News

Menlo Park school district ponders parcel tax increase

Tax measure may be on ballot in May

With a chunk of the parcel tax revenue received by the Menlo Park City School District due to disappear at the end of June 2017, the district's governing board is moving toward holding an election as soon as this May, and may ask voters to approve increasing the tax by about $350 a year.

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Comments

13 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 8, 2016 at 10:13 am

How about some examples of the school parcel taxes in other districts/cities for comparison. Also once a senior requests and qualifies for the exemption they shouldn't have to reapply each year. Memory etc isn't so great when you're 80.


16 people like this
Posted by JU
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 8, 2016 at 10:45 am

If only 16% is derived from parcel taxes, and the majority comes from property taxes, the huge increase in property values these last few years means schools also have increased revenue. Schools have no incentive to practice fiscal responsibility since they have an endless source of pockets to reach into when they need more money. Because they known that school bonds/parcel tax are almost always passed.


24 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 8, 2016 at 11:28 am

Disclosure: I voted for Measure M, which is funding the buildout of the Upper Laurel Elementary School. So I'm not anti-tax, if necessary.

But this proposed parcel tax isn't necessary. MPCSD is an exceptionally well funded school district. Even with the expiration of 1 of the 4 existing parcel taxes, the district will still have more tax revenue per pupil than many other districts that achieve similar performance.


> Statistics from the California Department of Education show that the Menlo Park district spends less per student than many other local districts including Woodside, Portola Valley, Las Lomitas and Palo Alto Unified.

Respectfully, this list is pretty heavily cherrypicked. It's noteworthy that there are many other elementary school districts in the area with comparable API scores and comparable quality that do well with lower funding per-student, and those districts were not shown as examples. Here are a few that were not included:

San Carlos elementary: enrollment=3378 $/pupil=$9,215
Belmont-Redwood Shores elementary: enrollment=3,726 $/pupil=$8,900
Saratoga elementary: enrollment=2111 $/pupil=$11,628

Vs MPCSD:

MPCSD: enrollment=2903 $/pupil=$13,006

Some references:
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link


21 people like this
Posted by $$$$$$
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 8, 2016 at 12:01 pm

I'm tired of paying more taxes for the schools. Every elementary school has expanded and they keep wanting more money from its residents. VOTE NO when this comes around and make the schools find other sources of money. I don't have kids in the schools and I don't want to pay more taxes for them. They school district gets enough money already. We don't need to be at the top of some list, the schools are out of line on this. Where does it stop


6 people like this
Posted by JU
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 8, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Quick numbers for reference:

Menlo Park City School District

2004/05
Enrollment 2089
Revenue Total $20,464,237
Expenditures $20,464,237
Web Link

2014/15
Enrollment 2940
Total Revenue $38,089,792
Expenditures $39,282,570
Web Link


17 people like this
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 8, 2016 at 1:20 pm

More money does not necessarily translate to a better quality education for our children. Talk to your kids' teachers -- you may get some interesting insights about where money is being spent. Like hiring a greeter for the district office. Really? Our district administration has ballooned from lean and efficient to bloated in such a few years.


5 people like this
Posted by Varinia
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 8, 2016 at 1:35 pm

I was wondering were does the money that is collected for the school impact fees go or is used for? Every time a new house or commercial building is built there is a school impact fee paid (which isn't cheap) based on square footage of the building. Also additions of more than 500 square feet are included in having to pay this fee. The collector is the Sequioa High School District but I think Menlo School District maybe included as receiving some of that money as well.


17 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jan 8, 2016 at 1:50 pm

"Ms. Bernstein said "the vast majority of people we talked to last night were in support" of a $550 parcel tax THAT WOULD HAVE AN EXEMPTION FOR SENIORS." (Emphasis added)

Why presume that seniors should be exempt? Why not have a means test, instead? Many seniors have ample resources and often pay a fraction of what other homeowner's pay in property taxes due to Prop. 13.

Good schools support and increase ALL property values, not just those of non-seniors.

There also seems to be an equal protection issue lurking here. If seniors can exempt themselves from the parcel tax, they should not be permitted to vote for it in the first place; effectively assessing a tax on others.


11 people like this
Posted by Bloated Personnel?
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 8, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Others have asked good questions about how MPCSD compares to similar districts when it comes to income and spending. Looking at just one item, salary expense (link below), 20% goes to non-teachers, which seems high, although I admittedly have not point of comparison. Can the Almanac please take a look at how MPSCD compares to other basic aid districts in our area? Additional information would help us taxpayers have better informed opinions. Thanks.

