No on Measures A and C (or, "The School Board gets a 'Needs Improvement' in Public Process”) | Deep Menlo | Stuart Soffer | Almanac Online |

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No on Measures A and C (or, "The School Board gets a 'Needs Improvement' in Public Process”)

Uploaded: Apr 27, 2016
The editors of both our local papers, the Daily Post and Almanac News, recommend voting NO on Menlo Park School District’s Bond Measures A and C.

I agree.

Menlo Park School District’s upcoming Measure A ballot replaces an existing parcel taxes that is sun setting. I can see voting for this parcel tax as it just replaces the current tax, if it had a fixed period of time. However, both measures are problematic in how they are structured, and they ‘game the system’ by placing them alone in a special election apart from the major June and November ballots.

Measure C creates a new type of parcel tax keyed to school head count – sounds reasonable until factoring in the automatic revenue increases as properties resell and are reassessed at then market values – a step-wide increase which covers any new school children those properties may add to the district.

Another reason is that Measure C is a blank check – it does not sunset, and eliminates the periodic scrutiny that would be in the public interest to assure that elected Menlo Park Board members are diligent in appropriate allocations.

And finally, and if for no other reason, placing this on an isolated ballot games the system: those who support the measure will vote yes; those who don’t support may just ignore the vote – not having any other issue on the ballot that may be of interest. If you oppose these measure, unless you actually vote no, your sentiment has no voice – and the masses nor returning a ballot are voting for the measures – and taxing you on your behalf.

Our schools are great: we can be proud of our showcase schools and programs that benefit our children, and how good schools create demand for our neighborhoods. But that doesn’t excuse the chumming of the votes and silencing future votes by making the taxes perpetual. It reminds me of a weak form of voter suppression such as is reported during the primary season… running out of ballots too early,

Comments

 +   21 people like this
Posted by Oversight, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 27, 2016 at 5:13 pm

What is especially troubling is that everything occurs behind closed doors with decisions made by a small, insular group. The per-student amount has increased not so much because of spending devoted to education but because of an increase in overhead and administration. Ghysels has a blank check and no one in the inner circle is going to say no to him.

Measure A might be palatable if it were not permanent. Measure C is simply indefensible. That measure alone will produce more revenue per new student than is required to educate each individual student. Even if it were the sole source of revenue, which it isn't, you'd have to ask why the district is demanding so much money for new students.

Nor can Ghysels and the board explain the need for the money in the face of the ongoing and dramatic rise in property taxes. Property taxes provide most of the revenue to the district, and only a district that is badly mismanaged would be asking for more money at this point. Instead of holding an election, they should explain what is happening to the funds they've already collected. If you look at their budget, they will be in fine shape if neither measure passes.

Maybe it's time for them to learn how to be accountable? And bring in some outsiders to oversee the processes?


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Apr 27, 2016 at 8:39 pm

Thanks for summarizing my own thoughts. As a voter who has previously supported every single one of the measures for our schools, I couldn't vote for these two measures for the reasons you described. I urge others to also vote NO on Measures A and C.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Apr 28, 2016 at 8:18 am

After looking at the salaries of the Menlo School District Administration I came to the conclusion that giving they more money with no real oversight would be a huge mistake. Once the district looks at it's budget, determines where it is spending and how it can reduce spending without affecting the children's education I will be voting No for any parcel tax, expiration date or not. I am curious as to how much money the district has spent on these two measures, the drafting of them, having a special election, calling parents to get them to vote yes while making sure to try to fly under the radar of those without children who might be opposed...


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Long time Supporter of Education, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle,
on Apr 28, 2016 at 8:25 am

I am personally tired of the opposition to Measures A and C using the Almanac Town Square for their editorials like this and TS campaigning. The attempts to discredit our fabulous MPCSD are extremely disappointing. Even the Almanac has retracted their misleading and incorrect comments which attempted to make our MPCSD board look bad. The author of the opposition, Jack Hickey DOES NOT LIVE IN MENLO PARK. He does not care about our community schools, but has ulterior motives for opposing not ONE but FIVE school parcel taxes in our county. Thankfully, all of the other parcel taxes he opposed passed, and the other schools: Redwood City, San Mateo, San Carlos, and Burlingame still have the funding they need. As a matter of fact if you read his “website” page, he is anti public education altogether and suggests homeschooling. District voters are smarter than that …and will not be joining his bandwagon. We have a fiscally responsible and fabulous district. Thankfully we also have an enormous pool of dedicated parent and community volunteers who support MPCSD. I thank the MPCSD administration, board members, educators, staff and volunteer community who create the “village” we need for our students…my YES vote is for you!


 +   20 people like this
Posted by Oversight, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 28, 2016 at 9:25 am

So let's get this straight, Long time Supporter. The only rebuttal you can make to the mound of evidence against A and C is that you don't like one of the people who is also opposed, and you and other supporters will say anything to discredit and smear him. That's kind of pathetic, verging on bullying, and it's a tactic that isn't going to work.

