News

Fight on its hands: School district asks voters to approve two parcel taxes

 

For decades, voters in Menlo Park and Atherton have reliably approved every school finance measure put before them. This year, however, as the Menlo Park City School District asks for two parcel taxes to be approved, the district appears to have a fight on its hands.

According to state data, since 1990, the Menlo Park City School District has asked voters to approve three bond measures and six parcel taxes. All of the measures surpassed 70 percent "yes" votes, with three of them gaining the approval of more than 80 percent of the voters.

In the neighboring Las Lomitas School District, all measures put before the voters since 1990 have also been approved.

This year, however, a campaign is being waged against two parcel tax measures proposed by the Menlo Park City School District.

Ballot measures

The two measures appear on a special San Mateo County May 3 election ballot. Each must win the approval of at least 66.7 percent of the voters to pass. Both would annually be adjusted upward by the increase in the Bay Area consumer price index, and both offer a permanent exemption for those 65 or older.

According to the language of both measures, the parcel tax money can be spent only for teachers, to maintain low student-to-teacher ratios, to preserve "comprehensive educational programs" and, if money remains, for purchasing classroom equipment, supplies and materials. None of the money can be spent on administration costs.

Measure A

Measure A would replace a parcel tax due to expire at the end of June 2017 with an identical tax but without an expiration date. The district currently has three other parcel taxes with no expiration dates.

The expiring parcel tax is currently $201.38 a year, providing about $1.58 million a year to the district. It was originally passed in 2010 and can increase annually by the amount of the Bay Area consumer price index.

The purpose of Measure A is described in the ballot measure language as maintaining "existing small class sizes, high quality teachers and comprehensive academic programs." If approved, the tax will go into effect in July 2016 and the expiring parcel tax will end a year early.

The expiring tax had a similar purpose but added language about dealing with "deep state budget cuts and growing local enrollment."

Measure C

Measure C is directly tied to increases in student enrollment. It proposes an annual $2.20-per-parcel tax for each student who enrolls beyond the district's current 2,938 students. If the student count in the district rises by 71 students, the increase predicted for next school year, the tax would be $156.20. The measure has a cap of 213 additional students, or $468.60, plus the annual increase in inflation.

Because Measure C is totally dependent on enrollment, the parcel tax total could vary year to year. If the 71-student prediction is correct, and both measures are approved, the 2017-18 tax bill per parcel for all five parcel taxes would be $1,007.80, plus the increase in inflation from 2016.

Property owners in the school district now pay four parcel taxes, including the tax which is about to expire. They appear as one on tax bills, and total $851.60 for the 2015-16 tax year.

The maximum parcel tax with both measures and with 213 additional students, is $1,320.20 per parcel per year, plus the amount of any inflation.

District officials say they crafted Measure C this way to combat a problem they had with the expiring parcel tax measure. Because it was a flat rate, yet enrollment was projected to go up annually, in order to fund later years' projected enrollment, the parcel tax had to bring in more money than was needed in early years. That surplus was then saved to be spent in later years, when the parcel tax did not bring in enough to pay for additional students.

The estimate of the increase in the number of students that the 2010 parcel tax was designed to compensate for turned out to be low. The district got a new projection in 2015 from Enrollment Projection Consultants (a firm that did both studies). That projection shows that enrollment, instead of leveling off and eventually decreasing, is expected to continue increasing through 2025, when it will reach about 3,200 students.

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.

The issues

The school district says it cannot continue its existing programs without additional funding. Figures provided by the district show that between the 2005-06 school year and the 2014-15 school year, the district's revenue per student, adjusted for inflation, has decreased by $465 per student. The district uses the Bay Area consumer price index to measure inflation. That index rose 23.4 percent from 2005 to 2014.

At the same time, district figures show its Academic Performance Index (API) rose by 41 points between 2005 and 2013 (the last year these tests were used). District representatives say they educate their students at a lower cost than any other nearby district that is funded in the same way, and the students have similar test scores.

The 2015-16 figures make it appear the district is doing much better in terms of revenue per student, but according to Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's chief business and operations officer, the district last year received considerable one-time state revenues, which increased the per-student spending to $14,532 per student. Without the one-time funds, Mr. Sheikholeslami said, the per-student spending for 2015-16 would be $13,886.

Other districts

State figures show that in 2014-15 (the latest year for which state figures are available), other nearby community funded (formerly known as basic aid) districts had considerably higher revenue per student, ranging from a high of $21,533 in the Woodside School District to a low of $16,584 in the Palo Alto Unified School District, compared with $13,745 in the Menlo Park City School District.

