News

Editorial: A reluctant 'no' on school parcel tax measures

 

The Almanac has traditionally supported local school districts' efforts to fortify their funding through parcel taxes – a revenue boost made necessary over the years by increasingly unreliable funding from the state.

That support has been steady, even as we began to see a troubling trend on the part of district leaders to pursue strategies designed to discourage voter participation in tax-measure elections. Strategies such as paying a premium cost for a special mail-only election, rather than placing the measure on the ballot during a regular election (cheaper, and higher voter participation). And targeting only select segments of the community, such as parents of children in the district's schools, with get-out-the-vote campaign material, while keeping a lower profile in the community at large.

This spring the Menlo Park City School District is asking voters to renew an existing parcel tax that expires in mid-2017 (Measure A); and to approve a new tax based on increases in student enrollment (Measure C). Voters in the district – which includes portions of Menlo Park, Atherton and nearby unincorporated areas – have begun receiving their mailed ballots, which must be returned by May 3.

In an unusual turn for a community that has overwhelmingly supported parcel taxes for the schools with little if any resistance, there has been an organized effort opposing the two measures this season. Consequently, what has usually been a low-key campaign resulting in success for the tax effort has turned into a sometimes rancorous debate over the necessity of the taxes and the accuracy of the financial figures the district is using to make its case for the two measures.

While we believe that the revenue that would continue to flow into the district by a renewal of the current parcel tax would be a good investment in the district's schools, a larger issue has derailed our support for these measures. The fatal flaw we find in Measures A and C is that, unlike the tax that will expire next year, these two taxes would be permanent. That would mean that all of the district parcel taxes – a total of five if these two are approved – would never sunset. The district would join the ranks of very few districts in the state that don't allow future voters to decide whether a tax should continue or whether it is no longer justified. And we believe that would be a diminution of public oversight of the public's business – oversight that's necessary in a healthy, open democracy.

Proponents of the measures defend the district's decision not to put a time limit on the taxes, saying that the schools' need for the additional funds is permanent, and that the district and its volunteers shouldn't have to be in a perpetual campaign mode. These are understandable arguments, but don't convince.

Proponents also argue that the school board could choose not to exact the tax any given year, and if the community isn't happy with the board's actions in that regard, others can try to unseat the incumbents by running for election. The problem with that argument is that the school board, following another dismaying trend among public-agency governing boards, appears to have developed into a closed club: When a member decides not to run for re-election, he or she resigns before the term expires and at a point where the board is allowed to appoint a replacement. And that hand-picked new member then has the incumbent's advantage at the ballot box during the next election.

We acknowledge that school board members are putting their hearts and their best efforts into the work of making very good schools great schools, and those efforts are paying off. In recommending a rejection of Measures A and C, we are not denying the need for additional funding to support outstanding teachers and programs, and to offset the costs of higher-than-expected enrollment.

If these measures fail, we encourage the board to go to the voters again, in November or next year before the tax expires. But this time, give the taxes an expiration date – it could be longer than four years. And invite the community – the entire community – to become informed about what the district does, how well it does it, and the need for property owners to continue supporting its efforts through parcel taxes.

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Comments

1203 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Apr 12, 2016 at 7:34 pm

Train Fan is a registered user.

Thank you for this.

In particular, I appreciate the fact that you're shedding light on the contentiousness surrounding the merits of the additional parcel taxes.

While the "no" recommendation is also deeply appreciated, your pointing out the debate does a real service to the democratic process, which works best when differing views are shared and information is accurate and transparent; MPCSD and its pro-tax proponents need to work on the latter two.


Vote NO on Measures A and C


30 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thank you for a thoughtful and difficult decision.

If these Measures fail then I will commit to working with the School Board to develop a comprehensive parcel tax measure which supercedes ALL of the existing parcel taxes and which is subject to voter renewal on a periodic basis.

And in the meantime my wife and I have made a significant donation to the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation to help bridge any funding gap.


10 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 12, 2016 at 10:05 pm

The Almanac,

Thank you for your well-written and thoughtful editorial on these two parcel tax measures.

Having voted YES on all previous tax measures for our schools, it was with a lot of consternation that I voted NO.

If these measures fail, I hope the District does a complete re-assessment and the next time around involves the entire community.


11 people like this
Posted by No on A&C
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 12, 2016 at 11:07 pm


Never heard of a permanent tax?

Voting No


11 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 7:05 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Thank you for this. Hopefully these measures will lose and the board will reassess the way it handles the district's finances and involve the ENTIRE community when it comes time to ask for money again.

Vote NO on A & C.


7 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 13, 2016 at 7:44 am

Already voted NO -- have lost confidence in the superintendent and Board for responsible financial management.