I don't know the target of your venom, but suggest you might want to switch your MO and explain why we need the tax. Hint: using the word "fabulous" in every sentence in place of actual facts is not going to support your argument either.

I do agree that we have great teachers and parents and because of them and the generous level of revenues flowing into the district, I have no concerns about the district falling behind if the measures fail. I expect that most voters who take the time to look beyond your glossy propaganda pieces and educate themselves about the measures will also vote against them, and maybe then the administration will clean up its act. I can only hope.


 +   17 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Apr 28, 2016 at 9:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The district currently has FOUR parcel taxes of which three are PERMANENT.
The current parcel tax which is term limited will expire in 2017 and would be replaced by Measure A if it passes. That would give the District Four Permanent parcel taxes. If Measure C passes the District would have FIVE PERMANENT parcel taxes - a record for any entity in California to the best of my knowledge.

In addition $6.1 million dollars in bond debt service was collected from MPCSD property owners. That's an annual expenditure of more than $2,000 per student. This expenditure is not included in the cost per student reported by the district.

From the MPCSD Second Interim Report page 112:

"Principal Balance Fund 51, Bond Interest and Redemption Fund $131,153,954.00"

That is a LOT of debt!


My PROPERTY tax bill includes $151.02 to pay a very small part of this debt and every other property owner also pays an ad valorem tax to help retire this huge debt.

This revenue does not appear in the MPCSD budget.

"The Bond debt financing does not go through the general fund. Both the collection of taxes and debt repayment of all bonds are handled at the County level.

Best,

Ahmad Sheikholeslami
Chief Business and Operations Officer
Menlo Park City School District"

It is as if the taxpayers incurred the original debt, MPCSD got the money and from then on the annual cost to the taxpayers is none of the District's business or responsibility. And`since MPCSD does not include the $6+ million paid annually by the property owners as revenue so, of course, it does NOT show up in the revenue per student calculation. And IF it were included in revenue per student calculation that would dramatically change all of the current comparisons to other school districts and further undercut the justification for these new parcel taxes.


I would welcome someone providing documentation that proves any of the above statements to be incorrect.


 +   13 people like this
Posted by Train Fan, a resident of Hillview Middle School,
on Apr 28, 2016 at 11:26 am

Train Fan is a registered user.

Thank you, Mr. Soffer, for your "No on A and C" endorsement.

A little more math for folks to consider...

Current year MPCSD revenue: $42,000,000+

Projections/assumptions from MPCSD's own budget:

2016-2017: property tax revenue increase: 5% (lower than Menlo Fire's)
2017-2018: property tax revenue increase: 3%

2017-2018 projected student population: 3000 (currently 2941)


Assumption on CPIs:
Apr16->Apr17: 3% (which is the same as current YoY)
Apr17->Apr18: 3% ("")


Let's assume that Measures A and C are rightfully voted down. What would MPCSD projected revenue look like for the 2017-2018 school year...


The 2017-2018 projected revenue, without Measures A and C, would be...


$43,000,000+

That's right, it's projected to be HIGHER by one million dollars, even without Measures A and C. Let's divide 1,000,000 by the projected 59 additional students MPCSD mentions in their budget:

1000000 / 59 = $16,949 PER NEW STUDENT

(Note that I rounded DOWN in all of the numbers. Actual projected revenue is higher)

That's well above current per-student funding. MPCSD has PLENTY of projected revenue to support projected student growth.


The Daily Post recommends NO on Measures A and C.

The Almanacnews recommends NO on Measures A and C.

Stuart Soffer recommends NO on Measures A and C.


Vote NO on Measures A and C


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Apr 28, 2016 at 3:26 pm

$4.3 million dollars -- that's the property-tax increase required to fund the addition of a single child into Menlo Park schools. Mr. Soffer, do you really believe that each one-child family moving into Menlo Park is buying a house whose assessed value is $4.3 million higher than the previous owner? That would be $8.6 million for two children, $12.9 million for three. If not, why do you say it will?

Menlo Park spends less than the *average* per-student spending in 13+ states! Yes, upper-middle-class, high-achieving Menlo Park. And the grim reality is we're on our own to provide a nationally competitive education for our children. The state is spending all its marginal dollars on low-income language learners under LCFF. Ditto the Feds, on NCLB II.

Do you want neighbors whose kids attend the local schools and aspire to top colleges?

Or do you think the best citizens are educated in private schools? Or maybe that local parents should just bulk up their kids' educations at the proliferation of tutoring firms in town? Or that Californians don't belong in good colleges -- just New Yorkers?

Yes on A. At a minimum.

For those who know me, here are the numbers:

MPCSD spent $13,745 per child last year, according to the statewide ed-data.org database. Only 16% of local property tax dollars flow to MPCSD. Adding the 16% that flow to Sequoia Union High District (SUHSD), gives us 32% going to local schools to fund local kids. Per Prop 13, only 1% of assessed value can be collected as property tax. So we have $13,745 x 100 /.32 = $4,295,312.50 = $4.3 million more assessed value required to pay for each child. (While property tax only provides about 58% of per-student funding, the other sources of funding are overwhelmingly fixed, therefore must be shared over all existing students.)