Web Link


21 people like this
Posted by Ludicrous
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jan 8, 2016 at 4:50 pm

It's time to put a halt to the gouging of Menlo residents. The school district keeps coming back to bleed us once again of our money. This is pure greed and is shameful. Residents have to pay for more and more increase in fees that we have no control over. We reduce our water use and get charged more, we pay higher recycling fees for Smaller bins and we pay more for our city maintenance and when's the last time you saw a city worker trim the trees on your street or cut the weeds down. The school district can survive with what they have and the kids will be fine.


32 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 8, 2016 at 5:00 pm

@Observer
The real reason why ALL seniors are exempted (and why there will never be a means test in place) is that seniors vote in high numbers. And past experience shows they will vote no in high numbers, up and down the income scale, unless exempted.

If the school board makes them exempt from the parcel tax, seniors will favor the tax. Who is not in favor of improving the community, but having someone else pay for it? If seniors and people with children both vote for the tax, there's not that many people left to vote no to defeat the tax.

Basically, the school board is writing the bond rules in such a way that it will pass. Do you really think they write the rules to ensure fairness and to really let the voters decide? No way. They figure out the outcome they want, work with pollsters to see how far they can push the envelope (i.e. can we ask for a $500 per parcel tax increase with enough votes pass or do we settle for $400), then write the rules to ensure that outcome.

They cherry pick the stats to make it look like we're not spending enough on education or that they are in dire financial straits. They distract when you ask them about past tax increases or how they measure increased spending with improved educational outcomes.

I grant that it is easier to provide a high quality education the more money there is, but that doesn't mean we all should be taxed endlessly. It is just as important to ensure tax revenue is spent efficiently and intelligently. That's the harder road to take, but it's in the best interest for all involved.

For most bureaucrats, it's just easier to ok more spending and pensions, then ask voters for a tax increase. Maybe seniors always vote no because they've seen this game played over and over again. The rest of us are naive enough to take the board at its word that it's done everything possible to keep the budget lean and mean and the only possible solution is higher taxes.

My take is that if the school district needs the money, open the books. Let a real independent auditor that reports directly to the taxpayers, not the board, audit spending to tell us if more money is really needed and why. If they find areas of wasteful spending, cut that, and save us the tax increase.

Of course, the board would never agree to this. They tend to be captive to the people that spent the most effort and money to get them elected, such as parents and teachers.


4 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jan 8, 2016 at 5:20 pm

@Apple

I'm not sure we disagree.

I completely understand the rather insidious desire of parcel tax proponents to exempt seniors so that they will vote for something which: (1) increases their property value; and (2) enables them to opt out/not pay their fair share.

I believe that allowing senior to vote for a tax assessment on other home owners while exempting themselves is something crying out for legal challenge.

And absent a means test, I hope the Almanac will consider publishing the names of those who apply for exemption together with: (1) their assessed property value; and (2) current property tax bill.

There are those who can well afford to pay more paying a tenth as much as their newer neighbors pay to support our schools, police, fire and community infrastructure.

Attribute that inequity to Prop. 13, but let's not create another windfall for well-heeled seniors by way of a parcel tax structured such that they may vote for an assessment on others while deriving a significant benefit for themselves and free-riding.


13 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 8, 2016 at 5:34 pm

@Apple: well said!

Looking at comparably-sized elementary school districts (2500-3500 students) with comparable API scores in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, MPCSD costs per pupil are substantially higher. In order of most-expensive 1st:

MPCSD: $/student=$13,006 #ofstudents=2,903
San Carlos Elementary: $/student=$9,215 #ofstudents=3,378
Los Gatos Union Elementary: $/student=$8,926 #ofstudents=3,261
Cambrian Elementary: $/student=$8,553 #ofstudents=3,349


MPCSD is $3,791 more expensive than the next most-expensive district.


And let's be real here: MPCSD is an excellent school district, but so are San Carlos and Los Gatos (with Cambrian a very good district in its own right).

San Carlos and Los Gatos are every bit as good, but cost substantially less.

MPCSD does not need 4 parcel taxes. It will do just fine with 3.


13 people like this
Posted by Also
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 8, 2016 at 5:43 pm

The schools have benefited from the considerable income from increased property taxes. Why isn't that enough?
Further, the PTA raises a lot of money for extras for the schools, but the school district doesn't include that in its income. Parent volunteers are another big benefit for our schools. When is enough, enough? Never ?
$550 is a significant additional cost for already hard pressed home owners--we are not all affluent!


15 people like this
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 8, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Let's not confuse the PTA with the district. The PTA is a parent-run volunteer organization. Every penny they raise goes directly to the school -- to programs that parents of the children deem important. They do not receive tax money. Big difference between the PTA and the district, which is funded by tax dollars and does pay substantial salaries to administrators, ie overhead.