5 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 13, 2016 at 9:21 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

"Proponents also argue that the school board could choose not to exact the tax any given year..."

"If these measures fail, we encourage the board to go to the voters again"

That won't be necessary.

As revenue from ad valorem property taxes rises we should encourage the board to stop collecting all their parcel taxes(currently at $851 and rising).


8 people like this
Posted by Edward Syrett
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 13, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Edward Syrett is a registered user.

I'd like to thank the Almanac's editorial board for this cogent perspective, and thank Mr. & Mrs. Carpenter for their donation the MPAEF.


6 people like this
Posted by Walking Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 1:54 pm

I voted Yes, and find your arguments to be cogent and very much appreciated. I wish more thought and effort had been put into the "Argument Against" and "Response to For" pieces that appeared on the ballot. Also, with all due respect, many of us give generously to MPAEF which does help enrichment but not basic needs, and a call for recognition in this forum saddens me.


4 people like this
Posted by No on A + C
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Thank you for the thoughtful editorial.

MPCSD had proposed (and passed) three permanent parcel taxes prior to measures A+C. I do have to wonder why red flags weren't raised with the previous measaures, and that it took the possibility of five permanent parcel taxes for people to take notice.


13 people like this
Posted by George Takei
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 2:21 pm

This chat room (and it is a chat room) is hilarious. Anyone that thinks this is even close to a transparent, public or democratic discussion is fooling themselves. Of the hundreds of comments I have seen, they are basically coming from 3-4 people (who obviously oppose the measures but still only get one ballot a piece) and even then anyone can comment anonymously and with multiple sign ons.

Train Fan - if you really want transparency, you will put your real name on your comments.

Peter Carpenter - if you want to brag about your donation to the Menlo Park Atherton Education Foundation, then it needs to be at least $5,000,000+ for the schools to offset the revenue loss to the schools with a no vote on these measures.

I'll be voting with my ballot, in support of our community, not on town forum.


7 people like this
Posted by Tell us, please
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Hi George Takei, if you would like to try to persuade me to vote for the Measures, please go ahead, I am listening. I would like to be convinced, because right now I am planning to vote no. Please don't just write this off, we have more than one kid in the district and regularly volunteer, so I mean it when I say I would like to be convinced to vote yes.


8 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 4:06 pm

@George Takei

I love your Sulu character on the old Star Trek episodes. I didn't know you moved from LA to Menlo Park. Welcome to the neighborhood!

And thank you for arguing for transparency, then putting your real name behind your opinion. You didn't use one of those fake names, such as Leonard Nimoy or William Shatner. :-)

The general public welcomes a transparent and public discussion. You're correct they would benefit greatly from the discourse.

At any time, the school board or MPAEF can call a town hall meeting to address community questions and concerns. Even better, they could allot time for both sides of the issue to make their case. I'm sure The Almanac or The Daily Post would agree to moderate the discussion, then let the public decide. The debate could then be put up on YouTube for all voters to be better informed.

Yet, not a peep from the school board nor PTA about an open forum meeting. The reason why everyone discusses this issue on The Almanac is because the district doesn't provide an alternative forum.


7 people like this
Posted by Joe G. (or maybe Bill Shatner)
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Thanks for the thoughtful and articulate editorial. My wife and I completely agree with the points made and thus why we mailed back our ballots with NO votes on these measures.


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 13, 2016 at 4:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As of 1 minute ago, George Takei was not a registered voter in San Mateo County.


7 people like this
Posted by George Takei
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Yes I am.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 13, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Not according to the Elections Office.


5 people like this
Posted by No on A + C
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 5:20 pm

There's a very good reason for remaining anonymous on this forum. If you reveal your real name, you may become the next target like Mr. Carpenter. Or perhaps your children may become targets for retaliation.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 5:28 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Mr Takei:

if you're THIS George Takei: Web Link

you live in New York, not Menlo Park. If you are that George your comments are meaningless.


21 people like this
Posted by Leonard Nimoy
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Apr 13, 2016 at 6:28 pm

Leonard Nimoy is a registered user.

I am opposed to Measures A and C, as I find the math and revenue numbers mentioned by proponents...illogical.

However, I wish proponents no ill will. May they live long and prosper.



8 people like this
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 7:29 pm

This is the key text in the editorial:

"Strategies such as paying a premium cost for a special mail-only election, rather than placing the measure on the ballot during a regular election (cheaper, and higher voter participation). And targeting only select segments of the community, such as parents of children in the district's schools, with get-out-the-vote campaign material, while keeping a lower profile in the community at large."

Kudos, Almanac.


12 people like this
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 7:32 pm

George -

Nice of you to nominate Mr. Carpenter to single-handedly make up for any shortfall to the school district.