Yet Menlo Park lags the *average* spending in 13+ states! With SUHSD weighted in, we spent $14,373 per student last year. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, DC, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska were able to find more money per *average* student, than we were for our local kids. (Vermont spent over twice what we did: $30K; New York, Mr. Soffer's home state spent an average of $16.7K. More was spent in high-property tax districts like ours.) Source: NEA Ratings & Statistics 2015.



 +   5 people like this
Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Apr 28, 2016 at 9:19 pm

That seems to be the same twisting of the facts that the school board counts on. One house increasing by 4.2 million, sure we see that often but would not count on that. But not every house is being sold to people with school age children, or children at all. and when you add up the increase in the property tax base for all the homes it is huge. Take a look at the recent home sales in Menlo Park and Atherton (it is in the Almanac). If you take the houses that have a purchase price and a previous sale price, which is not all of them. Adding up the difference between the last sale price and the current one comes to about 13.1 million dollars(I rounded down), and as I said that does not count all the houses sold as some did not list an original purchase price but you can bet it was much lower than the recent sale price). So in the most recent sales the basis for property taxes went up by more than enough to cover the 3 children.

From the look of the list it only covers the sales from about 3/10/2016 to about 3/16/2016, so a week. If this list is typical, and I have no reason to believe it is not, then the property tax basis is already going up significantly.

Sorry I can't support two additional parcel taxes with out any expiration date when we are already paying for previous bonds and parcel tax measures. Oh, and I DO live in Menlo Park and have for a very long time. I have voted No on both and I really do hope they go down in flames.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Apr 28, 2016 at 9:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Perfect example of "worst case analysis" - assume a new house will have three children and that the old house had no children.


In fact most of the unexpected recent growth in enrollment came from children of District employees!

"And all but one of that 14-student difference came from an unexpected jump in incoming inter-district students (i.e., with home addresses outside the MPCSD) that are not from the Ravenswood City School District region (as is shown in
Appendix B1 on page 18). Most of these are children of district staff."


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Stuart Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Apr 29, 2016 at 8:54 am

(Duplicate post)


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Stuart Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Apr 29, 2016 at 8:54 am

Jennifer Bestor:

If you read my opinion carefully, I write about process. That is, specifically, the
opportunity to review the parcel taxes in the future; and about methods acquiring
votes.

It is not about the dollars per student, nor the incremental cost per student,
nor the incremental cost of adding the nth student.

It appears that you accept my opinion regarding Measure C. (Where you say:
"Yes on A. At a minimum.")

I dont see the relevance of your notes highlighting New York rather any other state
or city.

I care about all of the students in Menlo Park, not just those in the Menlo Park
Elementary School District. Anyone reading the notes are likely unaware that the
City of Menlo Park straddles 5 elementary school districts: the large MP School district under
discussion, La Entrada, and Ravenswood elementary school districts. Additionally
there is a piece of industrial Menlo Park on the Redwood City School District to the
east, and a smidgeon in the Woodside school district to the far west.

That we have a great economic and educational opportunity disparity between the MP School
District and its adjacent Ravenswood District, on the other side of highway 101
pains me. When I see a parcel tax on this side of 101, I think of the kids on the other
side. i hope others in our community do as well.


 +   5 people like this
Posted by No on A + C, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Apr 29, 2016 at 10:33 am

Comparing educational spending across different states is misleading. Different states have different methods of calculating per student spending. You do not know what is included in that calculation. In addition, according to MPCSD, you need to call the business office of these districts (and states) to verify the numbers before using them in any comparison because they are simply "too complex" for the average person to understand. Their words, not mine. Unless you know specifically what other states include in their calculations, comparisons to other states are NOT strictly apples to apples comparisons.

In the state of California, the per student spending is calculated using the same method across all districts. That's why these numbers are more comparable. For instance, capital costs (bonds, etc) are NOT included in per student costs in California.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by No on A + C, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Apr 29, 2016 at 10:34 am

(Duplicate Post)


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Apr 29, 2016 at 10:44 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

For instance, capital costs (bonds, etc) are NOT included in per student costs in California." So a district with a huge bond debt like MPCSD could have the same per student cost as a district with no bond debt according to this type of misleading accounting? No wonder MPCSD likes this data source - it hides its huge bond debt and ignores the big annual cost to every property owner to pay off that debt. And it ignores the benefit received by every student every day from the very nice and very expensive facilities that were built with this taxpayer financed bond debt. Some people would consider this accounting practice to be deceptive and others as dishonest


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Brian , a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Apr 29, 2016 at 4:25 pm

Stuart,

Ravenswood is not only on the other side of the freeway, there is a school in the middle of the Willows that belongs to Ravenswood School District. I attended that when the Willows was part of that district. What a miserable education they provided. From my personal experience some of the teachers did not care in the last for the student education, only for themselves, and few parents seemed to take any interest in their children's education or in the school.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Oversight, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 29, 2016 at 5:17 pm

The supporters of A and C continue to pull out numbers that have nothing to do with the issues at hand. Presenting worse case scenarios -- in which every house in the district is sold for less than $10mm to someone with three kids -- is just obfuscation when that is not what has ever happened or is happening now.