As has been noted many times on this forum, the school board comprises individually-selected members. You, the resident, didn't vote for them, because they're careful to rig the process so that no elections occur. One of the board's roles should be to keep the administration honest, but this current system is devoid of checks and balances. The setup does not lend itself to good governance or cost-effective results.


13 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 8, 2016 at 7:26 pm

Hey Menlo Park school district ! Do you see the trend in these messages. You have gone to the well too many times. Work with the revenue you have and make do. We, as residents, have to work with what we have every year. We can't go out and ask for more money. Cut back on those extras and stop frivolous spending. Residents don't want to foot the bill anymore.


8 people like this
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 9, 2016 at 8:45 am

Funny how those working to take more money already feel it will pass. Strange the usual mentions of:

"its for the children"
"it will increase our property values"
"it's only the cost of a cappuccino a day"
"it's a small price to pay"
"don't we all value education"


---

"the sky is falling"
"there is no money for valuable things"
"our kids won't get into stanford without it"

Please stop the tax measures. It is not like we cannot see where the money has gone last time as it is pretty easy to see the fancy campuses and happy well paid teachers.


9 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 9, 2016 at 12:40 pm

@Observer

On the fairness level, we're in agreement.

On the legal level, the senior tax exemption exists for current school parcel taxes. If the exemption were unconstitutional, someone would have sued and got it thrown out already. Here's the county web page detailing how a senior can exempt oneself from the existing parcel taxes.

Web Link


@Everyone

If are against renewing/increasing this tax, one thing going for you is that 2/3 voter approval is required. There are several things you can do to help your cause:

1) Voice your opinion with the school board members directly. You can contact them by email.
Web Link;

You can attend a school board meeting to voice your concern.
Web Link

The higher the volume and intensity, the less likely the board will pursue a tax, or they may pursue a smaller tax instead.

2) You can organize opposition to the parcel tax. You can organize opposition to the re-election of pro-tax board members. You can demand the board perform an audit to find where savings can be had from the existing budget. That's their job, but voters need to hold them accountable. If voters don't make it hard for board members to raise taxes, they will do it every chance they get. Don't ever be surprised when bureaucrats choose the path of least resistance. Make them do their job or our job is to find someone new to do it better.

3) Vote and get like minded neighbors to come out and vote too.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 9, 2016 at 1:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Apple - Great advice.

Most parcel taxes win because only the proponents take the time to vote.


6 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 9, 2016 at 1:59 pm

A couple of comments:

A) Another reason that seniors are exempted is that they no longer have school-children in the school system (although not a strong as the vote predilection reasoning.

B) The needs analysis mentioned above ignores the increases in the assessed property taxes enjoyed by the district (as well as the city and county) in recent years and going forward. I believe that the district monitors the property tax rolls from the county to anticipate the yearly affect of property turnover.


6 people like this
Posted by Cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 9, 2016 at 4:45 pm

I think the key issue here is a lack of core budgeting skills. This is not a financially adept or experienced board and it never has been -- recall the lack of oversight with the county when funds were poorly invested during the crisis. I commend their volunteer effort but I think they generally believe that parcel tax funds will always be available, as will contributions to the foundation. As a result, rather than focusing on more efficient ways to educate our kids, they focus on the optics of success for the sake of future fund raising success. Remember that the scores for the district are representative of the demographics. We should not pay more for being on par with the capabilities of the generally advantaged kids we have, but for enriching them above and beyond what they are innately capable of, regardless of district. Ask any board member what the financial strategy is of the district and see what they say.....


14 people like this
Posted by senior
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 9, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Let's focus on why a parcel tax is needed at all, then talk about who pays. I need to be persuaded why this is needed. Have all other options been considered?

Regarding seniors: many of us live in appreciated homes, but remember we can't spend that money. Most are on fixed incomes. Many of us believe in supporting schools even after our children are grown up. Many of us do not apply for the exemption even if we could. Let's have a little trust here in our neighbors.

Since Prop 13 was enacted, there has been a dramatic shift in educational funding. How about everyone supporting the potential changes to Prop 13 that would allow more taxes to flow from commercial properties? High quality schools are critical for developing a high quality workforce, so commercial property owners should shoulder their fair share and not expect most of the school funding to come from homeowners.


19 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 9, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As a long time elected Director of the Fire District I have a lot of experience with overseeing an agency that is funded by property taxes. Given the significant appreciation of properties in this area I can see no reason why the corresponding increases in property tax revenues should not meet any legitimate needs of the school district.

The Fire District, quite properly, budgets for (and funds from property tax revenues) all current expenses, all capital projects and funds significant reserves for the inevitable levies that will be imposed by CalPERS for unfunded pension liabilities.

It is simply a matter of sound financial principles and financial oversight.