Your suggestion might be better directed to the superintendent and the district staff to chip in to help make up for their mismanagement.

And last I heard, I think you made a pretty good living. How much are you ponying up?


6 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 13, 2016 at 8:06 pm

My husband and I have two kids in the schools and one at M-A. We will be voting Yes on A & C and hope others in the community will join us. I looked at their website at Web Link and I was impressed by the number of local community and school leaders that have signed up to endorse and vote for the campaign. These are a lot of really dedicated, smart civil servants who certainly know a lot more about these issues than I do. It includes the ENTIRE city council! So if we vote no, are we essentially disagreeing with ALL of them and saying they don't know what they are talking about? I haven't seen any elected leaders or volunteer leaders opposing this measure. I am not sure why anyone would vote against these measures when essentially they are supporting our schools and all our local leaders are for them. Here's the list of leaders endorsing copy and pasted from the website:

Community Leaders

Rich Gordon, State Assemblymember

Joe Simitian, Santa Clara County Supervisor and Former State Senator

Warren Slocum, San Mateo Board of Supervisors President

Anne Campbell, San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools

Joe Ross, San Mateo County Board of Education, Vice President and Trustee Area Seven

Rich Cline, Councilmember and Mayor

Kirsten Keith, Councilmember and Vice Mayor

Catherine Carlton, Councilmember and former Mayor

Ray Mueller, Councilmember and former Mayor

Peter Ohtaki, Councilmember and former Mayor

Allen Weiner, SUHSD Trustee and Former President

Chris Thomsen, SUHSD Trustee and Former President

Katie Ferrick, Menlo Park Planning Commissioner

Jeff Child, Menlo Park City School District Board President

Stacey Jones, Menlo Park City School District Board Vice-President

Maria Hilton, Menlo Park City School District Board Trustee

Joan Lambert, Menlo Park City School District Board Trustee

Terry Thygsen, Menlo Park City School District Board Trustee

Karen Canty, Former Menlo Park City School District Trustee

Mark Box, Former Menlo Park City School District Trustee

Deborah Fitz, Former Menlo Park City School District Trustee

Scott Hinshaw, Former Menlo Park City School District Trustee

Bruce Ives, Former Menlo Park City School District Trustee

Gordon Lewin, Former Menlo Park City School District Trustee

Carol Orton, Former Menlo Park City School District Trustee

Laura Rich, Former Menlo Park City School District Trustee

Nancy Serrurier, Former Menlo Park City School District Trustee


School Leaders

Michael Moore, Retired Hillview Principal

Ted Schlein, MPAEF Former President

Lynne Young, MPAEF Former President

Peggy Propp, MPAEF Former President

Jill Parker, MPAEF Former President

Steve Hoffmann, MPAEF Former President

Kim Guthrie, MPAEF Former President

Shari Conrad, MPAEF Former President

Scott Lohmann, MPAEF Former President

Gerang Desai, MPAEF Former President

Alison Leupold, MPAEF Former President

Theanne Thomson, MPAEF Former President

Kristin Seuell, MPAEF Former President

Laura Foster, MPAEF Former President

Leigh Flesher, MPAEF Former President

Jill Vizas, Encinal PTO President

May Matsui, Encinal PTO Co-Vice President

Stephanie Chen, Oak Knoll PTO President

Tamara Russel, Oak Knoll PTO Communications Chair

Janelle McCombs, Oak Knoll PTO Vice President

Kate Kennedy, Hillview PTO Co-President

Jody Buckley, Hillview PTO Co-Vice President

Gina Skinner, Hillview PTO Recording Secretary

Ken Wang, Hillview PTO Financial Secretary

Elizabeth Ouren, Former Encinal PTO President

Carla Posthauer, Former Laurel PTO President

Debi Rice, Former Laurel PTO President

Tracy Watt, Former Oak Knoll PTO President

Carolyn Bowsher, Former Oak Knoll PTO President

Jill Kispert, Former Hillview PTO Co-President


19 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 13, 2016 at 8:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"So if we vote no, are we essentially disagreeing with ALL of them and saying they don't know what they are talking about?"

No, if you vote NO you are exercising your right to make an independent judgement based on the facts.

No local elected official, myself excepted, is willing to challenge the School Board because to do so is to incur the wrath of the "school community".


11 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 8:15 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Parent:

so, politicians did the politically expedient thing and and endorsed these measures. Here's a novel thought, how about you think for yourself and look at the actual facts that have been presented on this web site. I know it requires you to use critical thinking, but the people that are capable of affording Menlo Park or Atherton should be capable of critical thought.

The FACTS don't support these measures. Especially since they will be permanent.

Vote NO on A & C.


19 people like this
Posted by Endorsing yourself
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 8:56 pm

"Here's the list of leaders endorsing..."