The old Measure C (the current Measure A) doesn't expire for a year. If the district can convince the voters that they need the tax, they've got some time to figure out a better pitch. The new Measure C was just a bad idea, designed to ensure that the district squeezed the voters as much as possible.

I am a big supporter of our schools. But not of institutionalized corruption and mismanagement.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Joe G, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 29, 2016 at 8:14 pm

WOW Jennifer.

Your comment "The state is spending all its marginal dollars on low-income language learners under LCFF. Ditto the Feds, on NCLB II." Sounds a bit racist to me. I would not even go down that path.

Your comment "Do you want neighbors whose kids attend the local schools and aspire to top colleges?" These kids are all going to college - don't kid yourself or post such a silly question. Stanford and Cal are not the only top colleges in the country. Or is it really the pressure this community puts on these kids that if they don't get into one of these schools they will fail in life. I would recommend getting life's priorities straight.

Your comment "Or do you think the best citizens are educated in private schools? Or maybe that local parents should just bulk up their kids' educations at the proliferation of tutoring firms in town? Or that Californians don't belong in good colleges -- just New Yorkers?" I would challenge the reason for the proliferation of the tutoring firms - see comment above about pressure to attend the BEST college. Menlo-Atherton HS happens to send a lot of there college bound students to great colleges around the country (including Stanford and Cal) and do it with the "marginal dollars".


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Time for change, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 29, 2016 at 9:38 pm

Time to change the way we do business in MP.

Thank you Mr. Soffer, for highlighting the way the school board is gaming the system. It's sneaky and at the end of the day, the integrity with which we live our professional and personal lives is all we have. It makes us who we are. Our school board has it's own agenda and that agenda is that of Dr. G, not the citizens. The school board responds to the requests to which they want to respond and blows off the others. Don't believe me? Speak at any board member with a hard issue that will take time to communicate but is not of interest to the superintendent and see if you even get a response. Same with email. Issues are taken on selectively to help the superintendent push his agenda. It's on us to have some folks with integrity to represent the issues of their consituents actually run. Problem is, folks don't want to join a corrupt system.


Dear Oversight- Thank you for your well thought out post. I am getting very tired of hearing, "The author of the opposition, Jack Hickey DOES NOT LIVE IN MENLO PARK” because I do not care where Jack Hickey lives. I care about the amount of money that I am going to pay if the measures pass. What Jack H. says, does, has for breakfast, does not impact my taxes and folks keep acting like the fact that an opponent who does not live in MP is going to convince us that this tax could be good. Very weak. I’m not judging the facts based on the residence of a writer. I’m an educated citizen and I will read for myself everything he writes and make a decision. Decide for yourself community. If you don't believe Jack, then look up the numbers for yourself. If you don’t believe Peter, look it up. I have yet to see any of Peter's facts disputed and it stands with integrity as a result.

Jennifer: With all due respect, your comments wreak of entitlement. I worry enough about our kids feeling pressured to get into good colleges and often wonder from where comes that pressure?

You ask Mr. Soffer, "Do you want neighbors whose kids attend the local schools and aspire to top colleges? " Actually, Jennifer, I think it is an assumption that everyone wants their own children to go to 'top' colleges. I actually want my two children (both in local public schools) to go to colleges first and foremost that are a good fit for them, colleges where students are kind, schools that embody solid values, and universities who teach citizenship.... That's my top priority. It doesn't need to be yours however, please do not assume that making the "top" schools is a shared priority because your MP neighbors, may value good schools but are OK without having top university admissions. Certainly I would not dream of imposing those pressures on my neighbor's children by having the audacity to "want it" for them. It's not my place. It’s not yours either. Remember, 80% of the citizens pay for 20% of the children and we don’t all feel that luxury resorts are a necessity. Some do but not all.

We have good schools. We have great schools. We have schools that can become even greater on the funds that exist because not every child who lives in MP is going to attend. We also have a school board that can't handle not having everything it wants and is communicating that message by the underhandedness of their process, which is Mr. Soffer's main point.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Ally, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 29, 2016 at 10:54 pm

Peter- You mentioned
"In fact most of the unexpected recent growth in enrollment came from children of District employees!"

How much is it exactly? How many students and how much cost do we incur for them? What about the questions related to this perk as a benefit?

Barbara Wood, please ask the district directly and help the community get the facts. Having Ms. Lambert pass the question on to Jeff, only to be flat out ignored is not OK. Perhaps the pressure of the press is needed to help the constituents get the answers from their own school board. It shouldn't be necessary but apparently it is.