Local governments can and should manage within their established revenue bases and requiring parcel taxes is a sign of poor oversight and poor management.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 9, 2016 at 6:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is from the Fire Board's December 2015 Board meeting:

"The Secured Property Tax revenue has increased 9.8 percent year-over-year due to improved assessed property valuations within the District’s tax jurisdiction. However, the budget variance is due to the conservative growth rate, 4 percent, adopted by the District for the 2015-16 assessment roll. Based upon the most recent data from the County and upon revenues received to date, it appears that the actual growth factor for 2015-16 is closer to 9.5 percent."


2 people like this
Posted by Dawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 9, 2016 at 9:21 pm

I don't think you can draw a straight comparison between the Fire District budge management and the school districts. The fire district gets money per lot with the number of under 15 occupants not requiring a thinning of resources. Those resources are more clearly a per lot assessment, instead of per occupant. Just to be comparing apples to apples. I'm sure there will be a correcting to my thinking if I'm wrong.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 9, 2016 at 9:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The fire district gets money per lot with the number of under 15 occupants not requiring a thinning of resources. "


Please explain what that means - it makes no sense.


2 people like this
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 9, 2016 at 10:46 pm

You cannot compare the fire district with the school district. You know the size and scope of the district, including the number and types of buildings within its jurisdiction. When any major new developments come online, you have years to prepare. The school, conversely, is operating in an information vacuum because the number of students it serves can and does fluctuate dramatically from year to year. There is no way to determine with any precision how many new families are moving into the district, and some of the old guidelines, like "very few families live in apartments" have been abandoned. Tne years ago, no one projected 50% growth. And even two years ago, no one anticipated the influx of international students that has been occurring lately.

It's a completely different kind of budgeting exercise. It's easy to pat yourself on the back when you've got straightforward and unvarying parameters; the school district is not so fortunate.


4 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 10, 2016 at 12:38 am

Before you pat yourself on the back too much Peter, maybe we need to clarify:
* This is not a NEW parcel tax - it's a replacement for an existing one. We can argue whether the amount of the parcel tax needs to be increased or not, but to call it a new parcel tax is inaccurate.
* The MPCSD has done a very solid job of managing finances, especially considering the influx of new students. I'm fairly certain the fire department hasn't had a 50% increase in the number of parcels/buildings it needs to protect over the past 10 years. And when there is new construction, it's inevitably more fire-resistant than the previous structures thanks to new codes.
* The board rectified the one place where it looked like MPCSD had made a foolish move, issuing long-term expensive capital appreciation bonds (CABs). Turns out the MPCSD was smart enough to negotiate a penalty-free refinance option into the CABs so the board was able to refi at significantly reduced cost.
Web Link;
* I can't argue with the results since 2002
- API scores uniformly up
- Class sizes that make sense - average 24. I believe that many of the comp schools offered up by Train Fan have class sizes of 29. Therein is where much of the expense difference lies.
* Coming from the east originally, I'm baffled at how little Californians seem to value education. Menlo Park's investment is a bit pathetic at 13K/student compared to entire states like NY (19K), NJ (17K), CT (16K). We seem to be targeting a Mississippi like experience instead (8K).


19 people like this
Posted by JU
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 10, 2016 at 2:13 am

For the last 10 year, enrollment has increased by approximately 50%, yet spending has doubled. Blindly throwing money at schools is not the answer. Zuckerberg gave Newark $100 million, and they managed to squander it all away.

Parcel taxes are initially imposed for a fixed period of time when first introduced, and often extended, ending up being a permanent tax. What we are questioning is why MPSCD is requesting a 173% increase in this parcel tax? It’s because most districts have been doing the same thing and getting away with it. That doesn't make it right.

Schools are there to educate students and help them maximize their abilities. When they have achieved this, throwing more money at students is not going to help them learn. When will it be enough? A class size of 2? As a taxpayer, we absolutely have the right to know why MPSCD needs more money when it’s revenue is already double the amount from 10 years ago. Schools tend to confuse "need" with "want" and rationalize this to gullible voters by saying it's "for the children."


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 10, 2016 at 8:09 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Taxpayers need to look at the facts rather than the hand waving of "uncontrollable" increases in student population.

Most of the historical growth in student population came from annexation and new housing develpments and with annexation and new housing developments came new property tax revenues.

"• Willows Annexation (~1200 housing units): 1984 • annexed at a low point in the enrollment cycle
• Three new housing developments have come on-line during the past 15 years:
• Vintage Oaks (154 housing units): 1997-99
• Linfield Oaks 1 (34 units; adjacent to Burgess): 1999
• Linfield Oaks 2 (85 units): 2008-11"

The projected growth rate is almost identical to the growth rate in property taxes due to new construction and sales of existing homes.