A lot of those "leaders" are associated with the school and foundation.

Gee, people who created the measures are supporting the measures.

And the others are politicians; like Mr. Carpenter said, they didn't want to incur the wrath of the "school community".


18 people like this
Posted by Tell us, please
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 13, 2016 at 10:41 pm

Sorry, I'm not going to vote for something just because it's been endorsed by a list of names. While I know and respect folks on that list, my mom must have yelled at me too many times, "if all your friends are jumping off a cliff you want to do it too?"


8 people like this
Posted by No on A&C
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 11:45 pm


Dear Parent,

With all due respect, They blew it when they made them permanent. A bad word in a tax code.

My kids went to Menlo Park schools 25 years ago before the Ivy League upgrades. They are smart, well rounded, and contributing members of society.

There are plenty of private schools around if you prefer something fancier.


Like this comment
Posted by Tell us, please
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 14, 2016 at 6:15 am

@Parent, my apologies, that was rude. Thank you for expressing your views. I did go to the website again and saw that they now have an FAQ which I found useful. I don't think it was up when I checked previously. I hope those who have not yet voted and are looking for more information will read it. I find it frustrating that this information is not better publicized and was not put out there at the time the special election was announced. I do still have some questions after reading the FAQ, here's one:

Did the expiring parcel tax include an inflation adjustment? If no, I think it is misleading to say that Measure A simply continues the expiring tax.


Like this comment
Posted by Facts Please
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 14, 2016 at 9:04 am

If these permanent parcel taxes pass, does it mean that the school district won't or can't try to get another parcel tax? I haven't seen that question asked or answered anywhere, including the website. I don't understand what advantage it is for taxpayers to pass a permanent property tax without knowing any specific details of where and how the money will be spent, and whether there could eventually be six or seven or eight & property taxes for the school district. Is there any limit to school taxes in Menlo Park? How will we know when the operating budget is adequate?


1 person likes this
Posted by Mocsd Parent2
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 14, 2016 at 9:24 am

A good rebuttal in the Almanac to this editorial should be read.
See:
Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Elementary School Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 14, 2016 at 9:45 am

As a parent with two children in MPCSD schools, I want to thank 'YES on A and C' for factual and reasonable information regarding how our highly acclaimed MPCSD board functions. I am disappointed about how the previous commentary, has confused the facts and mislead the Almanac and their readers. These objectionable posts have tried to discredit the Menlo Park City School District, a main pillar of our city, providing the best education possible for our children. I'd ask voters to please be sure to educate yourselves about the real issues before voting, and you will see how the future of our MPCSD schools depends upon funding from these measures. I highly recommend that you go to the website here to search for answers to any questions. Web Link

Please vote YES to support Menlo Park students, and continue to invest in the future of our wonderful community.

Thank you!


6 people like this
Posted by No on A + C
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 14, 2016 at 9:48 am

@Facts please

You can read the other almanac article where the district says that further parcel taxes are on the table if needed. And judging by the way they spend money and previous history (this is the 6th parcel tax + 2 bonds they've asked for since 2000), it's an inevitability without making changes in their spending habits.

Web Link

"Measure C will rise and fall with the number of students, but is capped at 213 additional students, the number expected to enroll by the 2019-20 school year. District officials say at that point if enrollment increases continue as predicted and revenues are not keeping up, they could have to ask for a new parcel tax."


6 people like this
Posted by Facts Please
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 14, 2016 at 12:33 pm

OMG! You mean if we vote Yes on A and B for two permanent parcel taxes there could be ANOTHER parcel tax?!?! My head is spinning!! I support public schools -- my kids are in school -- but it will be a long time before I'm over 65 and this is just unsustainable.

We have a high-performing school district, MAYBE because the schools are unusually good or maybe because we are intelligent people with intelligent children. I can't believe things are so bad that children's futures are hanging in the abyss. Why would we create a school district with a license to keep spending and no accountability?


8 people like this
Posted by Drama Queens
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 12:46 pm

The sheer drama inherent to the statements by the proponents: their constant appeals to emotion and the sanctimony of "In the name of all that is good in this world, it's for the kids!!!" should make any rational voter take pause.

The School Board, a relatively constant "in-crowd" over the last 10+ years, needs to start playing a different tune.

I don't question their motives or the nobility of their volunteerism.

I question their methods and impressive arrogance.


6 people like this
Posted by No Easy Solutions
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 10:13 pm

Voted No. Primarily because of lack of transparency and accountability.

Be honest and open, and convince me that the money is really needed vs trying to get it passed via a special election.

I encourage other voters to vote "No" as this does not hurt the school immediately per others' research that property tax revenue is rising faster than enrollment. The school board can always bring up another measure in the future when they have fully disclosed their finances and have an open dialogue with the community on why.