All of these districts have lower parcel taxes than the Menlo Park district, but all have higher per-student property taxes, and all the others except Palo Alto have higher per-student donations. The Palo Alto and Las Lomitas districts also get additional income from renting surplus property.

"We feel like we're delivering a great value to the community," school board member Terry Thygesen said.

Opponents argue that the district should instead be compared with other similarly sized Bay Area districts, such as San Carlos Elementary School District, Burlingame Elementary School District or San Bruno Park Elementary School District, which have much lower per-pupil costs ranging from $10,149 in San Carlos to $9,043 in San Bruno Park. But the district points out that all the districts used by the opponents for comparison are primarily state-funded "revenue limit" districts, not community funded districts such as Menlo Park, making for an "apples to oranges" comparison.

Revenue increases vs. student enrollment increases

The opponents of the tax argue that the district does not need the money. In their ballot argument against Measure A, they say district revenues rose $18.2 million while the number of students increased by 772 students between 2005 and 2014.

But district officials argue the revenue number is incorrect ($4 million too high) and leaves out an important factor: inflation. The figures are wrong, they say, because for many years the district used accounting practices, which officials say were approved by the county and state, that showed the Menlo Park district's parcel tax revenues not as general fund revenues, but as transfers from one school fund to another.

In 2014-15, the district changed to a more transparent form of accounting, also state- and county-approved, that showed the parcel tax as general fund revenue. That means that figuring an increase in revenues between any year before 2014-15 would show a several-million-dollar increase in revenue that doesn't really exist.

No expiration date

Opponents also do not like the permanent nature of the tax. "I am offended that this parcel tax is forever," said Atherton resident Peter Carpenter, a board member of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. He said that by not putting an expiration date on the parcel tax, the district is "presuming what the community wants."

"You need to go back to the voters," Mr. Carpenter said.

But the district argues that since they are funding long-term needs, good business practices say the funding should be long-term. "When we know something is going to be an ongoing need, we're not going to be disingenuous with the community," Ms. Thygesen said.

She said that if voters are unhappy with the amount of the parcel tax in the future (the amount, up to the set maximum, must be set each year by the school board) then they can vote board members out of office.

But opponents argue that on most local school boards, members who don't plan to run for re-election tend to resign before their terms expire, allowing the board to appoint a replacement who then runs as an incumbent with an advantage over any challenger.

Special election

Opponents also question why the district scheduled a special election instead of putting the measure on either the June primary or the November general election ballot.

County election officials say that while it is nearly impossible to predict the final cost of an election because so many variables are involved, the upcoming election will probably cost the district at least $83,000, which is what its 2010 parcel tax election cost. Because election costs are pro-rated among participating jurisdictions, holding the election in June could have reduced the cost as much as 50 percent, and holding it as part of the general election in November could have saved an additional 50 percent, election officials said.

School board president Jeff Child said the May 3 date was chosen for the election both to make it easier to know how much money the school had while hiring new teachers and to make it easier on the volunteers leading the campaign, who are parents and often very busy with school activities in the last weeks of school.

He said that the district has also had very high voter turnout in special elections. In the May 2010 election, 47.6% of registered voters actually voted, he said, compared to the June 2012 Presidential Primary Election, where only 36.5% of registered voters in the county voted.

District officials thought the May election might lead to "better representation by all voters," Mr. Child said.

Quality of education

Both opponents and proponents say that in the end, the argument comes down to whether the community wants to fund the type of education that Menlo Park City School District offers its students.

The district's teachers have the highest average salary in San Mateo County, at $100,890 in 2014-15, according to state figures. The lowest is Bayshore Elementary district, with a $59,409 average salary.

"The community has a choice before them right now," Ms. Thygesen said. "Do they want to continue funding the schools the way they are now?"

Mr. Carpenter agrees. "You've built a richer and richer program for students, and at some point the community has to say, can we afford it?" he said.

Another election?

If the measure doesn't pass, Superintendent Maurice Ghysels said, "everything's on the table." The district could consider a hiring freeze, elimination of programs, reducing employee salary and benefits, and layoffs.

Opponents argue that the district could craft a new measure that speaks to some of their objections and schedule another election as soon as November. Mr. Carpenter said he could support a measure that consolidated all existing parcel taxes and had an expiration date.

But district officials say it would be almost impossible to schedule another election in time to qualify for the November ballot.