"230+ students in next 10 years," vs about 2800 students in 2015 - less than 10%.

Web Link

So where are the new students who were not accompanied by an increase in property tax revenues?

Please post the facts to answer this question.


2 people like this
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 10, 2016 at 9:56 am

You just invalidated your own argument, Peter. Only one of those housing developments has been built since 2005, and those 85 homes resulted in ~30 new students, not almost 1000! Also, the district knew about that development many years in advance so had a chance to prepare for those students.

School district projections are more often wrong than accurate. I am sure no one expected to see the huge growth in international students this year. I suspect families felt as though Palo Alto prices had gotten ridiculously inflated and discovered that a great district was right next door. A ten percent growth estimate is conservative.

Remind me again, how much unexpected growth has the fire district experienced since 2005?


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 10, 2016 at 10:07 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"You just invalidated your own argument, Peter"

Hardly - I find no justification for any increased funding beyound the very large increase that is occurring in property tax revenues.

"Remind me again, how much unexpected growth has the fire district experienced since 2005?"

A lot - think Facebook and all the new growth currenty planned for East Palo Alto, east Menlo Park and ECR - none of which were even contemplated in 2005. The daytime population of the District has risen dramatically since 2005 and the District operates, with a balanced budget, without any parcel taxes.

Here is the Fire Districts current budget:

Web Link

Note the funded reserves for new fire stations, equipment replacement, economic downturn and unfunded pension liabilities.

Where is the comparable MPCSD budget? I cannot find it on their web site.


2 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 10, 2016 at 10:53 am

Peter,
It's all there on the MPCSD Finance webpage. Look in the folders at the bottom for specific budgetary items. Two things of note:
* You really haven't made a case for a 50% increase in properties covered by the fire district over the past 10 years. Only Linfield Oaks was built during the time in question and it came with additional property taxes. The big issue for MPCSD has not new development, which comes with property taxes, but rather new children moving into existing homes where children has not lived previously. For the fire district, even properties like the new Facebook facilities are replacing existing, and far more fire-risky former manufacturing facilities.
* The primary new additional cost for the MPCSD, beyond expanding enrollment, over the next few years will be state law required increases in STRS/PERS contributions, going from about 8% last year to about 19% in 2020-21. I'm not sure what increases you have to budget for with the Fire District, but I see that last year's CalPERS employer contributions were about 30% for safety officers and 16% for others. It would be interesting to hear whether you have to plan for a 110% increase in the required contribution one the next 5 years.


2 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 10, 2016 at 10:56 am

Peter,
In can still can't find the MPCSD Finance page, here's the link:
Web Link
The info on the new STRS/PERS employer contributions requirements is here:
Web Link;
I just used Google to find.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 10, 2016 at 11:00 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I'm not sure what increases you have to budget for with the Fire District, but I see that last year's CalPERS employer contributions were about 30% for safety officers and 16% for others. It would be interesting to hear whether you have to plan for a 110% increase in the required contribution one the next 5 years."

Great question.

"In FY 2007-08, the Board of Directors approved setting aside funds in a reserve to mitigate the impact of CalPERS employer rate fluctuations on the General Fund. In FY 2010-11, the Finance Committee recommended a new budgeting structure to better manage and plan for employer rate fluctuations. The budgeted employer rate was set at a higher rate than the actual rate and the difference was allocated to the reserve fund. As illustrated below, the budgeted amounts (shown in purple) ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent."


"As noted above, in 2010 and 2011 the District paid off the Side Fund obligation. In March 2015, authorized by Resolution #1779-2015, the District made a payment of $12 million toward the CalPERS unfunded liability (UAL). Based on the June 30, 2013 Annual Valuation, the lump sum payment of $12 million reduced the projected June 30, 2015 UAL by 30.5 percent. Given the stable local economy and a higher CalPERS investment rate of return the UAL amount is anticipated to decrease significantly. The District will continue to budget at the higher rate to pay off the UAL in the future."

So the Fire District budgets every year for MORE than CalPERS charges us because we know full well that CalPERS will be back in future years to cover its shortfall.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 10, 2016 at 11:19 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" You really haven't made a case for a 50% increase in properties covered by the fire district over the past 10 years"

First, I never claimed "a 50% increase in properties covered by the fire district over the past 10 years".

Second, the Fire District protects, first and foremost, people and we have certainly seen tens of thousands of new employees in the District as a result of Facebook and the new developments in East Palo Alto, east Menlo Park (including large additions at the Menlo Park VA for which we receive zero property taxes) and in downtown Menlo Park. In order to accomodate those increase we have built a new $7 million station in East Palo Alto and will soon start on a new station in downtown ECR - both with only property tax revenues.

