News

After tax defeat, 'transparency' is theme of Menlo Park school district board meeting

Superintendent will form group to look at improving communication with public

A school board meeting can be a lonely place. But Tuesday night, members of the public filled most of the 100 seats in the multi-use room at Encinal School to participate in a discussion about what the Menlo Park City School District should do in the aftermath of the failure to pass two parcel tax measures.

The district says without the money that would have been raised by the two taxes, it could have an annual $6 million shortfall within five years.

When the two parcel tax measures on a special May 3 election ballot received less than the two-thirds majority needed to pass, it was the first time in decades that voters in the district failed to approve a school finance measure.

The semi-official results released May 9 show Measure A, which would have renewed a parcel tax that will expire at the end of June 2017, received 3,528 "yes" votes, 60.2 percent of the total, and short of the 66.7 percent needed to pass. The "no" vote was 2,328.

Measure C, which would have added an annual $2.20-per-parcel tax for each student who enrolls beyond the district's current 2,938 students, received 3,156 "yes" votes, 54 percent of the total, also short of the 66.7 percent needed. The "no" vote was 2,692.

"Transparency," a term that has come to indicate not only freely sharing information with the public, but making it available in an easily understandable form, was mentioned by speaker after speaker at the board meeting.

Mary Beth Suhr, a 27-year resident of Menlo Park whose two children attended district schools, said she has "always been a great supporter of the schools." But as someone with a background in finance, she wondered when she received her ballot with the two parcel tax measures, "how could we not have enough money to support the schools?" she said. "It seemed the revenues were really, really high and growing fantastically," she said.

Ms. Suhr said she tried to look up the district's budget documents for herself, and found the experience frustrating. "I think we need to have greater transparency," she said.

Karen Lucas, a Menlo Park resident and teacher in another district, had a similar comment. "I am very supportive of public education. I don't think I have ever not voted for anything related to schools," she said.

However, she said, she has "some serious concerns about the spending that is going on at this time."

"I would appreciate transparency so I don't have to go digging through the agenda to find out where it's gone, how much has been spent," she said.

Board members agreed. "We've got people who don't understand our numbers," said board president Jeff Child. "I think we need to get that solved."

"If people don't trust the board or don't think the board is transparent, I think that's an issue that needs to be resolved," he said. He recommended forming a subcommittee including board members and community members "and not just parents," he said.

Mr. Child said he thinks it is now sometimes impossible for the public to go to the district's website and figure things out. "I think the current state is, through nobody's fault, unacceptable," he said.

Board member Joan Lambert said the district can't wait. "I think we need to start now," she said. School budgeting is complex and difficult to understand, she said. "It's incumbent on us to try to make that as easy to understand as possible," she said.

"We need to go out and have a very serious engagement with our community," said board member Terry Thygesen. Ms. Thygesen said the district does have a higher parcel tax than any other nearby district. "Have we just hit a threshold of parcel tax tolerance?" she asked. "I feel like we have some work to do."

Superintendent Maurice Ghysels said that there are three choices for the district to make up for the money it will not receive from the parcel taxes. It can increase revenues, whether through another try at a parcel tax or by increasing donations to the school; it can reduce compensation for employees, through cutting staff and increasing class sizes or cutting salaries and benefits; or it can reduce the programs offered by the district.

Increasing class sizes from the district average of 22 could save close to $500,000 for each student the average is increased by, Superintendent Ghysels said. The savings would come from reducing the number of teachers needed.

Ms. Thygesen pointed out that to make up the entire $6 million shortfall, class sizes would have to go up to an average of 33. "Not recommending that, not suggesting that," she said.

Board members asked Superintendent Ghysels to come back with more information in June. They asked him to look closely at the election results, including turnout and who voted. They also asked him to look into ways the district could increase donations from the community.

In addition, board members asked the superintendent to look at the district's compensation policy and to have a discussion about how the district wants to compensate its teachers, including comparisons with other nearby district.

Taking a look at other districts' policies about allowing teachers' children to attend the district was also suggested.

Mr. Child said the board wants to take a close look at how the district spends money in every category. "There's no way you can say what you want to cut until you accurately know what you're spending," he said.

Board member Maria Hilton said the community needs to tell the district what they are willing to lose, not just what they want to preserve. "Please help us in that process," she said.

One way the district will not be able to cut expenses is by cutting back on pension benefits, the board heard. Unlike local governments, which can negotiate their pensions, "we do not set the retirement age or all those sorts of things," said Mr. Child.

"We have absolutely no ability to negotiate a different pension" structure said Ms. Thygesen. "The bill is handed to us and the bill is handed to our employees."