Mr. Child said the district spent almost a year preparing for the current election. Before holding another election, "I think we've got to figure out why didn't it pass," he said. The district would want to hold public meetings to find out what would be supported, he said.

Because a measure would need to be put on the ballot 90 days in advance, the district would not have much time to talk to the community before that deadline, especially with many people gone over the summer.

How to vote in special election

How to vote in special election

San Mateo County started mailing ballots and voter information April 4 to registered voters in the Menlo Park district and will continue mailing the ballots through April 18, the Elections Office says.

For the votes to be counted, the ballots must be mailed and postmarked on or before May 3 and must be received by the Elections Office no later than Friday, May 6.

Voters have the option to deliver the ballots to the Registration & Elections Division's 24-hour ballot drop box at 40 Tower Road in San Mateo by 8 p.m. on Election Day (May 3) or to Menlo Park City Hall, 701 Laurel St., by 5:30 p.m. on Election Day.

Voters may also 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.

Voters who have not received a ballot by April 18 should contact the Registration & Elections Division at (650) 312-5222 or by email: registrar@smcare.org.

At ShapeTheFuture.org, registered voters may track their ballots by clicking on the "Track My Ballot" link under the "Voters" section of the home page.

Video statements

A video with statements by opponents and proponents of the two parcel taxes was put together by the MidPen Media Center.

Comments

11 people like this
Posted by No on A and C
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 12, 2016 at 9:32 am

"Opponents argue that the district should instead be compared with other similarly sized Bay Area districts, such as San Carlos Elementary School District, Burlingame Elementary School District or San Bruno Park Elementary School District, which have much lower per-pupil costs ranging from $10,149 in San Carlos to $9,043 in San Bruno Park. "

The facts are wrong. Comparisons were never made to San Bruno or Burlingame School districts. They were made to high achieving, similarly sized districts of Belmont-RWS, San Carlos, Saratoga, and Los Altos, of which all are basic aid except San Carlos (Belmont-RWS was also basic aid until recently). However, basic aid vs revenue limit is irrelevant since we are looking at comparisons of per-pupil cost, class size, and achievement.

Web Link
Web Link


21 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2016 at 10:30 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Thank you for taking the time to be a well informed voter on Measures A and C.

A high quality education for all of our children is valued by and important to everyone in our community BUT there must be a limit to how much the taxpayers should be asked to pay for quality elementary school education just as there is for any other public function.

The School District’s property tax revenues are rising much MORE rapidly than is their student enrollment – and the District will also get substantial fees and additional property tax revenue from all new residential and commercial construction.

The current FOUR School District Parcel Taxes are already among the most and one of the highest in the entire State for any elementary school district. In fact, only one in ten elementary school districts in California has even a SINGLE parcel tax.


For example, 27% of my property taxes already go to MPCSD and with these new parcel taxes MPCSD would get 33% of my property taxes.

Only 8% of my property taxes are necessary to support the Fire District and only 8% to support the High School District and only 19% to support the Town of Atherton.

Are our elementary schools that much more important and need to be that much more expensive than are our fire services, our high school or our local government?

The proposed new Parcel Taxes are not just for 4 years, or for 8 years but FOREVER.

We elect Presidents, Governors and local officials for fixed terms and almost every other parcel tax in California is for a fixed, usually 4 year, term.

For example, Atherton could not operate its police function, surely as important or even more important than education, without its parcel tax and yet that tax goes to the voters every four years.

The current Board approved budget ASSUMES voter approval of Measure A!

In my opinion it is unwise for an elected body to assume the outcome of an election in advance.

And even assuming the passage of Measure A that budget still has a growing deficit.

The School District’s current dilemma is the result of the Board’s decision to create a “richer” educational experience which requires more funding than the District currently receives – as is evidenced by the existing and growing budget deficit.

The taxpayers are now being asked to fund an accomplished fact rather than, as is the normal course of events, approving and funding a proposed change in the quality of a public service before the fact.

And the School Board just assumes that the taxpayers will always fill the gap with ever increasing parcel taxes.

The current Oversight Committee that was established to oversee the previously approved bond expenditures and which would apparently be utilized to oversee these parcel tax expenditures only has 3 of its required 7 members.

Why has the School Board decided to utilize a Special Election in May rather than using the cheaper and better turnout of the long scheduled June General Election?

What is the School Board afraid of - that more people would actually vote on these Measures?