Third, thanks for the links to the MPCSD budget. I note The District’s multi-year projection includes an increase of 8.5% in secured property tax for 2015/16, 5% for 2016/17, and 3% for 2017/18. At the same time the budget states "Enrollment is projected to increase about 60 students next year, for a total enrollment of
approximately 2,960. Enrollment is expected to exceed 3,000 by 2017/18."

Why exactly is an 8.5% increase in property taxes not sufficient to accommodate a 2% increase in enrollment?

And whst justifies a 273% increase in the parcel tax from $201 to $550?


9 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 10, 2016 at 11:24 am

> This is not a NEW parcel tax

This is a silly semantics argument.

MPCSD isn't considering KEEPING the existing tax amount, they want a NEW higher tax amount. By any reasonable standard, it's a NEW tax.


> API scores uniformly up

And they are uniformly up in the other comparable elementary school districts mentioned earlier. And the other elementary school districts accomplish it with fewer dollars per student.


> I believe that many of the comp schools offered up by Train Fan have class sizes of 29.

I seriously doubt you have any data backing up your "29" claim.

Internet searches show the following student:teacher ratios:

MPCSD: 15-16 students per teacher (source: Web Link)

San Carlos ESD: 17-19 students per teacher (source: Web Link)

Belmont/RWD ESD: 16-18 students per teacher (source: Web Link)

Saratoga ESD: 15-22 students per teacher (source: Web Link)

Those are nowhere near the "29 you claim.



For comparably-sized elementary school districts, the spending per student in MPCSD is higher at MPCSD than EVERY other elementary school district in the Bay Area.

The thing is, I don't mind that MPCSD is the Bay Area's highest spending elementary school district in comparison to other comparably sized elementary districts. I mind that they want EVEN MORE.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 10, 2016 at 11:29 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I encourage others to look at the MPCSD budget for which Stats has kindly provide a link.

I note:
"After adjusting for one-time funding for the mandate settlement and Proposition 39, Clean
Energy Act, the District’s operating deficit will be approximately $1.4M for 2015/16, and is
projected to grow to over $2.6M by 2017/18, assuming renewal of the Measure C parcel
tax. Without the renewal of Measure C, the deficit would be almost $4.3M. This does not
include salary increases other than the 3% recently approved for 2014/15, future step and
column increases, and a projected 7% increase in health benefits each year."

This is an agency that is operating at a deficit even with the current parcel taxes and that is without any salary increases in the budget.

The problem is not a new higher parcel tax but rather aligning the operating budget to live within their current revenues.


2 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 10, 2016 at 11:49 am

Train Fan,
I found the 29 number on the Los Gatos Union Elementary site:
Web Link
The site says quite clearly that:
Since 2001, class size has increased to 24 students per class for grades K-3, and 29 students per class for grades 4-8.

BTW there is a big difference between class size and students per teacher ratio. If you don't know the difference, you need to educate yourself before discussing rationally.


11 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 10, 2016 at 1:44 pm

The school board is asking to increase the current parcel tax by 173%.

That's on top of the approximately 11% growth in revenue from existing property tax growth in the last fiscal year. (8.5% increase in property taxes and 2.5% CPI increase in parcel taxes).

Next year, there will be another property tax renewal request and I would guess an increase. That's for the expiration of Measure C.

And in a few years, I bet they'll come back for another tax increase. It just doesn't stop as future deficits are already projected.

Why does revenue need to increase so much faster than enrollment? I need an explanation of that. I don't need focus group tested messages whose purpose is to get a yes vote.

Why is this district on a constant treadmill of tax increase requests every couple of years?


13 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 10, 2016 at 2:28 pm

@stats:
"Class sizes that make sense - AVERAGE 24. I believe that many of the comp schools offered up by Train Fan have class sizes of 29." (emphasis mine, to point out that YOU were using averages)"
...
[Los Gatos ESD] "...class size has increased to 24 students per class for grades K-3, and 29 students per class for grades 4-8."

1st of all, from your own post it's clear that the AVERAGE in Los Gatos ESD is NOT 29. So you were wrong.

2nd, If you don't know what an average is, you need to educate yourself before discussing rationally.


@Peter Carpenter:
"This is an agency that is operating at a deficit even with the current parcel taxes and that is without any salary increases in the budget. "

Thank you, Mr. Carpenter. I completely agree.

