Menlo Park, Portola Valley school parcel tax measures pass easily


Two parcel tax measures -- in the Menlo Park and Portola Valley school districts -- passed easily, according to results released Tuesday night (May 4) by San Mateo County election officials.

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.

How will passage of the taxes affect the districts?

In an e-mail today (May 5), Menlo Park district Superintendent Ken Ranella said: "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."

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.

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 2009-2010 school year and was looking at more cuts of about $550,000 for 2010-11, Ms. Mendelsohn said. The parcel tax, including exemptions from it requested by elderly homeowners, should bring in $345,000, she said.

A set of proposed cuts to be reviewed at a forum this morning (May 6) would reduce district administration spending by about $1.2 million, and keep cuts as far away as possible from the classrooms, Ms. Mendelsohn said. "It's kind of a restructuring," she said.

"The property tax revenues (for the district) are looking sort of flat to down," she added.

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 K-8 school 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.

To view the semi-official results, click here.

Voters can go the county elections Web site, and click on the "Track and Confirm" button to confirm that the elections office received their ballot, according to Warren Slocum, the county's chief elections officer.

For more information on the parcel tax measures, go to the county elections Web site.

Related stories:

Menlo Park City School District to seek $178 parcel tax.

Portola Valley School District puts $168 parcel tax on the ballot.

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Like this comment
Posted by Get Real
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 4, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Looking forward to the result of what seems to be a fairly good turnout by MP voters.

There has been quite a bit of discussion on the measure C threads, much of it productive, some less so. Regardless of the outcome, I hope Yes and No groups accept the results with grace. Thanks to the Almanac for providing this forum that enables discussions of every viewpoint.

Like this comment
Posted by Get Real
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 4, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Congratations to the Yes on C campaign team.  They did an excellent job of presenting their message and obtained support from a large percentage of Menlo Park voters.

Like this comment
Posted by Grateful Neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 4, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Hard times make digging deeper even harder. Many thanks to every taxpayer who voted against their immediate self-interest for the good of the community -- especially those who do not have children in the public schools. You are the real heroes. May the quality education you've supported repay you and yours many fold -- not just in a better educated electorate and in sustained property values, but also, as today's school kids become tomorrow's neighbors, with a well-grounded support system around you.

And many thanks to those who slogged through these comment sections, trying to add light to the heat!

Like this comment
Posted by Happy parent
a resident of Oak Knoll School
on May 4, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Get Real, I must admit to being very pleasantly shocked by the tenor of your summation of the last few weeks. I'm delighted to belong to such a supportive (if occasionally combative) community. Congrats to all who put forth so much time and effort into helping this pass.

Like this comment
Posted by Mel
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 4, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Grateful Neighbor said it so well. Thank you so much to all of you who don't have children in the public schools yet voted for Measure C! I feel incredibly lucky and proud to live in a community that is so supportive of providing a top-notch education for all children, not only those with the means and desire to attend a private school.

Way to go Menlo Park and Atherton!

Like this comment
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Get Real
Never underestimate the power of a Community.
What an achievement for the community, students, parents, teachers and staff, but especially taxpayers of the Menlo Park City School District. Thank you for all your support and thank you for all your extra time and effort in an otherwise time of economic downturn. This only goes to show we can do it here in Menlo Park. Get Real, Don't you feel good about all the students and families who have been supported here, it is a good thing?

Like this comment
Posted by Elizabeth Ouren
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 5, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Thank you to our community for supporting our schools during such difficult economic times! We feel very blessed to be part of such a great community.

Warm Regards,

Elizabeth Ouren

Like this comment
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm

In our democracy, quorum rules. I resent paying over $700 per year, more than any other town, in a community that so ignores the needs & conveniences of residents.
Consolidating all middle school students at the Hillview campus has produced unbearable traffic congestion for downtown & central Menlo residents. We are overrun with cars transporting all 6-8th graders, plus most Menlo School and many St Jos.& SH Prep students. Needing 15 minutes to drive from Hesketh to El Camino on Valparaiso is horrible! Talk about road rage, exhaust fumes contaminating our air, noise, much less a pleasant stroll to town! If I'm not hit by a car while walking, I have to dodge bikes & skateboarders.
I hate paying to support this. Giving MPCSD all the money they ask for makes my quality of life worse. Maybe without it there'd still be traffic gridlock, but at least the extra $60 a month in my budget would let me keep a weekly breakfast out or cable service.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 5, 2010 at 1:36 pm

I wonder if our pubic workers and unions (such as BCPW) will be as gracious and respect the will of voters as Get Real was in the above post?

That was a very classy thing to do, Get Real!