And how can voters who have already received exemptions or who intend to apply for exemptions from the School District’s parcel taxes justify voting on these new parcel taxes?

The supporters of these two Measures are actually telling people how to get exemptions from these parcel taxes while at the same time they are urging those same people to vote for these parcel taxes.

If you, the voters, decide not to approve these overreaching and forever Measures then there is adequate time for the School District to propose one single parcel tax that consolidates ALL of the existing and proposed parcel taxes into a more reasonable consolidated parcel tax and to have that consolidated parcel tax be one that is subject to periodic voter review and approval.

If Measures A and or C fail it will not because of the opposition but because the Board has overreached with a multiplicity of parcel taxes and simultaneously wants to make those parcel taxes permanent.


The first responsibility of elected officials should be to the taxpayers – not to their customers/students or to their employees.


Thank you again for your interest in being well informed and please encourage everyone you know to also become informed and to then vote on these important Measures.



19 people like this
Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 12, 2016 at 10:33 am

>>>>Mr. Child said the district spent almost a year preparing for the current election. Before holding another election, "I think we've got to figure out why didn't it pass," he said. The district would want to hold public meetings to find out what would be supported, he said.<<<<

I would like to hear more about what the district did over the last year to prepare. Why didn't the district "hold public meetings to find out what would be supported" before putting measures up for a special election?

I have been very disappointed by some of the rhetoric used by the Measure supporters, in particular the video statements in favor: "Opponents of the Measures don't volunteer in our schools." Really?????

I am currently planning to vote "No" but have not yet voted because I keep hoping someone will change my mind. Sadly that still has not happened.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2016 at 10:36 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" have not yet voted because I keep hoping someone will change my mind."

I am increasingly concerned that the Board and the proponents are purposely avoiding public discussion of these parcel tax measures in an attempt to minimize voter awareness.

Why else are there so few comments or responses by the proponents?

The ONLY new information on the proponents web site is this statement:

"Ballots will be mailed beginning Monday, April 4th. Vote YES and return your ballot right away!"

Yep, vote right away before the facts become clear!

Or is there some other reason that they want people to vote "right away"?


6 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 12, 2016 at 10:43 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Barbara said: "According to state data, since 1990, the Menlo Park City School District has asked voters to approve three bond measures and six parcel taxes. All of the measures surpassed 70 percent "yes" votes, with three of them gaining the approval of more than 80 percent of the voters."

Define "voters". I like to call them registered voters, in which case, none of the measures achieved 30% YES votes.

Why do we allow so few to impose taxes on so many?

"School board president Jeff Child said the May 3 date was chosen... and to make it easier on the volunteers leading the campaign, who are parents and often very busy with school activities in the last weeks of school."
How considerate! IMHO that rationale is a clear attempt to influence the outcome of an election. It's called "electioneering. And, what role did the district have in organizing that committee?
The Menlo Park City School District spent $37,200 listed as being paid to "Political Designs" Superintendent Ghysels contracted with The Center for Community Opinion(a.k.a. Political Designs), who then subcontracted with EMC Research which produced the MPCSD Focus Group Report. Who was that elite group?See:Web Link

The Grand Jury should investigate the manner in which school districts prepare their ballot measures.

"He said the district also had substantially higher voter turnout in its last special election, in May 2010, when 7,721 total votes were cast, compared with the last general election, in November 2013, where only 5,605 votes were cast.

MEASURE C in May 2010 was passed by less than 28% of the registered voters! (5,877 YES votes out of 20,996 registered voters). Measure W in November 2013, a $23 million school facilities bond measure was passed by only 4,222 YES votes out of a total of 16,726 register voters. That's only 25%. If the law required a simple majority of registered voters to pass these measures, the district might get their ducks in a row to justify that support. Let's change the law before the Legislature drops the level required for parcel tax passage to 55%!


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2016 at 10:49 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the model for what the School District should do - Atherton's Measure X.

ONE parcel tax.

For FOUR years.

Based on the size of the parcel.

Measure X:
To continue providing funding to maintain neighborhood police patrols and the Town's ability to respond to emergencies, repairing and maintaining streets, and repairing and constructing storm drains, shall an ordinance be adopted to continue a Special Parcel Tax for four years and allowing for the expenditure of funds derived from such tax.