According to ed-data.k12.ca.us, using 2011-2012 data (the most-recent data available for salaries on the site), MPCSD has the highest teacher salaries in the state when looking at comparably-sized school districts:

(source: Web Link )

MPCSD
Teacher salary: $90,271
Average Class size: 23.3
API base score: 940
Expenditures per ADA: $11,770

Saratoga Union Elementary
Teacher salary: $82,288
Average Class size: 22.8
API base score: 969
Expenditures per ADA: $11,029

Mill Valley Elementary
Teacher salary: $76,788
Average Class size: 24.6
API base score: 947
Expenditures per ADA: $10,209

Los Gatos Union Elementary
Teacher salary: $74,666
Average Class size: 26.3
API base score: 935
Expenditures per ADA: $8,468

I support MPCSD teachers having the highest salaries in the state for comparably sized elementary school districts. But I do think the district needs to fix its budget excesses before even considering any future salary increases (I'm not suggesting that's the purpose of proposed parcel tax #4; it's just that factoring an increase in any of the near-term future budgets shouldn't be necessary; the teachers are well-paid relative to other comparably-sized districts).

There's no way we should enable the deficit spending by giving them FOUR parcel taxes. 3 parcel taxes is enough.


5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 10, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"API scores uniformly up"

And so is the explosive growth of the tutoring business which probably has more to do with API scores being up than money that MPSD wastes.


Like this comment
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 10, 2016 at 4:39 pm

@Train Fan,
You make some good points, but as you are discovering, class size and teachers salaries are the two main parameters for dialing in the budget/expenses. But the things you are not revealing are:
* The job market for teachers is very localized - MPCSD's main competitors for teachers are PAUSD (85K), Los Lomitas (92K), and Portola Valley (unlisted), not Los Gatos or Mill Valley, so your like-schools comparisons don't make a lot of logical sense.
* I'm guessing all of the schools you mention are also going to be hit by the new CalPERS employer contribution requirements over the next 5 years and will also be caught between the tough decision to increase class sizes or reduce enrichment activities.
Web Link;


5 people like this
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 10, 2016 at 4:53 pm

A quick comment wrt teacher's salaries. You really can't compare averages between districts and draw reliable conclusions about the district's pay structure. Virtually every public school district in the state ties their salaries to years of teaching experience. Since the district has virtually no control over how many years teachers choose to teach before retiring, the average salary for the district says very little about the district except perhaps that higher average teaching salaries indicate that the district has more experienced teachers.


2 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 10, 2016 at 4:59 pm

@Menlo Voter,
I would love to hear specifics about all the money that the MPCSD wastes.
* Class sizes too small ??
* CAB Bond issue was stupid ? Oops - that's already been fixed and bene replaced with far cheaper bonds thanks to the District's fist in state "Aaa" bond rating.
* Great music, art and drama programs that distract from Reading, Writing and Arithmetic ?
* A divisive Mandarin Charter school ? Nope, held that one at bay.
* Posh facilities that are spartan compared to my 1970's midwestern elementary and middle school (fully enclosed and heated schools that had real gymnasiums, cafeterias plus separate full-featured auditoriums)


4 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 10, 2016 at 5:51 pm

> Los Gatos or Mill Valley, so your like-schools comparisons don't make a lot of logical sense.

The reason those 2 districts were listed were to show how much of a statistical outlier MPCSD is in comparison to other "localized" compensation.

The data shows that a 4th, larger, MPCSD parcel tax is unjustified; the community is:

* ALREADY paying for excellent teachers with above-average salaries...even by "local" standards...
* and below-average class sizes...even by "local" standards...
* with modern teaching facilities...even by "local" standards.

Again, looking at the data that I've presented many times, MPCSD's expenses are higher than every other "local" elementary school district of a similar size. And those same districts have API scores similar (and sometimes greater) than MPCSD. They're getting similar quality for less money.

I suggest MPCSD lower the expense numbers and eliminate its projected deficit before it tries passing the buck (literally in this case) onto a community that already compensates MPCSD well.


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Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 10, 2016 at 6:01 pm

> I would love to hear specifics about all the money that the MPCSD wastes.

Hilarious!

"stats" demanding "specifics" is truly ironic, considering he/she has bent over backwards avoiding addressing any specific data presented by myself or Peter Carpenter.


2 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 10, 2016 at 9:44 pm

@Train Fan,
Now you're just making things up to suit your needs. Competition for the best teachers is a real thing, and the market that MPCSD competes in does not include the teacher pool that live in Marin or in San Jose (Saratoga / Los Gatos area). The local premium teaching pool is Palo Alto, Portola Valley or Las Lomitas. You don't get a pass on that, just because you wish it otherwise. That's what comes with the increasing value of our homes.

I have been very specific in my answers - you just don't like the conclusions. And quite honestly, you still haven't responded about the CalPERS increases, which shows that you are cautiously steering clear of that discussion because it sinks your argument.

Train Fan - focus on the real issues, instead of specious comparison with districts that are very different in terms of class size or local teacher markets. And focus on the CalPERS bump, since that's going to affect the districts you claim are doing so well with Mississippi-scale per student apportionments as well.