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 5, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Spend, spend, tax, tax, tax it's never ending

Like this comment
Posted by Whatelse
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2010 at 2:56 pm

China will come in for the rescue.
Not for your neighbors.
For the country which everyone seems unconcerned even with bucks.

Like this comment
Posted by Blue Collar Public Worker
a resident of another community
on May 5, 2010 at 7:06 pm

You can count on my open and honest dialog and you can for sure count on it if it's only $175 bucks for 6 or 7 years we're talking about. Even if you are talking about coming after my retirement which is what I think you meant? That is with the caveat that I will fight fairly to the bitter end to protect that benefit for myself and my family. The voters have not spoken yet and you know that and I don't think they ever will, but we shall see, fair question.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 5, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Blue Collar:

you live in the Menlo Park School District?

Like this comment
Posted by Riff Wilkins
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 5, 2010 at 10:26 pm

I really believe Menlo Park schools needs the new parcel tax money. But every time I look at my property tax bill I am reminded of what I see as excessive and unnecessary spending on facilities funded by the last MPSD parcel tax. Some facilities are of course required to accommodate growth, but we taxpayers are footing the bill for far more than is really needed. I would have liked to see more money go toward improving actual education and less to buildings.

Like this comment
Posted by when will it end
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 5, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Expect another parcel tax in about two years. Ken Ranella and the board will consider yesterday's overwhelming Yes vote a mandate to continue raising the taxes. I'm sure he wouldn't mind an excuse to hike his salary even more and to add more minions to his staff!

Like this comment
Posted by Property Tax Payor
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 6, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Riff - I understand your concern, but knowing this budget intimately you can be rest assured that 85%-88% of the budget is being spent for what goes IN these building.(i.e. teachers and improving actual education) Ironically, most of the new building costs are the increase in space that we need for the enrollment growth, but also because these building will be MUCH more efficient, from a utility standpoint, than what we currently have. In addition, Hillview has plans to be taken off the grid. So, long story short, I think it's best we spend a little more for better, more efficient buildings, then continuing with the wasteful portables. Also, as we are seeing more and more, if we want to live in an expensive area, with a very high cost for housing, whether it's parcel taxes or some other property tax, it helps continue to keep the schools at a high level, and that DOES help you and I, and the value of our homes.
"will it end" - enough with Ken's salary, "it is what it is", cutting it by 10% would save us $23K, a negligible amount. This decision should not be about the emotion behind Ken, and his salary, it needs to be based on objective math, and concerns about wasted dollars. Again, being very familiar with the District, this District is run extremely well. You can blame the unions for the teacher salaries, that's another issue, but that is one of the chief reasons for high costs. I won't go there.

Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 6, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Property tax payer -

I appreciate your comments but take issue with your comment regarding When Will It End's point about reducing the Superintendent's salary. You stated that such a reduction "would save us $23K, a negligible amount..."

True enough. When a family's household budget is deeply in the red and saddled with debt, it is pretty rare that cutting a SINGLE expenditure has much of an impact. But when we find ourselves in debt, we stop going out to dinner, stop going out to movies, buy fewer new clothes, etc. Similarly, you might ask, "will saving that 50 bucks really have an impact?"

You see, it's not the single expense that matters, it's the aggregate action that helps. It also sets a tone so every member of the family tightens their belt.

And government is no different. On the national scale, we're not going to find a single expenditure that is going to solve a trillion dollar deficit, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't cut small programs and try to get there. On the state level, we're not going to find a single program to cut that will restore fiscal solvency in Sacramento. So it is with this school district. No single cut or sacrifice looks impressive... that doesn't mean it shouldn't be implemented!

The local taxpayers just stepped up and approved the parcel tax. It would be nice to see the district's adminstration pitch in, too.

Like this comment
Posted by Property Tax Payer
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 6, 2010 at 5:59 pm

All good points "POGO", I do agree with you, and I'm pretty fiscally conservative. I'm just trying to keep the emotional sensitivities out of this conversation. I understand where you are coming from, and I think you are right, it would send the right message. There are so many conversations that could be had about the superintendent's position, it just gets a little complicated, and off topic.(aka 1. Only 4 schools?? Why not 8? 2. Why haven't there been percentage cuts across the board on the administrative side? 3. Unions, and their control of the pensions, tenure, salaries etc. - that's probably most of the issue, that we can't solve here.) So, from my perspective I'm just trying to help solve, what we can honestly solve now, and quickly. I think the parcel tax solved some of the problem, now what needs to take shape are costs going forward, and continued cuts that don't hurt the education of the kids, or make our schools unattractive to outsiders.(still need to have MPCSD as a focused "good thing" to get people to buy our houses!)

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

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