City Attorney William B. Conners provided an analysis of Measure X:[4]

“
The California Constitution and state law authorize the voters of a town, by a two-thirds majority, to approve a parcel tax for specified purposes. Since 1980, Atherton voters have approved such a parcel tax 8 times, the last in November 2009. This measure would extend the parcel tax for four years at the current rates for the following purposes: (1) police emergency response services and neighborhood patrols; (2) street repair and maintenance; and (3) drainage facility repair and maintenance. Other governmental services will be paid from other revenue sources, mainly regular property taxes. Before levying the parcel tax each year, the City Council must adopt an annual budget. It must hold a public hearing to establish the need for the proposed tax. The tax may not exceed the amount the City Council determines to be necessary to provide adequate levels of the municipal services and capital improvements described above after deducting the projected revenue to be gathered from other sources. That does not mean there are no other revenue sources that will also be used to fund police and other services. It means that in any given year there is always a strong competition for all of the available funds to pay for municipal services that are important to many residents, and that these additional funds will be used only for the uses set forth above. There is a maximum amount each parcel can be assessed each year as set forth in Section 4 of the Ordinance which is included in the ballot materials. The tax imposed in any year will be collected by the County Tax Collector as part of the annual property tax bill or by the Town itself. Any funds collected shall be placed in a special fund that may be used only for the purposes stated in the ordinance, police and emergency services, and repair and maintenance of streets and storm drains. Use for any other purpose would be illegal. Any tax levied will be a lien on individual parcels. The measure also authorizes the raising of the Town's appropriations limit as permitted by Cal. Const. art XIIIB, §1, the so-called Gann limit, during the time in which this parcel tax is collected so the tax funds may be spent. If approved, authority to levy this tax will commence for fiscal year 2014-2015 and will expire after fiscal tax year 2017-2018.

A "yes" vote is a vote to maintain the Town's special parcel tax at its current levels. A "no" vote is a vote to end the levy of a special parcel tax for the Town."

MAXIMUM TAX IN GIVEN YEAR 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
1. For each dwelling on a parcel with an area of less than 1/4 acre: 450 450 450 450
2. For each unimproved parcel with an area of less than 1/4 acre: 225 225 225 225
3. For each dwelling on a parcel with an area of 1/4 acre or more, but less than ½ acre: 570 570 570 570
4. For each unimproved parcel with an area of 1/4 acre or more, but less than ½ acre: 285 285 285 285
5. For each dwelling on a parcel with an area of 1/2 acre or more, but less than 2 acres: 750 750 750 750
6. For each unimproved parcel with an area of 1/2 acre or more, but less than 2 acres: 375 375 375 375
7. For each dwelling on a parcel with an area of 2 acres or more: 960 960 960 960
8. For each unimproved parcel with an area of 2 acres or more: 480 480 480 480
9. For each private club: 10,000 10,000 10,000 10,000
10. For each parcel available for tax owned by a utility which serves the Atherton community: 450 450 450 450
11. For each parcel available for tax owned by a utility which does not directly serve the Atherton community: 750 750 750 750


10 people like this
Posted by No on A and C
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 12, 2016 at 11:16 am

"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."

There's the bottom line. If you vote for measures A + C, there will be no end to the tax and spend cycle. You can look forward to 2020 parcel tax special election. I guarantee it.


7 people like this
Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 12, 2016 at 11:37 am

I suppose if the parcel taxes are voted down it will be easier for the MPAEF to increase the per-student ask amount in the fall. I would have preferred that in the first instance.

I would vote for a non-permanent parcel tax.


18 people like this
Posted by No on A and C
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 12, 2016 at 11:45 am

2012 Presidential election
Total Number of Voters : 204,287 of 361,486 = 56.51%

2010 MPCSD special election
Total number of voters: 7721/20996 registered voters=36.8%
Web Link

Can anyone honestly say with a straight face they don’t think voter turnout will be higher this year in a presidential election? Not to mention the cost savings (possibly over $60,000) by having this on the November primary. So for the convenience of volunteers of the YES campaign, MPCSD is wasting tens of thousands that could have funded education instead.

Woodside and San Mateo-Foster City school districts also have parcel taxes expiring mid 2017. Both are just starting to look at placing these measures on the ballot.