Also, could anyone please tell us how much money it costs to run a special election in the first place and what would have happened if we had saved all that money and just waited on more month? You just have plan A and plan B. You have to do a little bit of scrambling but trust me; recruitment is not a problem in MPCSD.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by No on A + C, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Apr 30, 2016 at 8:35 am

@Ally
There was a previous almanac article that estimated the cost of this special election at $83000. According to the article, holding the election in June may reduce it by 50%. Holding it in November may reduce it another 50%. Voter turnout for presidential elections has been around 80% in the past.
Web Link

In addition, we know the district has already spent $37000 on "focus groups" that told them that Menlo Park residents value their schools. That's at least $100K that could have been spent on education instead of trying to grab more money from voters.

I would rather put the $700/year measure A + C would cost me into my child's college education fund where it will do more good than for the district to waste on who knows what.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Apple, a resident of Atherton: other,
on Apr 30, 2016 at 9:59 am

$37K spent for a focus group?!?!

That's just getting a bunch of community members in the room and asking them some questions. Why does it cost so much?

Not very fiscally prudent if you ask me. And if the district loses this election, that would be money poorly spent. We shouldn't use this focus group consultant again.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Apr 30, 2016 at 10:26 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There is a disturbing gap in the posted minutes of the MPCSD Board - no minutes for any 2015 meeting!!

Web Link


BOARD MINUTES
Minutes are posted only after approval by the Board of Education at a regularly scheduled Board meeting.
2015-16 SCHOOL YEAR MINUTES
February 10, 2016 Special Board Meeting
APPROVED 2.10.16 Special Board Mtg. MINUTES.pdf 72.38 KB (Last Modified on March 13, 2016)
February 9, 2016 Regular Board Meeting
APPROVED 2.9.16 Regular Board Mtg. MINUTES.pdf 119.94 KB (Last Modified on March 13, 2016)
February 4, 2016 Special Board Meeting
APPROVED 2.4.16 Special Board Mtg. MINUTES.pdf 72.76 KB (Last Modified on March 13, 2016)
February 1, 2016 Special Board Meeting
APPROVED 2.1.16 Special Board Mtg. MINUTES.pdf 82.77 KB (Last Modified on March 13, 2016)
January 21, 2016 Special Board Meeting
APPROVED 1.21.16 Special Board Mtg. MINUTES.pdf 180.53 KB (Last Modified on February 11, 2016)
2014-15 SCHOOL YEAR MINUTES
July 25, 2014 Special Board Meeting
FINAL Approved 7_25_14 Special Board Mtg_ MINUTES .pdf 547.72 KB (Last Modified on November 6, 2015)
August 19, 2014 Special Board Meeting
Approved 8_19_14 Special Board Mtg_ MINUTES .pdf 169.90 KB (Last Modified on November 6, 2015)
August 26, 2014 Regular Board Meeting
Approved 8_26_14 Regular Board Mtg_ MINUTES .pdf 572.63 KB (Last Modified on November 6, 2015)
September 3, 2014 Special Board Meeting
Approved 9_3_14 Special Board Mtg_ MINUTES .pdf 169.02 KB (Last Modified on November 6, 2015)
September 9, 2014 Regular Board Meeting
Approved 9_9_14 Regular Board Mtg_ MINUTES .pdf 820.27 KB (Last Modified on November 6, 2015)
2013-14 SCHOOL YEAR MINUTES
**********************

The reason I was looking for the late 2015 minutes is that I recall, but cannot yet document, that the report of the focus group effort specified that people with highly negative views were excluded - or something to that effect.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Time for change, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 30, 2016 at 10:38 am

I looked into the "missing minutes" from the board meeting.

I was told the they were "changing systems" and while in the interium of going from one system to the next some records were "hard to access".

We need to stop talking with each other, as it is preaching to the choir. It's time to educate the masses who don't really even plan to vote.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Time for change, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 30, 2016 at 11:04 am

I looked into the "missing minutes" from the board meeting.

I was told the they were "changing systems" and while in the interium of going from one system to the next some records were "hard to access".

We need to stop talking with each other, as it is preaching to the choir. It's time to educate the masses who don't really even plan to vote.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter , a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Apr 30, 2016 at 11:11 am

In the absence of essential information the only appropriate response is to vote NO


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Time for change, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 30, 2016 at 11:25 am

Peter, I can vote NO, because I don't have enough information but some people will not vote if they don't have enough information, a strategy used to keep certain people from voting.

Part of the political process is the right for voters to be informed if they choose to do so. I would like for the Alamanc to support voters in becoming informed so that they can vote NO or YES but not fail to vote in the absence of information.

If anyone has other ideas for how to get answers to questions that can help us inform ourselves, please advise.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on May 1, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Measures A and C require a 2/3 majority to pass. That threshold is likely to change in the near future unless voters wake up and look at the total cost of education, including the debt service on bonds they passed for grandiose facilities, and just say NO More! MPCSD had the county collect $6.1 Million in 2014/2015 for debt service on those bonds. That revenue is not included in per pupil expenditures, where it would have added $2,104.39 per ADA. The district's outstanding general obligation bond debt increased fro $114,683,000 in June 2015 to $136,957,418 in November of 2015. An increase in property tax collections to service the increased debt is likely.