28 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 15, 2016 at 12:32 pm

My vote is No, because of the no sunset clause; and there should be limits on simply, spend, spend, spend, for the sake of it.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 18, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are ALL the school parcel taxes passed in 2015 in California - NONE is permanent:

Election results, 2015

School parcel taxes
Ballot Measure: County: Outcome: Yes (%): No (%): Amount: Expires: Turnout:
Campbell Union School District Parcel Tax, Measure B (May 2015) Santa Clara County Approved 7,237 (67.56%) 3,475 (32.44%) $49/parcel 8 Yrs 33.47%

Las Virgenes Unified School District Parcel Tax, Measure E (November 2015) Los Angeles County Approved 3,252 (76.63%) 992 (23.37%) $98/parcel 12 years 19.3%

Nicasio School District Parcel Tax Increase, Measure A (May 2015) Marin County Approved 134 (70.90%) 55 (29.10%) $573.46/parcel 10 Yrs 46.67%

Palo Alto Unified School District Parcel Tax Increase, Measure A (May 2015) Santa Clara County Approved 13,903 (77.34%) 4,073 (22.66%) $758/parcel 6 Yrs 33.47%

San Carlos Elementary School District Parcel Tax Increase, Measure P (May 2015) San Mateo County Approved 4,656 (68.3%) 2,163 (31.7%) $246.6/parcel 6 Yrs 40.4%

San Marino Unified School District Parcel Tax Continuation, Measure E (March 2015) Los Angeles County Approved 2,131 (75.62%) 687 (24.38%) $865/parcel 6 Yrs 29.3%

San Ramon Valley Unified School District Parcel Tax Renewal, Measure A (May 2015) Contra Costa County Approved 19,618 (74.98%) 6,548 (25.02%) $144/parcel 9 years 29.46%

Santa Cruz City Elementary School District Parcel Tax, Measure P (November 2015) Santa Cruz County Approved 8,499 (76.60%) 2,596 (23.40%) $105 per parcel 8 years 28.4%

Santa Cruz City High School District Parcel Tax, Measure O (November 2015) Santa Cruz County Approved 15,784 (71.63%) 6,251 (28.37%) $72 per parcel 8 years 30.8%

Union Elementary School District Parcel Tax Renewal, Measure B (November 2015) Santa Clara County Approved 5,454 (74.77%) 1,840 (25.23%) $96 per parcel 10 years 33.33%

**********

The longest was for 12 years and it was for $98/parcel.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 18, 2016 at 2:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The proponents state that "Measure A does not increase taxes. "



BUT

1 - If Measure A fails then your taxes would go down

2 - If Measure A passes then your taxes would increase every year forever
-"adjusted annually for inflation".


10 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 18, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Since today is day we file our taxes....another FAQ answer the proponents get wrong is they say "Parcel taxes are tax-deductible for most taxpayers."

Property taxes are only tax deductible if they are based on the assessed property value. By definition, parcel taxes are NOT assessed on property value. They are assessed per parcel, even if the value of the parcel is $0.

That makes parcel taxes NOT tax deductible for anyone.

Source: TurboTax
Web Link

"School taxes are deductible if they're based on the assessed value of the property."


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 18, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The proponents of Measures A and C seem be unaware of the tax laws.

A widely circulated proponent email is signed by an individual who uses the title "Laurel School Art in Action Coordinator".

School Art in Action a superb local organization founded by Judy Sleeth.

It is also a 501c(3) organization that has just placed its tax exempt status at risk by having one of its representative make the following statement:

" Please support our MPCSD schools by voting YES to both and getting into the mail right away. "


Here is the law:


"Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes."


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 18, 2016 at 5:02 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I note that The MPAEF is also a California non-profit, public benefit corporation. It is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c) (3) of the US Internal Revenue Code.


Hopefully they are not also engaging in prohibited political activity.

We are all entitled to express our own opinions but we are not allowed to use tax exempt dollars for such expression.


2 people like this
Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 18, 2016 at 6:32 pm

Peter, all of the Art in Action folks at Laurel are volunteers who give a lot of time and effort to our kids. I really doubt that whatever email was sent by the individual, who happens to be an AIA coordinator, was "made on behalf of the organization" Art in Action or intended as such.


8 people like this
Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 18, 2016 at 6:56 pm

Voting for a permanent tax on other people who cannot afford it and likely don't have children in the school system is unconscionable. We voted NO.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 18, 2016 at 8:01 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Train Fan:

even if she did break the law, good luck getting our DA to do anything about it. Folks know he won't so they pull this kind of illegal stuff without worry of prosecution. And our state Attorney General? Next life. She's too busy running for the Senate.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 19, 2016 at 12:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Measure C would add $2.20 to the tax on each of the 7867 parcels in the District for each "new student".

