assertions about the size of this bond."

Nothing wild about what I posted:
Note that the outstanding General Obligation Bond debt of the District as of June 30, 2013, is already $336,340,000.

The total requirements to amortize through 2044 these General Obligation Bonds outstanding as of June 30, 2013 is $558,520,819.

Now add $265 M more in debt which would take $530 M to retire and the SUHSD would now have a total amortized debt of $1.08 BILLION !!!

Please correct my figures if they are wrong.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 26, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There seems to be a myth that school districts were somehow treated less favorably by Prop 13 and AB 8. Here is the best impartial analysis that I have been able to find:

Web Link

This reports states that AB 8 did, among other things, "State aid to schools was increased to offset the property tax shift to the other local governments. This was used as a way of equalizing school expenditures."

And "school districts now receive, on average by county, between 27 and 76 cents out of every dollar. In 1977-78, they received between 34 and 64 cents."

"In addition to cities and counties, since 1986 school districts can also impose fees on both residential and commercial/industrial new construction. As of July 1996, the maximum for
these fees was $1.84 per square foot for residential projects and 30 cents per square foot for commercial and industrial developments.25 In addition, whenever cities and counties engage in legislative land use activities, such as amending the general plan or changing zoning, they can impose their own school construction fees in addition to the fees imposed by the school district. The total of school, city, and county fees faced by some developers, have exceeded $9 per square foot."

So I am at a loss as to why some posters claim that school districts have suffered disproportionately from Prop 13 and AB 8. And with their bond revenue the school districts are doing much better in terms of total revenue than are agencies that have neither parcel taxes or bonded indebtedness.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tired Taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 26, 2014 at 11:33 pm

When are the hard-working taxpaying residents going to get a break from the non-stop, never-ending quest by these schools to grab more and more funds/money?! . . . I am sick of the wasteful spending, pensions, unions, and tenured school administrators who are draining the zest out of our community! Stop wasting money. Look inside and find the money by becoming more efficient. The economy will never recover until we stop borrowing ourselves into oblivion with skyrocketing levels of debt! . . Stop the madness.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 28, 2014 at 2:13 pm

> There seems to be a myth that school districts were somehow treated less favorably by Prop 13 and AB 8. Here is the best impartial analysis that I have been able to find: [references a 1998 public policy analysis]

Sigh.

Peter,

The PPIC paper that you reference is sound, but very dated. Lots of evolution since then that you really should come up to speed on as a MPFPD director.

In particular in 1992, the state faced a fiscal crisis of its general fund obligations. To make ends meet, it permanently modified the AB8 funding formula to unwind a good deal of the dis-proportionality inherent in its post Prop 13 apportionment formula by creating Education Revenue Augmentation Funds at the county level which required cities, counties and special districts to shift those funds to education. Correspondingly, the state's financial education obligations were dialed back to maintain the current school Revenue Limit funding model.

Obviously cities and counties were not happy about this and subsequently prop 172 was passed which created a 1/2 cent sales tax for the purpose of funding public safety to make up for the lost revenues. Things get really funky in about 2004 when the vehicle license fee was rescinded. The state did a couple of additional ERAF shifts which really ticked off cities and counties (but I believe exempted fire/police). In response Prop 1A was passed to protect against future ERAF shifts. As I understood it, most fire protection districts were completely exempted from the brunt of the ERAF shifts. In 2004 thinks get really, really funky with the advent of the ERAF triple flip that traded ERAF funds for financing newly created state deficit bonds and forgoing the VLF.

If you really want to try to digest if all, I recommend "Understanding California's Property Taxes", 2012 by Mac Taylor, Legislative Office Analyst at lao.ca.gov.

But looking at your last year budget I see that MPFPD has a consequential ERAF shift listed which represents something over 10% of its total budget. The 1992 ERAF shifts called for up to 40% total shift limited to maximum of 10% of a district's total revenue, so you guys may be bumping into this limit. Still, your budget represents at least 50% more than you would have received had the state's bailout funding formula not been used as the base for MPFPD apportionment.

But let me try to cut to the short and sweet by returning to the Sequoia Union High School District. SUHSD is a basic aid district. As such, it is NOT eligible for any funds from the ERAF shift (see the LAO report). Nor is it eligible for any of the back filling funds from the state. The only money that it gets is for categorical funding. Can I prove that back filling doesn't happen for basic aid districts? Well, it's tough to find a negative declaration statement since it's funding that doesn't exist. What I can tell you is that SUHSD received $92M in state property tax revenue and $11M for the 2012 year (I'm doing this from memory so excuse if my numbers are imprecise but they're in the ballpark). The $11M received is categorical funding but let's imagine that it wasn't. It would still only represent a 10% backfill on a loss of over 60% of revenue as a result of Prop 13.

If you want help help understanding and being educated I'm willing to try to help. From my perspective, your argumentation seems to be driven by a desire to "win" the argument that or an ideological bias against funding public education. I don't know which it is, but you desire to obfuscate the amount of the bond indebtedness by calling it a $1B bond belies your rhetorical intent. It disappoints me because you obviously know that it sounds rhetorically effective while at the very least disregarding inflation and future value of dollars utilized. Frankly, my guess is that you would consider that style of argumentation to be beneath you.