19 people like this
Posted by No, No, No
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 12, 2016 at 12:34 pm

Menlo School district needs to stop asking for more money and start working with the money that is given to them to spend. Yes, the teachers do a great job with our children but does the administration use the money wisely? Does the money really go to teachers or to the district office? If the measures do not pass what non essential items would go? Would the district need a Superintendent AND an Assistant Superintendent? Also, are the salaries and pensions for these 2 realistic? Would the district survive with only 1 Superintendent? I would say yes. The school administrators really set the tone for each school. I'm sure they would do just fine without district overhead looking over their shoulders. How many people are really needed in the Business office? Maybe if the District office was leaner the taxpayers wouldn't have to keep digging in their pockets for more money. Vote NO


24 people like this
Posted by I voted NO
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 12, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Sorry, but MPCSD has finally crossed the line. I totally support public schools and believe deeply in the right for every child to have a good education, but this administration and school board has lost their minds. Spending an obscene amount of money to try to trick taxpayers into going along with a forever tax is wrong. I voted NO. I encourage others to protect their property by voting NO. Let the district come up with a more transparent, reasonable way to manage its finances and stop wasting our own tax dollars on manipulating us.


17 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 12, 2016 at 1:04 pm

I voted NO -- lost confidence in the superintendent and Board's ability to be financially responsible.


11 people like this
Posted by Edward Moritz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 12, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Mr. Carpenter and others have made very good points on this issue. I'd like to add another set of metrics that give question as to why the MPSD Board and administration are asking for Measures A and C.

A substantial portion of the annual revenues for MPSD come from property taxes. These taxes are collected by San Mateo County and then divided up between schools, fire departments, cities and other agencies. San Mateo County publishes an annual report on the amount of funding collected and distributed each year. If you have interest here's the web link: Web Link

Those of us who live in the MPSD should be well aware of the rapid rise in property prices during the past six years. After a "flattening" of house prices when the economy imploded in 2008, property within the MPSD region has been experiencing an annual increase of roughly 20%. The entire housing stock does not turnover each year, but there is an annual "creep" of 2% in the tax assessment of all property allowed under the Jarvis-Mann Proposition. The average combined impact of these escalators on property taxes in all of San Mateo County for the fiscal year 2014/2015 was about six percent. That number is estimated to increase to seven percent in the current fiscal year. These figures are probably a bit conservative for the property in the school district, but they are useful.

The increasing value of property and the taxes paid on it means that if the MPSD board and its administration just closed its eyes and held its breath it would receive an approximate increase in funds of $1.3 million for the current year's budget and will anticipate another $1.7 million increase for use in the budget starting in July, 2016. If you have bought property in the MPSD area in the past two years you have paid a disproportionate share of that increase. We all thank you and welcome you to the wonderful and unequal world of Jarvis-Mann.

So the question is..... How much is enough?



18 people like this
Posted by NO, NO, NO on A & C
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 12, 2016 at 3:50 pm

We are planning to vote NO on A & C. A few of the reasons:

1. It is an unfair tax based on parcel #; not on size of parcel. A family with 1/8 acre pays the same as a family with 5 or more acres.
2. Property taxes have greatly increased along with the price of homes. Wouldn't that be sufficient to cover increased costs?
3. MP teachers are earning some of the highest salaries in the Bay Area.
4. The May voting date has likely been chosen, as it was the last time around, to encourage all "Yes" votes to be sure to vote, hoping the "No" votes will forget about it.
5. The MPAF pulls in much money through their auctions and other money-raising events.
6. Above all, there is a tremendous amount of money wasted supporting the luxury of 4 separate school districts with a total of 9 elementary schools:
Menlo Park: 4 schools;
Las Lomitas: 2 schools;
Portola Valley: 2 schools
Woodside: 1 school.
Each of these school districts has a superintendent and supporting administration staff. Wouldn't consolidation save a lot of money?
7. If A & C pass, it will be a permanent tax.


5 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 12, 2016 at 4:24 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

I urge those of you who agree this is the time to say No to these never-ending taxes to keep up the momentum. Proponents are avoiding this forum, but they are not conceding defeat. The Committee to Support Menlo Park Schools, Yes on Measures reported $13,674 in contributions as of 4/11.
Here are some of the contributors:
Jody Buckley $5,000
Terry Thygesen $1,000
Alison Leupold $500
Geoff Ralston $1,000 (Founder, Imagine K12)
Jeffrey Weiner $2,500 (occupation unknown)
Mark Baker $250 (Allen Baker Co.)

The SMCCommunity College District Foundation contributed $64,260 in support of the districts parcel tax. See:Web Link. Will the MPAEF do the same? The next pre-election filing for the YES on A&C committee is April 21. Follow the filing at: Web Link
Committee I.D. 1383210.

With their hard core supporter votes accounted for, proponents will go after those who have not voted, with a vengeance.

For more on Parcel Taxes, see:Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 12, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"With their hard core supporter votes accounted for, proponents will go after those who have not voted, with a vengeance."