Superintendent Ghysels said the state, in response to the growing number of retirees and a teachers' pension system without enough money to pay those pensions, has been steadily increasing the contributions that must be made by districts and teachers into the system. For example, the district had to pay 8.25 percent of teachers' salaries into the system in 2013-14; but by 2020-21 it will be up to 19.1 percent, he said.

Some of the speakers did urge the district to try again with another parcel tax. Alka Gupta, co-chair of the district's fundraising foundation, said it is not possible to raise enough donations. "That's a struggle," she said.

Instead she asked for "increased transparency, increased operational efficiency" and another try at a parcel tax.

District resident Joe Giarrusso said he believes a parcel tax with an expiration date could be approved. "I think you'd have a very good chance of passing it as long as there's a sunset clause wrapped into it," he said.

Scott Saywell, a parent at Laurel School, said people don't trust the information that is coming from the board and the administration. "The people who are living in Menlo Park and Atherton are pretty smart people," he said. "Just tell people straight."

Comments

30 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 11, 2016 at 1:01 pm


Along the theme of transparency, we can start with this:

I just tried loading the web page "Board Policies" under the "Board of Education" tab of the MP School District web site.

I receive the following: "Only district administrators may view this page."

There you go.


17 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 11, 2016 at 1:20 pm

A good start would be to not propose another tax measure for a couple of years. Then the school district can prove to residents that it can manage its money, which is still plenty.


44 people like this
Posted by Blame Overhead, Not Teachers
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 11, 2016 at 1:39 pm

Why isn't anyone on the Board talking about the huge increase in administrative staff since Maurice Ghysels became Superintendent? Before you cut teachers and programs, why not cut construction managers and tech managers and multiple assistant Superintendents for a district that runs four elementary schools? Or stop spending $$$$ on outside consultants who direct parcel tax campaigns.


15 people like this
Posted by Long time Supporter of Education
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 11, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Board Policies MPCSD work just fine for me...go to:
Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Samuel
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 11, 2016 at 1:41 pm

I would suggest putting Measure A with an 8 year sunset clause back on the ballot for November. Drop Measure C for now, until we actually see increases in enrollment. Ask for only one Measure at a time. Measure A had greater support - 60%.


12 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 11, 2016 at 1:47 pm

If you're not trusted to manage the money you have now, why would I give you more money?

What this outcome reflects is that the school board really wasn't in touch with the greater community. Hopefully this serves as a wake up call for them. I think transparency is a good start. I would also like to see other options at saving money.


15 people like this
Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 11, 2016 at 1:52 pm

I believe the community misunderstood why the district asked for the money. The number of students enrolled in the district has grown significantly, much more than anyone anticipated and planned for. The additional money is needed to continue offering the same education to more students. The district operates the excellent Menlo Park City schools on a budget much lower than neighboring districts with comparably rated schools. Everyone in Menlo Park benefits from the quality of the public schools in Menlo Park, but schools of the quality we have cost money.

I hope the district asks for another parcel tax and is able to educate the community better about cost of the city's education system, the increased enrollment, and the need for the additional parcel tax. I hope our community will support our children, our teachers, our schools, and our community by passing a parcel tax if asked.


1 person likes this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 11, 2016 at 2:19 pm

@Long Time Supporter...

Interesting.

You visited "Web Link"

I visited: "Web Link"



26 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 11, 2016 at 2:22 pm

@Concerned Parent, I voted NO on these two parcel taxes, and I didn't misunderstand anything. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, I've voted for everything schools, until this election.

Unfortunately, if these two parcel taxes had passed, the MPCSD would have continued to believe in the already debunked argument that you have presented.

Putting another parcel tax on the ballot in the near future is sheer lunacy. How about giving the Board time to prove that it really is listening to the public?


9 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 11, 2016 at 2:30 pm

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

@Blame Overhead: MPCSD has one Assistant Superintendent, not "multiple Assistant Superintendents."

@Samuel, the District in already seeing an increase in enrollment, so there's not need to wait "until we actually see increases in enrollment." 81 additional children are already enrolled for next year, 2 more than the projected increase of 79. Hillview has a relatively small 8th grade class graduating and a large 6th grade class incoming, and I believe there's a substantial number of Kinders coming in to the District as well. Enrollment growth is real, it's here, and it's only going to continue.


3 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 11, 2016 at 2:32 pm

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

@Concerned Parent: Hear, hear!!


