Almanac

News - May 12, 2010

Schools: Menlo Park, Portola Valley parcel taxes pass easily

by Dave Boyce and Renee Batti

Although revenues from the measures aren't expected to completely make up for shortfalls in their budgets, the Menlo Park City and Portola Valley school districts will have an easier time of balancing the books after residents overwhelmingly passed new parcel tax measures on May 4.

In the case of the Menlo Park district, a number of teachers, librarians and other staff members were especially thankful for the passage of Measure C. "Following the special board meeting on May 10, I should be able to rescind the preliminary layoff notices of teachers and other certificated employees and mitigate the reduction of services by classified and administrative employees," Superintendent Ken Ranella wrote in a May 5 e-mail.

In the K-8 Menlo Park district, 76 percent of voters approved Measure C, a seven-year, $178 annual parcel tax.

In Portola Valley, another K-8 district, 78 percent of voters approved Measure D, a four-year, $168 annual parcel tax.

Both measures required a two-thirds yes vote to pass. Ballots in the all-mail elections had to be received by 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 4.

Even with Measure C's passage, the Menlo Park district will still need to make $300,000 in budget cuts for the coming school year, and about that much in cuts for the 2011-12 school year, Mr. Ranella said in March.

Jeff Child, board president in the Menlo Park district, said the tax is expected to bring in $1.4 million a year, substantially reducing an anticipated $2 million deficit. He noted that the district expects 5 percent enrollment growth in the 2010-11 school year.

At the board's May 10 special meeting, Mr. Ranella was expected to introduce a multi-year plan for the use of Measure C revenue. The meeting occurred after The Almanac's press time.

Portola Valley

"We are so thrilled that the community showed such support," Portola Valley School District board President Judith Mendelsohn said in an interview. The tax revenues "will certainly make a difference in the amount of budget cuts we'll make next year."

The district had cut the budget by $1 million for the 2009-10 school year and was looking at more cuts of about $550,000 for 2010-11, Ms. Mendelsohn said. Parcel tax revenue, even with exemptions from it requested by elderly homeowners, should bring in $345,000, she said.

Vote count

In the Menlo Park district, 5,767 voted for Measure C and 1,804 were opposed, according to the report released May 4 by the county elections office.

In the Portola Valley district, 1,942 voted vote Measure D and 561 were opposed.

The county reported that a total of 10,085 ballots were cast in the two school districts, 48 percent of the registered voters in the districts.

The Menlo Park tax is in addition to $565 in annual parcel taxes paid by property owners in the district, which includes much of Menlo Park and Atherton.

Property owners in the Portola Valley district currently pay a $290 annual parcel tax that passed in 2004 and lasts for 10 years.

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