The District's policy on Attendance of Non-resident Students into the Menlo Park City School District states:

"General Condition:
1. Tinsley transfers according to the court order are automatically approved.
2. No other interdistrict transfer requests will be approved except for:
a. Extreme hardship or health reasons
b. Children of employees (0.5 FTE) of the Menlo Park City School District
......"

Now imagine that the District has just hired a new half time (0.5 FTE) employee who resides outside the District and it turns out has two elementary school age children (note that the District would have been prohibited by law from inquiring about either the marital status or parent status of any applicant prior to making a job offer). Suddenly every property owner in the District must now pay $4.40 per year plus inflation for the education of these two new students. And the parent/employee pays no property or parcel taxes to the District and the cost of their children's education is not considered part of their pay or benefits nor is it included in their taxable income.

This is just an example of how the "simple" $2.20 per parcel per new student would have unintended? consequences.


Like this comment
Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 19, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Peter, was there clarification that the "new student" counts for Measure C purposes do in fact include Tinsley transfers (where the district gets 70% of the funding for the student) and other interdistrict transfers?


Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 19, 2016 at 1:11 pm

currently ok to deduct parcel tax.

Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 19, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter, was there clarification that the "new student" counts for Measure C purposes do in fact include Tinsley transfers "


I have seen no such clarification.

In fact I have seen no attempt by the Board, the District or the proponents to answer any of the questions that have been raised. It appears that the proponents' initial strategy was to hope nobody except pro-parents voted and then, when the Measures became controversial, their strategy switched to seeking out only Yes voters.

What a democracy needs instead is full participation by well informed voters.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 19, 2016 at 4:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"currently ok to deduct parcel tax."

That only works if you have sufficient taxable income from which to deduct these taxes. Unfortunately some property owners on fixed incomes will not meet that income level ad they will have to pay the full cost of these taxes. As noted parcel taxes are inherently regressive and this lack of real tax deductibility for low income people simply makes them even more regressive.


Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on Apr 19, 2016 at 7:02 pm

> That only works if you have sufficient taxable income from which to deduct these taxes.

This is certainly true. Also if you are an individual who pays the AMT, the entirety of the property taxes inclusive of parcel taxes will be excluded from being deductible.

My only point was to address the incorrect assertion above that parcel taxes because they are not ad valoriem are not deductible which turns out not to be the case based on the IRS' letter to the FTB. I'd hate to see people skipping taking a deduction to which they are legally entitled because of an erroneous report.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2016 at 11:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

[Removed for repetitive posting.]


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Why are the proponents of Measures A and C unwilling to answer the many questions that have been posed about these Measures?


5 people like this
Posted by Because Silence Can Be Golden
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Enough voters who do not read much may vote for the measures - figuring they won't (directly) pay anything (renters) or much of anything (homeowners) and thinking that more money for schools is generally a good thing. Answering questions will not help get these measures passed.


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Let's recap what is at stake here:

Current FOUR parcel taxes = $851.56/parcel
Current 2005 Bond repayment = $151.02/parcel

Measure A = would add $23.00 in 2016/17 in lieu of a current parel tax which is due to expire

Measure C = would add $468.00

Total amount if A and C are approved = $1495.58 PLUS about 16% of your basic property taxes.

And these FIVE parcel taxes would all be forever.

And these FIVE parcel taxes all have automatic annual increases.


2 people like this
Posted by Present
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 20, 2016 at 8:33 pm

Present is a registered user.

Peter - you are wrong. I suggest you read the full text of the measures and would request you issue a corrected statement.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 20, 2016 at 8:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please be so kind as to point out any specific errors in my posting.


11 people like this
Posted by No on Measures A & C
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 21, 2016 at 12:30 am

Thank you Almanac for your evaluation of these poorly written measures. We will be voting NO on these measures and I encourage others to read the recommendation so you see why a NO is the right vote.


15 people like this
Posted by Ally
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 21, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Thank you for clarifying Peter. So, how do folks feel about approaching the school board to ammend this section of the
District's policy on Attendance of Non-resident Students into the Menlo Park City School District?

b. Children of employees (0.5 FTE) of the Menlo Park City School District
......"

Bringing your children to your district is a privlege, not a right, even under the Allen Bill, I believe.

Why don't we consider changing it to children of 1.0 employees who are tenured or who have taught for 5+ years. I can tell you that with the top salaries in the area, this perk of bringing one's children's to the district, is not needed to attract talent.

I am going to inquire with the district just how many students we are talking about at 17K. Please like this post if you are interested in approaching the board with this suggestion.