15 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This is the message that I gave to the Board last night:

Dear Dr. Ghysel,

In your capacity as Secretary of the Board this is a formal written request for the placement of the following item on the Board’s agenda for its regular June meeting as an Action Item:

Review, Revise and Approve the following draft policy statements in response to the decisions of the citizens to not approve Measure A and Measure C :

1 - The Board acknowledges that there is a need for improved interaction and communication regarding MPCSD with the community, particularly with those taxpayers who do not have children in MPCSD schools,

2 - The Board is committed to full transparency as we move forward including but not limited to implementation of a redesigned web site that includes and makes easy to find all of the MPCSD financial, enrollment, academic performance, e-mail communications, compensation and union contract information,

3 - The Board will consider a Single Parcel Tax measure for a General Election that supersedes all of the current parcel taxes and which has a 6 year expiration date,
(Note: The Board would be well advised to establish an Ad Hoc Committee of two Board Members and a number of citizens not affiliated with the District to recommend the specific amount of such a consolidated parcel tax and the election at which it should be considered by the voters.)

4 - The Board recognizes the potential value of sharing services with adjacent elementary school districts and of possible mergers with those adjacent elementary school districts. Recognizing the procedural difficulties of merging school districts, the Board will immediately begin exploring entering into shared services agreements for functions such as Finance, Human Resources, IT and Facilities with one or more of our adjacent elementary school districts.

Respectfully submitted,

Peter Carpenter

*****
In the later discussion on the parcel tax issue there were certainly signs that they are getting the message. It will be interesting to see what they do next.


6 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 11, 2016 at 3:03 pm

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

@Peter Carpenter: Still wrong. The Superintendent's surname is "Ghysels."

We've all seen this letter so many times. As Roy Thiele-Sardina mentioned in another article, there certainly is an MO to "repeat the same thing over and over (whether factually correct or not)."

You missed a lot of interesting discussion after you left the meeting early.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

HH - The MO is to work hard for positive change rather than taking pot shots from behind a curtain - try it sometime.


21 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Enrollment growth is real, it's here, and it's only going to continue."

Property tax revenue growth is real, it's here, and it's only going to continue.


5 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 11, 2016 at 3:10 pm

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

@PC: I do a lot of work and put in a lot of time, dedication, and heart into effecting positive change in our community; I just choose not to put my name out there on the Almanac, which is my prerogative. I'm going to make a concerted effort from here on not to let the repetitive posts get under my skin, because it's a waste of energy and time that can be spent so much more productively. Peace out.


11 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on May 11, 2016 at 3:29 pm

Train Fan is a registered user.

> 81 additional children are already enrolled for next year, 2 more than the projected increase of 79

The MPCSD budget projected 60 (source: Web Link)

In an article a couple days ago, it was 71.

Now it's 81.

Remember: transparency. Where are these numbers coming from? What happened over the last 2-3 days that resulted in 10 more kids being projected to enroll????

And remember, the MPCSD revenue for the 2017-2018 school year is projected to be over $1,000,000 higher than the current revenue (over $43k, vs this school year of $42k).


13 people like this
Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 11, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Can someone tell me how much of the property tax bill goes to the MPCSD, a rough estimated percentage?

There is a house in Atherton: 47 Camino Por Los Arboles, Atherton, CA that according to my view of the map falls within the district. It sold for $5.8 Million in 2012, was torn down and rebuilt and is now for sale at $42.8 Million. That will be in increase in property taxes of approx. $370.000 a year. This is one house alone. Please take a drive around, every street has a project on it.

The sky is not falling.


16 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"... the Second Interim Budget maintains an increase of 5.0% in secured property tax in the multi-year projection for 2016/17, approximately $1.2 million."

A 5% increase in property taxes when it was 9% this year?

This is why many of us simply do not trust the "facts" presented by MPCSD.

They overestimate expenses, underestimate revenues and then cry WOLF.


22 people like this
Posted by Joe G.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 11, 2016 at 3:43 pm

Joe G. is a registered user.

I agree with Peter. The later discussion by the board on the parcel tax issue did seem to show signs that they are getting the message. Now lets see if they follow through. I gave my card to the board asking them to include me in a community group to help guide the district.

As I said at the meeting. This is not about choosing "Lever" 1, 2, OR 3 but everyone giving something in each of the categories. These may/should include:
- some form of a consolidated, time-limited parcel tax
- additional parent donations through the foundation
- concessions of some type by the teachers union to help keep salary/benefit/pension costs in check
- reduction of (not necessarily elimination of) some program funding levels
- possible increase from and average of 22 student per class to 25

It is time for the "Community as a whole" and not the "MPCSD Parent Community" to take charge and shape what is reasonable funding for a great quality education without giving the district a blank check. There is a lot of services in our Menlo Park Community that contribute to our quality of life and why Menlo Park is such a nice place to call home. These include our libraries, parks and rec dept., roads, Police, Fire, even sanitation district, and schools are just a component of this mix, albeit and important piece. The tax pie is only so large and we need to decide how to divide the pie up.