I disagree.

With the hard core supporters votes accounted for the proponents will hope that nobody else votes. The responses in this forum suggest why the proponents do not want an informed voter population or a large turnout. If they put out yard signs and place ads then the proponents will increase the community awareness of an issue which most voters are currently unaware of and that would probably not be in the interest of passing Measures A and C.


13 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 12, 2016 at 5:39 pm

"So the question is..... How much is enough?"

When the voters finally says no, that's when the school board knows it is enough. Just say no!


From the video:
"Opponents of the Measures don't volunteer in our schools."

Yeah, but they sure pay a lot of taxes that support the schools. I would consider that a significant contribution to the school's well being.

Keep in mind, opponents are contributing their time to ensure a healthy public debate. It's an important community question that must be seriously considered. What is the appropriate level of school funding based on the resources the district residents have?

The average taxpayer is willing to pay for the best schools it can, but only at a price the community can afford. Parents want to push school spending above that because it doesn't cost them much more individually in taxes, but their kids benefit greatly. The rest of the community is contributing the bulk of increased funding.

You could interpret what the parents are doing as selfish, or at least not altruistic. They frame the issue as for the children, but it's for their own children's benefit. They want someone else to pay for their children's exceptional education experience.


9 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 12, 2016 at 6:08 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"They want someone else to pay for their children's exceptional education experience."

Bingo


14 people like this
Posted by no on tax increases
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 12, 2016 at 6:13 pm


As a landlord. I count on a certain rent to meet my mortgage payments. I have 2 properties and I haven't raised rents in over 3 years. I feel for the tenants, They work hard and as long as I can cover my payments I am not as most people think out to gouge my tenants.

These little taxes add up and in my situation I will have to pass on these fixed tax raises.They add up. I am currently under market on my rents but I feel I am being gouged by more and more taxes. We all have to live within a budget. I invested to look forward to a retirement but can't afford to lose as I go.


14 people like this
Posted by Voting NO
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 12, 2016 at 9:04 pm

3 no votes in my household. Vote No!


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

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Almanac has just posted an Editorial opposing these Measures.

Thank Richard Hine, Editor of the Almanac, and your staff 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 would be 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.


22 people like this
Posted by Integrity Lost
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 12, 2016 at 10:29 pm

Measure A makes permanent an expiring parcel tax passed in 2010 designed to offset to state budget cuts and growing enrollment.

At the time, I volunteered in support of the measure by handing out flyers and manning phone banks. With each conversation, I emphasized that the tax was temporary, and necessary to get the district through an unusually difficult period.

Now, the district wants the parcel tax to be permanent, even though property taxes and state contributions are healthy.

I will vote no because I have lost trust in the district and the school board. Either they knew that the emergency parcel tax of 2010 would not be temporary, or they did a terrible job of managing their budget knowing that those funds would expire in 2017.


22 people like this
Posted by Volunteer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 10:16 am

I'm offended that the proponents of these tax measures are trying to guilt voters into approving both taxes. "Opponents don't volunteer?" Wow. My husband and I have both been extremely involved as volunteers in the Menlo Park Atherton School district for many years. And significant donors to the MPAEF and other fundraising organizations and events. We're very supportive or the public school system and our schools in particular. But enough is enough. Two permanent taxes? I don't fault the school board for asking, though. If the public keeps passing every parcel tax and bond measure that is put in front of it, then of course the board will keep asking. Who wouldn't? It is, of course, easier to do a great job (and they HAVE done a great job) if you have an endless source of funding. But enough is enough. It's time to send a message: we won't say "yes" to EVERY new tax. Our property taxes are already growing way more rapidly than inflation. Vote no on these new additional taxes. They'll find enough money to buy time to come back with a better plan: one that includes expense cuts and a NON-permanent tax if needed.


9 people like this
Posted by What a Waste
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Who is paying for this special election? I cannot imagine it is cheap to run an election - mail in only or not. With a primary election coming up and a general election in November, why the hell are we spending tax dollars to hold a special election? Besides are the good reasons already stated to vote NO, this added to my decision to vote NO. Taxpayer dollars to paying for this one way or another.


8 people like this
Posted by Question
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 13, 2016 at 7:40 pm

One thing that puzzled me when I read the ballot, that I was happy to see clarified here, was how the revenue per pupil was lower in 2014 v 2005. A comment above says the proponents are factoring in an inflation rate of 20% plus.