18 people like this
Posted by Ally
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 21, 2016 at 7:30 pm

Thank you for clarifying Peter. So, how do folks feel about approaching the school board to ammend this section of the
District's policy on Attendance of Non-resident Students into the Menlo Park City School District?

b. Children of employees (0.5 FTE) of the Menlo Park City School District
......"

Bringing your children to your district is a privledge, not a right, even under the Allen Bill, I believe.

Why don't we consider changing it to children of 1.0 employees who are tenured or who have taught for 5+ years. I can tell you that with the top salaries in the area, this perk of bringing one's children's to the district, is not needed to attract talent.

I am going to inquire with the district just how many students we are talking about at 17K. Please like this post if you are interested in approaching the board with this suggestion.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 22, 2016 at 8:03 am

Current 2005 Bond repayment = $151.02/parcel?
Bond debt service is an ad valorem tax. I.E. based upon assessed value. The total debt service for MPCSD bonds, collected from property owners in 2014/2015, was $6.1 million. Those property taxes, more than $2,ooo per student, are not reflected in per pupil expenditures.


72 people like this
Posted by Alex
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 22, 2016 at 12:49 pm

The school district has succumbed to what economists label "regulatory capture." That is when a regulatory/oversight agency (i.e. the school board) whose job is to look out for the public interest (i.e. the overall community and taxpayers) is instead dominated by a special interest group (i.e. parents). That special interest group has its own agenda separate from the general public.

In one way, the goals are aligned: provide a rich educational experience for students. In another way they are not: quality at a high cost. The public and parents have different perspectives on what is reasonable.

We see cases of regulatory capture all the time in government, such as the PUC being too lenient with PG&E or city planning commissions too friendly with developers. It occurs because one group spends a lot of effort and money trying to influence a government decision making body. That effort usually pays off in subtle or overt influence over who gets to serve on the board. And that's how we usually arrive at regulatory capture.

In a school board case, the parents are very active in electioneering around school board positions. The general public is less so. The parents almost always get their preferred candidate elected.

I've met with a number of board members and district parents. I can truly say they are dedicated to the children and have the best intentions in mind. However, their policy proposals diverge from the community's policy preference of quality education at a cost the community deems fair.

Homeowners have to pay taxes for high school, community college, healthcare district, fire, city, county, state, and federal agencies. All these agencies deserve more funding to ensure they deliver higher quality services. The limiting factor is that taxpayers are not an infinite source of money. After taxes, they need money left over for their own mortgage, utilities, expenses, and savings.

The school district will not fall apart if both these parcels fail. The school board will adapt. They will find new ways to improve efficiency, while keeping quality high.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 25, 2016 at 8:46 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

MPCSD makes a huge issue of revenue per student but sadly it has a very deceptive manner of counting its revenue.

Here is the bond revenue that MPCSD has received in recent years:

"To fund MPCSD’s facilities expansion and improvements, our voters have overwhelmingly approved three bond measures: a $22 million bond measure in 1995 with 82% voter approval (the “1995 Bonds”), a $91.1 million bond measure in 2006 with 70.6% voter approval (the “2006 Bonds”) and a $23 million bond measure in 2013 with 75.3% approval (the “2013 Bonds”)."

This $146 million in revenue and its repayment NEVER shows up in the calculation of revenue per student or as debt retirement payments by property owners.

Why? Because:


"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"

So 1 - the voters approve the bonds
2 - the district gets the cash up front
3 - the students get dramatically improved facilities from all of this money
4 - every year the property owners pay the COUNTY to retire the debt so the DISTRICT ignores those significant payments as current year revenue.
5 - the district calculates revenue per student without even acknowledging in a footnote either the bond revenue or the property taxes paid to retire that debt
6 - and then the district claims that it is underfunded !!

Excuse me !!


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 25, 2016 at 9:29 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

There are usually matching funds from the proceeds of State Bonds. The wording of Measure W mentions state matching funds. I am researching how much the District received from that source, and how they account for debt service on those bonds. Clearly the MPCSD students benefit every year from the use of those matching funds to dramatically improve their facilities. It should also be reflected in total revenue per student.

Answers to debt service and matching funds questions from Ahmad Sheikholeslami
Chief Business and Operations Officer Menlo Park City School District

Hi Jack,

At this time the State program does not have funds for matching Modernization or New Construction funding. There appears to be a ballot measure for a State Bond program in November 2016 election. If that measure passes and we meet the program requirements we will submit for funds which for our project under Measure W. We have estimated that the project would be eligible for Modernization funds in the amount of $1M. But because there is no program at this time we have not included those monies in our 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


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 26, 2016 at 7:25 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And here is what is coming next:

"Piedmont Highlander

Budget to become leaner over the next three years
by Claire Valva | April 25, 2016 | in News | No Comments

Over the next three years, PUSD will make cuts to the budget as a result of a California State Teachers’ Retirement System [CalSTRS] funding increase that began in 2014. This increase will cost $735,000 over the 2014-15 to 2016-17 school years, according to a PUSD budget update.