2 people like this
Posted by long time resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 11, 2016 at 10:29 am

The fact that attendence in MPCSD public schools has been, and continues to be, increasing is great thing for our community. I no longer have children attending MPCSD schools, but I want to ensure the District can maintain the small class sizes and comprehensive educational programs that my children benefited from when they attended the schools. MPCSD spends far less per student than our neighboring Districts with comparable programs and class sizes, and the amount they need to maintain class sizes and programs given increased enrollment seems reasonable to me.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 11, 2016 at 11:08 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" MPCSD spends far less per student than our neighboring Districts with comparable programs and class sizes,"

Can you provide that data for others to look at?

Thanks


7 people like this
Posted by JU
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 11, 2016 at 11:23 am

Fact: MPSCD currently has $1.2 million deficit and projected to increase to >$4 million by 2017/18. This does not even account for salary increases.

Prediction:

School board will approve parcel tax renewal and whatever increase they believe the voters will tolerate.

Budget becomes unsustainable and deficits skyrocket. When that happens, they lay off staff and teachers. Class sizes increase. Happened before.
Web Link

They will blame lack of funding instead of their poor financial oversight.
More parcels taxes/bonds needed to bail them out.

Voting NO is the only means at our disposal to send a message to the district to hold them accountable before the deficit spirals out of control.


4 people like this
Posted by More Money, Not Better Education
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 11, 2016 at 8:32 pm

The latest data has been presented and as usual, all segments of minority groups (African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islanders, etc.) and special education students are performing at 30% of the level of their peers. And, as usual, the aging cheerleading squad pretending to be a school board completely glosses over that fact and instead takes credit for all the rich people's kids who can afford private tutors and have the luxury of receiving an enhanced education at home.

We don't have one credentialed educator on our school board, other than our extremely well-paid but misguided superintendent who is hell-bent on building a bureaucratic inner sanctum instead of putting money where it might make a difference. This would be a joke, or good material for a TV sitcom, if it were not taxpayer money being thrown around like confetti. The only way to stop it is to stop funding it. Don't believe their threats for a minute that the education quality will suffer. It will just force them to invest in classroom teaching and proven academic supports instead of new gadgets, paint and landscaping.


8 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jan 12, 2016 at 9:44 am

> Now you're just making things up

Wrong: I posted numerous references containing objective, unbiased data backing up my points. Try reading any of the sources I linked to in previous posts.

And you? Not so much.


> the market that MPCSD competes in does not include the teacher pool that live in Marin or in San Jose (Saratoga / Los Gatos area).

I already addressed this, but let's try again. First of all, I have mentioned other districts but you ignore them because they destroy your arguments. And I included Saratoga, Mill Valley and Los Gatos because if I didn't, the discrepancy in costs between MPCSD and other comparably-sized and larger districts is EVEN WORSE.

Web Link

I buy the localization argument to a point, but your theory on recruiting market size is garbage. Complete, utter garbage, completely devoid of fact. A qualified teacher that lives in Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont and other neighboring communities is just as much in MPCSD's recruiting range as the other districts you cite.


> That's what comes with the increasing value of our homes.

And increases in property tax revenues for MPCSD is ALSO what comes with increasing home values. Hello? You just gave a perfect example of why a FOURTH parcel tax should not be needed.


> I have been very specific in my answers

You have been repeatedly shown objective data showing that MPCSD expense numbers in comparison to other comparable districts are unusually high. You have been unable to refute them.


> you still haven't responded about the CalPERS increases

Mr. Carpenter addressed this perfectly. Did you not read his post?

From Mr. Carpenter:
"So the Fire District budgets every year for MORE than CalPERS charges us because we know full well that CalPERS will be back in future years to cover its shortfall."

My response to you now:
The MPCSD should have been budgeting every year for MORE than CalPERS charges because MPCSD knows FULL WELL that CalPERS will be back in future years to cover its shortfall.

Question asked, and answered.


> specious comparison with districts that are very different

I've posted data on many districts, including some neighboring. You just don't like that those districts destroy your credibility.


> focus on the CalPERS bump

Considering your poor performance in this debate, you are in no position to set the topic agenda.

You act like this is a problem unique to MPCSD. You act like it's a new problem. The Fire District proves that this is wrong on both counts.

CalPERS: asked and answered. In a nutshell, try budgeting for it, instead of trying to pawn off the problem onto the VERY PEOPLE THAT ARE SO GENEROUS TO YOU.

The nerve of some people.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The current board members cannot campaign for the measure. "

This is incorrect. The current board members cannot use MPCSD funds or resources to campaign for these measure but they have every right to campaign for them on their own time and with non-MPCSD resources.

In fact if the current Board members don't campaign for these measures then why should anybody vote for the measures.


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