My guess is that inflation index includes the cost of rent or housing, which don't seem applicable to the District. Can someone provide figures that show how much prices have risen for each of the major categories of district expenses, with administrative costs separated from direct teaching expenses?


8 people like this
Posted by Brown Eyed Girl
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 8:07 pm

Brown Eyed Girl is a registered user.

3 No votes in our household for the following reasons:

Parcel tax is permanent and has zero accountability.
District has not been open and transparent with financial information and has timed this as a special election to try to pass this through without adequate public input or discussion.
District has made zero attempt to reign in costs/expenses. Why do we need 30+ year pension employees for custodial and bus drivers? Current planned staff additions includes 2 custodians and a bus driver. Why can't these positions be outsourced to the private sector?
District and Board have mislead the public: Pensions and retiree healthcare costs are the fastest growing expense category. These costs are not going away without structural reform. There has been no attempt by the school board to obtain pension reform.








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Posted by the man
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 8:50 pm

It's not the MPCSD school board's job or responsibility to create statewide pension reform. You hire a teacher, they automatically participate in the CAL STRS pension system . Teachers are mandated to contribute 9% of their take home to this pension system, and yes the school district must match that contribution. Keep in mind that CA teachers also are not eligible for, and will never receive, social security .

Also , the notion that teachers work 30 years and get a full pension is also false . The VAST majority of teachers working today will not retire with their full pension unless they have a nearly 50 year teaching career .

I know this is off topic for the discussion at hand , but citing "structural reform" as a reason for not voting for the parcel taxes is completely false in my opinion ...


1 person likes this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 13, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Robbery plain and simple. The MP school district has gone to far. Measures that are permanent and tax the residents forever are shameful and show a complete lack of respect to all of us who have voted in the past in favor of numerous parcel tax measures. I have also heard that these measures stipulate that seniors can not get a exemption from paying this every year. What has happened to the people on this school board. For those who are on a fixed income this is such a slap in the face that they all should be absolutely ashamed of their greed. Our schools are just fine and the district needs to find someone who has some idea on how to manage a budget. VOTE NO ON BOTH MEASURES


11 people like this
Posted by Two More No Votes
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 13, 2016 at 9:51 pm

My husband and I voted for the previous parcel taxes (we have three school-aged children). We have already mailed in our two NO votes. The data just does not support the ask.

I sincerely appreciate the comments by "no on tax increases" who describes how these taxes impact the rental market; how often do we lament the lack of affordable housing, but then levy taxes that contribute to the problem?

A message to the supporters: please do not make accusations that people who oppose these parcel taxes don't care about teachers, children, or volunteer in schools. We do, and we oppose this tax.


5 people like this
Posted by Volunteer Who Votes No
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 14, 2016 at 12:50 pm

It's just not true that people who are opposed to these tax measures don't volunteer in the schools. I am one of them. I volunteer regularly, and I support our schools. What I don't support are any new parcel taxes that can never expire because that takes away the public's right to be involved. If the school administration is lying about this, what else are they lying about? You don't have to choose -- you can support schools and vote against these parcel taxes. Just keep your thoughts private so you can't be attacked for using common sense.


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Posted by Mpcsd Parent2
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 15, 2016 at 2:58 pm

@MP Parent/Volunteer/Volunteer Who Votes No (and others):
A point of clarification.
I believe that references to "the Opposition" are to the people who wrote/submitted/signed the formal ballot arguments against Measures A & C:
-Alexander Keh/Atherton
-Jennifer Sun/Atherton
-Peter Carpenter/Atherton
-Brian Blackford/Menlo Park
-Jack Hickey/Non-Resident)


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 15, 2016 at 3:53 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Here are the opponents as listed on the ballot arguments:

Alexander Keh, Homeowner
Jennifer Sun, Homeowner
Peter Carpenter, Homeowner
Brian Blackford, Homeowner
Jack Hickey, Advocate for Taxpayers

I am the only one who is not a registered voter of the MPCSD, and therefore can not vote on the issue. I have disclosed that on another Topic in this forum. Web Link
I am a registered poster on this forum, I use my real name, and my residence area is as posted.

"In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a resident of the MPCSD. I am a Senior who has taken exemptions on the San Mateo Community College District and Redwood City Elementary School District parcel taxes. My house is situated on two separate parcels. With considerable effort, I was able to get both Districts to apply my exempt the tax on both taxable lots. I advise those with a similar situation in MPCSD to pursue a similar remedy."


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

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