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Preview of budget cuts at Menlo Park school board meeting

Original post made on Feb 24, 2010

What will the next school year look like if the Menlo Park City School District's $178 parcel tax doesn't pass in May? Superintendent Ken Ranella is offering a preview with a meeting on the "worst-case scenario" budget for the 2010-11 school year at a special school board meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25, at Laurel School's multipurpose room, 95 Edge Road, Atherton

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 11:48 AM

Comments (25)

Posted by Uhhuh., a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 24, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I thought funds for Librarians were provided by MPAEF and/or the PTO?


Posted by WillowsGal, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 24, 2010 at 12:30 pm

We need this parcel tax! In the past, the MPAEF has funded credentialed librarians because classroom teachers and essentials were covered by state funding, property taxes and other sources of revenue, but in a world of significant state budget cuts (and more on the way) paired with steadily climbing enrollment (30% since 2000 and more projected) and anemic property tax growth we can't sit around and take our excellent programs and qualified educators for granted. Fifty cents a day will help us hold on to quality education for the kids of this community. VOTERS--you can make this happen. YES on MEASURE C!


Posted by LocalBusinessMan, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 24, 2010 at 12:58 pm

In light of the current economic situation, I understand and am sensitive to the need for adjustments to the school budget and I see that cuts have been made--but this should not be at the expense of essential academic and other programs--we have to protect our kids and our schools. We live in an area with very bright and professional people--we all need to band together to support our schools--they are our collective future.


Posted by MPVoter, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2010 at 12:58 pm

As an alumni parent, it's hard to watch Sacramento be an unreliable partner to our community's excellent schools. Even though my own kids have graduated from the district, I will support this very reasonable parcel tax as I believe it will help maintain my property value, and it's the right thing to do. This is a town that cares about education; that's why I live here.


Posted by smartinvestor, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 24, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Our schools are at the core of our community on so many levels. If we let the kids down by cutting programming and adding more and more kids per classroom, I think we will have lost our most important purpose which is to educate the next generation. Are private schools going to be the only place where our kids get a first rate education? What does that say about who we are? I understand the parcel tax to be a limited multi-year amount to get us through this short term economic crisis we are in. 50 cents a day so our schools stay on top is candy money. And if this is really about money, our property values are worth a heck of a lot more because we have great schools. That is why enrollment is up. And if you think a private school education is only going to cost you $178 per year, think again. Investing in our schools is the smartest investment around. I say support the kids.


Posted by Neth, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 24, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Willows Gal is correct. The MPAEF has paid for salaries of librarians in the past but this year the state budget cuts are so drastic (and enrollment is projected to grow by 165 kids next year) so the MPAEF money will probably go towards paying for whatever is the most urgent need--which right now may be saving classroom teachers from layoffs. I don't know--it could also be librarians. I think that is why the District is asking for parent input now before the cuts are decided on. Unfortunately, even with the projected foundation grant, the District's deficit will still be about $2 million next year. This is why we need the parcel tax (which will bring in about $1.37 million per year for 7 years).


Posted by more perfume, please, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 24, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Wow! Someone posts an item about the parcel tax, and immediately the half dozen members of Ken's hand-picked parcel tax committee come on this forum to tout the party line. You guys need to work on your material a little -- I can spot a shill from way off .

But back to the tax. It's been said before on other threads here, so I won't bother to reiterate the arguments, but you all need to take a look around, note how many people are truly struggling (not YOU of course, but many district residents), and ask yourself whether it might not be better to cut expenses than to ask for more money.

Unless you can come up with some compelling reasons to pass this tax, it's doomed. I am going to vote against it because I know that the schools will be fine without it -- okay, maybe there will be one more kid per class, but so what? -- and because I don't want to burden the many people I know who cannot afford more taxes.



Posted by Alumni Parent, a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Feb 24, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Schools will not be fine with drastic cuts in funds while their enrollment goes up. I wish the California economy was in better shape and that we were not near the bottom of the list in per student funding, but at least we can do something to support our town. Yesterday 17 high tech companies vowed to hire twice as many 2010 college graduates as they did last year, saying that college graduates were their life blood. A good education benefits our students, our local and regional businesses, the economy and ultimately our state.
All my children went to through Laurel, Encinal and Hillview schools and are now at Menlo-Atherton High School. They received a great education during those elementary years, and I want that for the current and future children as well. I worked hard to support the schools and don't want to see that work undone with teachers let go and vital programs slashed. I am in favor of this parcel tax to preserve the quality of education in our local school district. State funding cuts and climbing enrollment are endangering the level of education and services we all count on. I am glad that we have the ability to support our schools locally and maintain the quality of education for our children.


Posted by Skeptic, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2010 at 4:40 pm

But why a SEVEN-year tax? Can't waste any good emergency to get something good?


Posted by Local Mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 24, 2010 at 8:06 pm

The seven year period was chosen to coincide with the enrollment growth bubble. Given the economic environment the district chose to ask for less than what they would actually need to fund the entire budget deficit. It would take a parcel tax of approximately $303 to fund the entire deficit. Instead they are asking for $178 for 7 years to cover the period of the expected enrollment growth bubble. I think the district was being very responsive to the needs of the community, while also trying to protect the schools. Great public schools are a vital part of our community, and I truly believe it is in everyone's best interest to protect the progress we've made in our local public schools and keep them strong.