Your NO vote will offset two YES votes. The Measures can be defeated! The YES vote count in the 80%+ margin of victory of prior Parcel Tax measures constituted LESS THAN 25% of the registered voters.

Find those ballots! Or, get replacements.
Please vote NO on Measures A and C.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jack Hickey, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills,
on May 1, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Measures A and C require a 2/3 majority to pass. That threshold is likely to change in the near future unless voters wake up and look at the total cost of education, including the debt service on bonds they passed for grandiose facilities, and just say NO More! MPCSD had the county collect $6.1 Million in 2014/2015 for debt service on those bonds. That revenue is not included in per pupil expenditures, where it would have added $2,104.39 per ADA. The district's outstanding general obligation bond debt increased fro $114,683,000 in June 2015 to $136,957,418 in November of 2015. An increase in property tax collections to service the increased debt is likely.

Your NO vote will offset two YES votes. The Measures can be defeated! The YES vote count in the 80%+ margin of victory of prior Parcel Tax measures constituted LESS THAN 25% of the registered voters.

Find those ballots! Or, get replacements.
Please vote NO on Measures A and C.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Call to Action, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 2, 2016 at 6:53 pm

To: Voters who have decided to vote NO on A and C but can't find that ballot....

Vote in person at the 40 Tower Road office any weekday through May 2 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or on Election Day, Tuesday, May 3, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Almanac votes NO.
The Daily Post votes NO.


To parents who are worried to vote no,

We can reorganize after town meetings this spring and summer to put something sensible on the November ballot without running the risk of a PERMANENT tax that we will live with long after your children are gone and you're trying to send them to college and actually retire....


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 3, 2016 at 12:15 pm

If these fail to pass, Whoever put it on the ballot should reimburses all costs to public. There was no need to expense a special election except the school board and a few other people thought they could sneak it by.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 3, 2016 at 12:15 pm

If these fail to pass, Whoever put it on the ballot should reimburses all costs to public. There was no need to expense a special election except the school board and a few other people thought they could sneak it by.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on May 3, 2016 at 8:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Now that Measures A and C have failed what should be the agenda for the MPCSD Board?

1 – Understand the depth of misunderstanding and mistrust in the community,

2 – Commit to full transparency as they move forward including a redesigned web site that actually includes and makes easy to find all of the financial, performance and union contract information,

3 – Prepare a SINGLE Parcel Tax measure for the November General Election that supersedes ALL of the current parcel taxes and which has a 6 year expiration date,

4 – Commit to doing everything possible within the next six years to creating a Unified Elementary School District serving Woodside, Portola Valley, Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and the adjacent unincorporated areas of San Mateo County.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on May 3, 2016 at 8:46 pm

I personally hope that this serves as a warning that we won't tolerate trying to game the system with special elections and lack of transparency not to mention never ending taxes with no accountability to the voters and tax payers. However I am sure it won't and that our school board will try this again. What we need is a new board that understands fiscal responsibility. I wonder if we will ever know just how much this failed election cost the tax payers, between the special election, the focus groups the lawyers the consultants it surely cost a lot of money and we foot the bill.


 +   12 people like this
Posted by Oversight, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 3, 2016 at 10:07 pm

And thanks again, Stu, for your bravery in standing up to the powers-that-be. I have real hope of reform now. It may be an illusion/delusion, but tonight I'm feeling positive about the process and the potential to improve district governance.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Curious C., a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on May 3, 2016 at 10:23 pm

To the school board:

We will not tolerate "gaming the system"

That includes spending money on a ridiculous election one month prior.
Marketing to parents and ignoring the rest, hoping we don't know about it. No more.
Changing board meeting dates to 1/21 because the teacher's union submitted a request to reopen negotiations.
Priming your own candidates and opening seats when you are ready to make your move.
Refusing to answer emails (Jeff to Peter on the 10 questions and many others) and letting your ego stand in the way of your duty as an elected official.
Sneaking around the bond debt reporting.
Attending to the garden party parents and allow Dr. G to get sucked in to that as well and not given the same weight to those who are not big donors.
Allowing supportmenloparkschools.org to print lies such as "42 teachers will be released" as scare tactics to parents.

No more. This is just the beginning. Our children need to learn integrity more than they need an extra class from a special art docent and the like..... Let's teach them how it's done. No more gaming the system.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer Bestor, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 14, 2016 at 5:45 pm

All, having just visited the Almanac online for an update on Beltramo's closing, I suddenly remembered I'd posted here. Wow. If any of you wonders what online bullying looks like, please read the anonymous posts.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer Bestor, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 14, 2016 at 5:45 pm

Mr. Carpenter, I cited the specific source of my national numbers, the 2015 NEA Rankings and Estimates report. It was easily searchable and available on line. Had you had the courtesy to look at it, the report explicitly excludes capital outlays, interest on school debt, and expenditures on "other" programs (e.g., adult education). These are detailed in the columns on Summary Table J next to that from which I drew my numbers.