Overall, I fully expect voters to see that $160 of increased assessment pre $1M of assessed value per year to create two new campuses and build facilities to handle in upsurge in 25% new students is a not unreasonable funding goal.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm

I guess the survey to which the article referred didn't reflect the posters here because most of them seem to oppose the measure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 28, 2014 at 3:46 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

some like to talk big bad people and won't vote for a bond. Then vote for it. Be interesting to see if it will pass.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 28, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Still, your budget represents at least 50% more than you would have received had the state's bailout funding formula not been used as the base for MPFPD apportionment."

How do you arrive at that figure ?

"I fully expect voters to see that $160 of increased assessment pre $1M of assessed value per year to create two new campuses and build facilities to handle in upsurge in 25% new students is a not unreasonable funding goal. "

And just exactly where are they going to get the operating funds for this huge increase in capacity? a parcel tax no doubt.

"you really should come up to speed on as a MPFPD director." Thanks for the gratuitous advice but you will note that I have always been a the forefront on this issue and that the Fire District report on property tax revenues was done at my request.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 28, 2014 at 6:06 pm

> How do you arrive at that figure [of the fire district being 50% more even after ERAF shift then a strictly proportional funding reduction model]?

Actually it's a rather poor attempt at a very conservative SWAG with which you couldn't argue; my estimate should probably be a lot higher than 50%. The statewide average level of taxation in 1978 was 2.67%. I freely admit that I don't know the 1978 tax rate specifically for those in the MPFPD in 1978, but I do know the district did exist back then since the ERAF shift only happens for those districts and cities which existed back then since otherwise they already aren't getting a share of the new 1% rate. Anyway, I use the 2.67% number as a proxy for the area's rate then. Maybe it's different. If you know, I'd love to hear the list of actual assessment rates. As I understand it, in the first two gleeful years after Prop 13 passed, existing LAFCO's were bailed out by the state to 100% of their previous income level + an inflation adjustment. That difference represents an assessment rate of 1.67% more than what Prop 13 allowed which is 167% more than got compressed into the newly established 1% rate. The report from the Fire District to which you reference says that the newly legislated base amount for the Fire District was 95% of the bailout amount which translates to 159% more than a directly proportional funding or total funding that is 259% of its "fair share" if every entity took a proportional slice.

The ERAF shift apparently forces the district to give up about 12% of its funding subject to ERAF rebate. Assuming that there was no ERAF rebate then the districts funding is till 88% of the 259% number which is 228% of the 1% fair share amount. So I really should have said the Fire District is still operating with about 128% more than it's proportionally fair share of funding.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding the District's quote of its bailout level. Ask your analyst. If I am then I apologize; it's not intentional.

> And just exactly where are they going to get the operating funds for this huge increase in capacity? a parcel tax no doubt.

Maybe. Maybe we'll just stop being a basic aid district and be forced to live under the revenue limit model that provides funding backfilled by the state on a per student day model. Or maybe they'll build some big office buildings in Menlo Park and Redwood City whose assessment income will be enough to fill the void. Anyway, the question seems a little ahead of its time to me. Like if we don't build them, maybe they won't come. Maybe a parcel tax will be suggested. It sounds like you think it should be the obvious approach (oh, that's not what you meant, sorry). If it does get tossed around it'll be a lot harder to pass then this bond measure since it would require a 2/3 super majority whereas this bond only needs 55% majority.

> Thanks for the gratuitous advice but you will note that I have always been a the forefront on this issue and that the Fire District report on property tax revenues was done at my request.

Ok, if you say so. The report that you mentioned before was woefully out of date wrt to the current ERAF apportionment model and even the Fire District report to which you reference only gives one passing sentence to acknowledge a line item potentially responsible for costing your organization more than 10% of revenues.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 28, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"> And just exactly where are they going to get the operating funds for this huge increase in capacity? a parcel tax no doubt.

Anyway, the question seems a little ahead of its time to me"

I prefer to have answers to how they are going to pay to operate something BEFORE I approve of them building something new.

And please no more distractions - just answer the question.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 28, 2014 at 9:44 pm


> And please no more distractions - just answer the question.

We become a revenue limit district just like 97% of the other school districts in the state?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gravy Train
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 29, 2014 at 8:53 am

The Sequoia Union High School District wants the public to approve a new bond and has hire a PR firm to sell the idea to voters. The High Schools are becoming country clubs.

The Superintendent of the SUHSD, James W. Lianides, received over a Quarter of a million dollars in total compensation in 2012 and another 32 employees received total compensation in excess of $150,000 in 2012. And why should a purchasing director make over $155,000/year in total compensation?

It is time for the public to start saying no to the Public Employee plutocracy. All future bond measures should be tied to pension reform. I urgently implore voters to not vote for a single bond measure until the excess salaries and benefits of Public employees are brought into line with that of the private sector.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Why I Became Active in Palo Alto Forward
By Steve Levy | 12 comments | 2,363 views

Early Decision Blues
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 0 comments | 2,025 views

What Are Menlo Park’s Priorities?
By Erin Glanville | 31 comments | 1,282 views

Death with Dignity
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,161 views

Water Torture
By Paul Bendix | 1 comment | 431 views