In order to bring CalSTRS to full funding, AB 1469, which was signed in 2014 by Governor Jerry Brown, increases rates of pension contributions over the next few years. As a result, the district has started deficit spending, and will make cuts to the PUSD program over the next three years.

“We can either get more money or spend less money, and it has been a combination of both of those things,” PUSD superintendent Randall Booker said. “We need to decrease our expenditures, and that is really hard when 90 percent of our budget is people."


Like this comment
Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 26, 2016 at 8:03 am

Re the bond revenue/debt service, shouldn't we compare apples to apples? Do other school districts count things the same way as MPCSD? If so I don't think we should fault the administration for following standard practices.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 26, 2016 at 8:10 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Do other school districts count things the same way as MPCSD"

Who knows - The District and the Board are attempting to run a stealth election and have consistently refused to answer such questions.

And "just because the other kids do it" has never been a very good excuse.

We are talking about $146 million in bond debt and the District acts as if that debt does not exist and the students do not benefit from the use of those bond funds. Yet every year every property owner has to pay to help retire that debt.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 26, 2016 at 10:57 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

It was not my intent to fault the administration for following standard practices.
My intent was to make voters aware of the true cost of education. My interest goes far beyond the MPCSD, it is nationwide.

The issue of state matching funds is another area where opaqueness prevails over transparency. Debt service on the state bonds used for those matching funds is not reflected in cost per pupil data. Nor is the financial benefit of the district's property tax exemption.


2 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 26, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Here's $15.4 million in state matching funds received by MPCSD. The bonds which funded these grants are likely still being repaid. I have not finished looking.


Second Priority Funding Round
December 15, 2010
Web Link
SAN MATEO MENLO PARK CITY ELEMENTARY 50/68965-00-002 New Construction $6,696,187.00
SAN MATEO MENLO PARK CITY ELEMENTARY 50/68965-00-003 New Construction $2,315,699.00
SAN MATEO MENLO PARK CITY ELEMENTARY 57/68965-00-005 Modernization $685,556.00


School Facility Program Priority Funding Apportionments
June 27, 2012
Web Link
SAN MATEO MENLO PARK CITY ELEMENTARY 50/68965-00-004 New Construction $2,701,738.00

Web Link
Table 1. Grant Apportionments: July 1, 2000 – June 30, 2001
County/District Modernization State Share District Share Total Project Cost
Menlo Park City Elementary $1,457,349.00 $384,952.00 $1,842,301.00

Modernization Projects funded out of Proposition 1D by District
from the January 24, 2007 SAB through March 25, 2009
Menlo Park City Elementary 57/68965-00-004 $1,559,850 12/10/2008


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 1, 2016 at 9:31 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Our citizen tax expert, Jack Hickey, has discovered exactly how the MPCSD is involved in setting property tax to pay off the District's huge bond debt:

"MPCSD calculates the amount needed to service their debt, and sends a request for levy and all the bond information to the Controller, who then establishes the tax rate."

So the District KNOWS EXACTLY how much property owners will pay each year to service this debt yet the District neither acknowledges those property tax payments in its budget nor does it include those payments in calculating revenue per student.

Regardless of "how others do it" why is the District not more transparent on this huge revenue source?


Like this comment
Posted by Assembly candidates
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2016 at 2:24 pm

As soon as this vote is over, the Almanac better hurry up with its recommendation for State Assembly. Voting in the June 7 election sill begin shortly.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 1, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

I sent the following to Ahmad Sheikholeslami
Chief Business and Operations Officer
Menlo Park City School District:

"Ahmad, Matt Slaughter of the Controllers Office sent me the levies and tax rate for all SMC school districts for 2014-2015, and 2015-2016.
I would like an electronic copy of the document you sent to the controller which establishes the levy for MPCSD.
Or, a link to it on the district website."

Matt Slaughter told me that the paper request setting the levy, which they get from the school districts, is about 3/4" thick. It contains the bond documents and related information.

On a separate note, I discovered that Sequoia Union High School District had a bond debt service in 2015/2016 of $31.30 Million, which is $3,950.57 per ADA.
The posterchild district is San Mateo Union High School District, which had debt service of $76.70 Million and $9,746.74 per ADA.

I have suggested a sale-leaseback with sale proceeds used to retire the debt. But, I doubt if the properties would bring in enough to do that. That way, lease payments could be properly reported in expenditures.

For now, just say NO on Measures A and C.





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