Furthermore, No on A+C, the NEA has been working to provide school statistics that are comparable between states for over twenty years. Its numbers tie within $500 to California's Ed-data.org roll-up totals. And those numbers -- for people who are willing to analyze thoughtfully and research year-to-year accounting shifts -- are very accurate.

Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 14, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Mr. Soffer, Do you remember the night of the Allied Arts smackdown? When the Women's Auxiliary announced it would take the Allied Arts proposal straight to the City Council -- rather than suffer any more of the planning commission's efforts? You and your fellow commissioners had put in hundreds of hours trying to navigate between the interests of the Guild and those of its neighbors. Faith in the good intent, if tortuous process, of the unpaid planning commission could have saved Allied Arts lost time, much litigation, and its near-total loss of local support. It is now a ghost of what it was.

That experience should have led to a reasonable faith towards the MPCSD school board -- a similar group of public spirited, well intentioned, unpaid local citizens. Why pile onto the Almanac's discredited cabal theory? (Yes, the one that ultimately led to the Almanac's 'my bad' in unfairly tarring the school board with succession gerrymandering.)

I will be fascinated to see, if the Board is able to bring this back to the ballot in November with a sunset clause, whether everyone who piled on the "process, not product" bandwagon then supports it, or just finds a different set of nits to pick.

Meanwhile, I'm excited that you care about all Menlo Park children, not just MPCSD's. Will you join me in an important drive to give Ravenswood and Redwood City students the revenue stability enjoyed by MPCSD pupils?

Are you aware that two of the districts serving Menlo Park's children had NO property tax at all supporting them for eleven years? Not parcel tax -- they got no basic property tax! Zero. Which threw those districts completely under the fluctuating state revenue bus? And that, going forward, the State will continue to take 75% of it away ... forever?

I've fought for four years to highlight this travesty, including getting many local districts to support a recision of the 2004 Legislative action that perpetrated it. Join now -- it's starting to sink in around the state that, for all the rhetoric around helping disadvantaged kids, California's tax apportionment mechanisms starve them. Two weeks ago I could have cheered when the chair of the State Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee approached me spontaneously about it. Instead of trying to push MPCSD down to the level of two of its four neighboring districts, I've been working long and hard to bring them all up. Join me!

Incidentally, what woke me up to this was volunteering in the Ravenswood district, as I have for many years. I was checking books into the Willow Oaks library when the librarian walked in, crying, in June 2012. She'd been laid off -- along with all other librarians AND computer technicians in the district. The district had been reduced to 100% dependency on direct state funding -- and the state had announced that 40% of that would not arrive until after the end of the school year.

Web Link

That said, Mr. Soffer, mea culpa. I interpreted your statement,"... a step-wide increase which covers any new school children those properties may add to the district," as referring to specific properties generating sufficient property tax to cover the children in those specific properties.

Why? Because (a) new families buying houses and picking up $25,000 tax tabs assume that they are covering the costs of their own children -- and are astonished to learn that only a third of their property tax goes to their school districts compared to 60% in most states, and (b) the reality of Prop 13 taxation is NOT that new revenues cover newcomers.

Instead, Prop 13 forces new revenues to subsidize old "owners of record." For the first thirty years, that was demonstrably old residents, but increasingly it represents rental properties that have been inherited (under Prop 58 from 1986), or transferred under various percentage ownership loopholes. Property tax payments from these properties do not increase. The rental housing, meanwhile, attracts families with school-age children who are entitled to attend district schools.

Example: the closest house to me with school-aged children has two in the local schools. Those parent-homeowners pay $24,567 in General Tax (plus another $1000 in parcel taxes, fees, etc.). The next closest house with school-aged children in the local schools pays 6% of that -- just $1,478 (plus another $1000 in parcel taxes, fees, etc.). That house was inherited and, for many years, rented by an older couple. They died and a family with two kids moved in -- at current rental rates! The fact remains that we need $4 million of NEW local property tax for every new child in the system -- whether they buy in with high property tax bills, or rent in at low ones.

And, finally, why did I point out that New York was (a) your home state and (b) was spending substantially more per schoolchild?

First, because you yourself begin your blog with "Growing up in Brooklyn, NY…" In years of discussing school funding, people without children in the local school system tend to extrapolate heavily from their own childhood experiences and those of their nephews, nieces and close lifelong friends. They rarely, if ever, have a clear understanding of current conditions in local schools.

Second, because comparing California funding to that of Vermont feels like apples to oranges, given the underlying demographics. But New York, like California, has a substantial population of disadvantaged children, who are the most challenging (= expensive) to educate. Yet the state of New York seems to be able to find more -- on average! -- to educate its kids than Menlo Park does.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 14, 2016 at 5:48 pm

Joe G., Please familiarize yourself with how California schools are currently funded and why. A good place to start is the Legislative Analyst's Office "The 2015-2016 Budget: Proposition 98 Education Analysis" white paper, published February 18, 2015. It does an excellent job of reviewing the financial and demographic side of California finance, and provides a number of 2014-2015 metrics that you can use to evaluate existing data on Ed-Data.org.