Posted by Susan, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 24, 2010 at 8:10 pm

I'm glad to see that taxing folks is always the most workable solution. Hopefully, our government entities will learn from past and present situations and plan for the future. But wait why should I expect them to be practical, just look at how much we really do learn from our past mistakes. I guess the saying is true; history does repeat itself. This situation should then repeat itself in how many years.....?!


Posted by more perfume, please, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 24, 2010 at 9:21 pm

I see most of the members of the choir have arrived, including Local Mom, Alumni Parent, SmartInvestor, LocalBusinessMan, MPVoter. We're still awaiting Long Time Teacher, Senior Citizen Supporter, and maybe one or two others, each of whom will represent a different neighborhood, all of them reading off the same page in the hymnal, only slightly off-key.

Fact is, the district still hasn't updated or added any financial information to the website, so we don't really know what the situation is or where cuts could be made. As a parent of a child in the district, I see a lot of money getting spent on items that could be cut without detriment to the program. For example, middle school students have duplicate copies of textbooks, one for school, one for home. Hillview could cut back to a single set of textbooks for each child, thereby halving the textbook expense. It's not ideal, but in a time of belt-tightening, that's the kind of measure you have to take.

Sorry, choir, your canned presentations aren't very convincing, not when so many people are out of work. A tax is a poor substitute for creative thinking and sensitivity to the plight of the community.


Posted by Another idea, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Are we to punish the children of Menlo Park because the state can't get it's act together and because so many people want to live here because our schools are so great? I don't get it - less than 50 cents a day to support schools, our children, our property taxes. Come on, you live in Menlo Park. Is that too much to ask? Our school board has already tightened it's belt so that 88% of the budget is teacher's salaries. And even if the parcel tax passes, the district is still planning on more tightening plus using approximately $500,000 in reserves. Do you still think asking for less than 50 cents a day is being unrealistic?


Posted by Older Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 24, 2010 at 10:21 pm

I have never had a child in the Menlo Park school district but I do know how important a good education is to the future not only of our children and our property values but also to the future of our nation. Cutting education at a time when we are already sinking into mediocrity is a very bad idea. I will support this parcel tax because I believe it is the right thing to do.


Posted by more perfume, please, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Feb 24, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Thank you for piping up, Older Resident! Sorry I called you by the wrong name earlier. Weren't you also supposed to tell us that you will be refusing your senior citizen exemption from the tax because you believe so strongly in the schools?

Still waiting for Long Time Teacher to check in and offer support for the tax. And maybe Local Realtor will stop by too to let us know how our housing values will plummet if we don't pass the tax.

Let the show begin.


Posted by Sorry More Perfume, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 24, 2010 at 11:19 pm

We're sorry "More Perfume", we're sorry that you had to endure the rebuild of the school near your storied home, so beautiful, but yet near a school. We're sorry that you had no idea that you had moved near a school, a school that would at some point need to be expanded. We're sorry that you represent the definition of NIMBY in every sense of the word.
Please try to keep your own personal feelings about the new larger school near your home, that will eventually send the appreciation of your home, once again, sky high. Sorry about that, sorry that you have to endure more equity. Try to at least think objectively and understand that we're trying to educate kids here, we're not trying to insure that you have another negative shot at the school board, parents, MPAEF and whomever else you hate because of the rebuild decisions. Please stop being so selfish.


Posted by more perfume, please, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 24, 2010 at 11:37 pm

SMP, you may be surprised to learn that there are actually quite a few of us who aren't quite sold on this tax. You seem to have confused me with someone who lives near a school. (I wish I did!)

Unfortunately for the Ken-groupies, there is going to be a lot of opposition to this tax, and so far no compelling arguments in favor of it.

Where ARE those financial statements, by the way? Unless someone is trying to mislead the voters, those should buttress your demands. Why not produce them?


Posted by Ram Duriseti, a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Feb 25, 2010 at 12:03 am

"more perfume, please",

I think "Sorry More Perfume" assumed that negativity was coming from one of the Oak Knoll neighbors or maybe me in particular. What "Sorry More Perfume", who has previously posted on other threads as "Ram Please Move" (and other juvenile and anonymous pseudonyms) while regaling me with how I should be more respectful because he's "twice my size", still hasn't learned is that I post with my real name. People with the courage of their convictions air them publicly. Juvenile cowards taunt while posting anonymously. "more perfume, please" should stay anonymous because apparently integrity is a commodity in short supply with at least a few MP parents.

I will vote for the parcel tax, just like I voted for the bond measure, because my youngest will consume the public resource. Having said that, I have to wonder, as I stare at the 40 foot tall multi-purpose room with a performance stage and second gym for the Oak Knoll campus, if our money is being spent wisely.


Posted by Being Fair, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 25, 2010 at 12:37 pm

There is unemployment in all neighborhoods now. Every family everywhere has examined if not slashed their budgets and reduced the amount of "over the tops" they used to pay. Why shouldn't the schools also examine their budgets the same? Why should the taxpayers have to lose money from their budgets so the schools can continue in their same spending rate? Everyone needs to evaluate their spending these days so schools should be no different.


Posted by Elizabeth Ouren, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 25, 2010 at 1:40 pm

For those who want to understand the school budget and what will have to be cut if the parcel tax is not passed, please come to Laurel School tonight at 7pm!! Ken Ranella will be presenting all this information. I truly hope that the community will support the parcel tax so that our school district does not have to start dismantling programs for our kids.


Posted by Can't Judge, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 25, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I've read the Options for Expenditure Reduction report linked by this article. It does include some current budget detail, though at a very high level. It does a good job of laying out the options under consideration but has one glaring problem in my opinion. There is *no* inclusion or link to current headcount and position information. How can I judge if eliminating the part-time art position while not touching the music program makes sense if I don't know how many art and music teachers there are? What if there were 10 music teachers? I hope that Mr. Ranella presents a more complete package tonight.


Posted by Ram Duriseti, a resident of Oak Knoll School
on Feb 25, 2010 at 9:47 pm

The building itself is quite nice actually. I look forward to playing some ball in that gym.


Posted by Shill Detector, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 28, 2010 at 5:32 pm

More Perfume Please - In some of your posts you state you're from the Felton Gables neighborhood and in others you put Central Menlo Park. Where are you really from? Do you even live in the District?If so, you would realize that anyone in Felton Gables lives quite close to Encinal School. Regarding Data and budgets, you will find all sorts of information if you go to the link listed in the article - Web Link. The information provided makes the need to pass the Parcel tax very clear.


Posted by Don't fire til you see the whites of their eyes, a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2010 at 8:35 pm

Good schools are not the cause of a good community. That is a correlational fallacy. Good schools are the result of good parenting. Good communities are the result of good parenting. The teachers unions are usurpers trying to take credit for what the parents and generally the people of this community have created. They will have you believe that if you don't pass this parcel tax, your kids will degenerate into gangbanging imbiciles, that the community will fall into collapse. Hah!

Good schools are an indicator of a good community, not a cause. Your property values will be fine and your kids will certainly be fine with the present state of taxes. No need for more. The unions want this for their own self interests


Posted by 1opinion, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 10, 2010 at 10:38 am

You would think the sky is falling given all the rhetoric being spewed they the proponents of Measure C. Let's talk reality. Yes, funding is down and as with any individual, business, or local government agency, when your revenue is down you need to make some trade off's. However, these cuts are not catastrophic, in fact there could be additional cuts and this would not greatly impact the learning of students in the Menlo Park City School District(one of the highest per student spend in the state). If you want to talk about catastrophic cuts, just go and look outside our cozy little white upper middle class world and look at the situation in districts in our neighboring communities such as Ravenswood, Redwood City, Mountain View to name a few (I invite anyone from those district to list what those cuts mean in their districts). These are needy districts and their potential cuts are drastic and will have a serious impact on the children that can least afford these cuts. Now I understand that the State cuts to other school districts are not necessarily our concern but the inequity is just gross and we can just call for a tax increase to try to cover our share of the cuts but in my opinion it sure smells of elitism and a total lack of social justice.

Again, some cuts would not be drastic (here is a short list – I could go on).
- Do the MP schools need a certificated Librarian? A big cost when you could hire a very competent non-certificated individual (just means that the certificated classroom teacher would need to be in the library with the class) The Science teacher at Oak Knoll is not certificated and she is an excellent teacher.
- Do the MP schools need assistant principals at the schools? Big expense. Most other schools in the state do not have this luxury for schools the size of Laurel and Encinal.
- Do we need certificated PE teachers for the lower elementary grades? 3rd, 4th, 5th maybe but not K thru 2. I can remember that my classroom teacher did the PE when I was in elementary school.
- So what if class room size goes up to 23 or 24 from 20. Nothing compared to what other districts are proposing. I don't think this will negatively impact our children's learning.
- Do we need to so many reading specialist in the schools. At Oak Knoll, I notice them working with students yes, but I also see them reading to entire classrooms. Get rid of the classroom reading sessions and focus just on the student pull out and you can probably reduce by one certificated specialist.
- I heard one proposal is to eliminate the Tinsley transfer by claiming to the courts that the cost is hurting our ability to maintain the schools educational levels. Before cutting the underserved, how about eliminating the transfer of children of teachers and staff. Some may argue the this is an important component of attracting and retaining top talent. I can guarantee that the salary alone is drawing top talent. I invite any of you to pull the certificated salary schedule (it is public information usually found on a districts web site), and you can see that the salary is much higher than pretty much any other district in the valley with the exception of Palo Alto, Los Lomitas, and Portola Valley.

I could go on and on, but I will end with that it is obvious that I will not be supporting Measure C. I have an idea, why don't we pass this tax and instead of sending it to Ken Ranella so he can take the easy way out, we use it to support The Ravenswood School District. I would support that. Remember, those children at the highest risk are the ones that our privileged children may be paying taxes to incarcerate in the future.


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