If you still feel that the State Board of Education and Governor Brown's explicit targeting of marginal state educational funding to the specific designations of "low income" and "English learner" schoolchildren is racist, do let them know. Please copy the Legislative Analyst's Office and the California Department of Education, suggesting they remove the thousands of references to "Low-Income/English-Learner" or "EL/LI" in all documentation of the current Local Control Funding Formula for schools.

Meanwhile, Governor Brown seems to feel that LCFF is doing what he'd intended it to do: channel state revenue to low-income, English-learner school populations, while leaving districts like MPCSD to sort out their school funding via parcel taxes. Or not.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 14, 2016 at 5:50 pm

Time for Change, It is always a delight to 'wreak' of entitlement, especially whilst, presumably, 'reeking' havoc on hollow arguments. Incidentally, I don't have a child in MPCSD schools and haven't for years.

That said, it's always awesome to read what amazingly fabulous parents hide their identities in anonymous blogging! For goodness sake, let us know who you are -- so those of us who use our real names might carefully observe and learn from your example.

Meanwhile, you may want to refer to the California's most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress performance -- 49th nationally in 4th grade reading, 44th in 8th grade reading, 48th in 4th grade math, 41st in 8th grade math. Being in the top 10% of schools that fall in the bottom 20% nationally might give you pause about what schools (top, great, kind, or purposeful) your own kids will get into. Or not.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 14, 2016 at 5:51 pm

Mr. Carpenter, why don't you disclose that the MP Fire District would be a financial winner from that merger of local school districts you continually espouse? A merger would add over $250,000 a year to the Fire District's coffers, of the total $19 million funding loss that would be suffered by the combined school districts.

Basic California school funding mechanisms would repurpose the 'wealthy' districts' property tax to pay the State's obligation to Ravenswood -- $14.2 million of those districts' school property tax towards the State's current $23 million obligation. Furthermore, the combined district would, under LCFF, not be eligible for any concentration grant, losing another $4.9 million of State funding (a loss solely to Ravenswood kids, who would no longer be in a 'concentrated' 97% low-income, English learner district, but instead in a 43% one). All the children, across every one of the five districts, would find themselves worse off.

But more interesting, as you know, is the fact that the State obligation is not actually paid by the State. From page 3 of the Fire District's 2016-17 Budget staff report, you know that it is funded by local property taxes assigned to our county Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund. So that fund benefits from the decrease. And what happens to "excess" ERAF in that fund that isn't sent to the schools? It goes to fire districts, cities and San Mateo County -- as the "ERAF Rebate." (MPFPD has recently been receiving an ERAF Rebate of almost $2M a year of property taxes slotted for "Educational Revenue Augmentation.")

A few years ago I wasted thousands of keystrokes explaining this to you in Town Square! But within a week you were back to advocating for the merger of MPCSD and Ravenswood. And now you've added two more districts! Wasting my time yet again is pointless.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on May 14, 2016 at 7:51 pm

Jennifer,

You seem to enjoy long winded discourse and bring up what you wee as flaws in other peoples arguments, however you missed the point on some pretty straight forward arguments put forth earlier. The board has lied, plan and simple to the residents of Menlo Park and after having lost they continue to do so. Where they can not lie they just avoid answering any questions. I have not seen a response to any of Peter's questions. Fireboard or not, I think they deserve an answer. I think many of us also feel that the school board tried to do an end run around and put a special election on the ballot a few weeks before one that is already scheduled, they hoped to "hide" the election or make sure turn out was low the election from everyone but their supporters. Will we ever know how much that ended up costing the tax payers? Doubtful. They also want a never ending funding stream without having to justify it to those who are writing the checks.

Bottom line is that this board has lost the trust of the community and I will not vote yes for any additional funding until they are replaces with people that have integrity and accountability.

Brian


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on May 14, 2016 at 8:27 pm

Brian,

And the truth is, 1200 more Menlo Park residents voted yes on Measure A than voted no. 60% of the vote.

Despite a smear campaign on Town Square. Despite the Almanac's negative editorial -- which falsely accused the school board of gerrymandering succession. Despite numerous incorrect statements against the measure in the Voter Pamphlet.

The Board hasn't lost the trust of the Menlo Park community. The bully pulpit that Town Square has become does not represent the community.

I'll keep it short. Bye.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on May 14, 2016 at 9:38 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The Board hasn't lost the trust of the Menlo Park community."

Wrong. Elections have consequences. A parcel tax requires 2/3's approval. Neither Measure A or Measure C achieved that mark.

The Board absolute refusal to answer questions and engage in dialogue on these Measures doomed them and will doom any future attempt for new parcel taxes until the Board reaches out to the non-parent taxpayers who pay 80% of the costs of MPCSD.

MPCSD is a PUBLIC school district and it belongs to the PUBLIC, not to the parents of the current students.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Brian, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on May 14, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Jennifer,

And it still lost! Even with the school district trying tp play games with the voters they couldn't pull it off. Now it is turn for the majority of voters to have their say in a real election and I really hope the current school board gets what they deserve


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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