7 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Can someone tell me how much of the property tax bill goes to the MPCSD, a rough estimated percentage?"

It varies parcel by parcel depending which TRA (tax revenue area) you are in. There are dozens of TRAs in the MPCSD.

Generally the portion of your basic/general property taxes that fo to MOCSD is about 16% and if you add the parcel taxes that number increases substantially.
In my case it is currently 27% of all of my property related taxes and with Measures A and C it would be 33%. That compares to 8% to the High School District, 8% to the Fire District and 19% for the Town of Atherton.


2 people like this
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardi�a
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 11, 2016 at 4:03 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardi�a is a registered user.

What is the % of a new homes taxes in central menlo park that goes to MPCSD, Menlo Park City, Menlo-Atherton Fire District, and San Mateo County?

That is the question that someone asked. can someone please answer that?

Thanks
Roy


13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 4:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"It is time for the "Community as a whole" and not the "MPCSD Parent Community" to take charge and shape what is reasonable funding for a great quality education without giving the district a blank check."

Exactly - MPCSD is a PUBLIC school which means that it belongs to the PUBLIC and is not the private property of those citizens who use the school. If you want a private school then there are plenty in the area - but then the 80% of taxpayers not using the public schools will no longer being paying for your child's education.

Somehow the MPCSD community has defined itself as being parents, students and staff and forgotten that their most important shareholders are the taxpayers.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"What is the % of a new homes taxes in central menlo park that goes to ....."

Exactly the same as the % of existing home taxes.

There is not a different tax RATE for new homes just a different assessed value.


8 people like this
Posted by Joe G.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 11, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Joe G. is a registered user.

Just got this in an email from HomeSnap. Seems like the home sale market is robust at least in the 94025 zip code. This translates to continued healthy increased revenues from the property tax re-assessment that will happen when they close escrow.

"The number of home sales in the 94025 zip code market rose 6.1% to 35 homes over the last 30 days. At the same time, the 94560 zip code reported 45 home sales, the highest number from all the surrounding zip codes. Prices are rising in the 94025 zip code, and the median sales price this period increased from $1,970,000 to $2,150,000. The rising sales and a low one month of inventory point to the 94025 zip code being a definite seller's market."


7 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 11, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

"Increasing class sizes from the district average of 22 could save close to $500,000 for each student the average is increased by, Superintendent Ghysels said. The savings would come from reducing the number of teachers needed."
Let me see. we have ~ 3,000 students, divided by 22 = 136 classrooms. At $14,000 per ADA we get $14,000 x 136 = $1.9 million per incremental increase in class size by one student. An increase from 22 to 25 would yield $5.7 million. Close enough.

Ghysels said: "Increasing class sizes from the district average of 22 could save close to $500,000 for each student the average is increased by, Superintendent Ghysels said. The savings would come from reducing the number of teachers needed.

We differ on our calculations. What am I missing?

Ms. Thygesen pointed out that to make up the entire $6 million shortfall, class sizes would have to go up to an average of 33.

Garbage in, garbage out.


11 people like this
Posted by skeptical
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 11, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Budget cuts? Let's start with administration costs and see how that works.


9 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 11, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Of course, no one considered that increasing class size to 25, would free up
136 x 3/25 = 16 classrooms, which could be leased. That's enough space for a modest private school to provide for more than 300 students. I know it is not simple but it's worth the effort. If those students were recruited from MPCSD , that would further mitigate the enrollment growth problem.


13 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 11, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

If we really work at it we could obviate the need for ANY parcel tax.


10 people like this
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2016 at 8:18 pm

> Peter wrote:
> Generally the portion of your basic/general property taxes that for to MPCSD is about 16% and if you add the parcel taxes that number increases substantially.
> In my case it is currently 27% of all of my property related taxes and with Measures A and C it would be 33%. That compares to 8% to the High School District, 8% to the Fire District and 19% for the Town of Atherton.

What you say here is pretty much true (actually, looking at your 2015 tax bill, I came up with a total of 30.8% of all property related taxes go to MPCSD).

But really, I feel like it needs to be pointed out that this high percentage number needs to be be largely taken with a grain of salt for all but a miniscule handful of property owners. Peter's property's market valuation (if Zillow is to be believed which makes this entirely approximate) is 24.9 times his actual assessed valuation owing to two facts: Peter purchased his property long ago (I assume pre-1979 prop 13) and his valuation is reduced by $1400.92 as a disabled veteran (and well deserved, I might add if anything too small) and that represents a further 32.9% reduction in valuation for assessment purposes.

Virtually any owner with such characteristics is going to be entitled to take a complete senior exemption of the parcel taxes, something which Peter (kudos to him) has declined to take for himself. But as a consequence the $851.56 parcel tax that he pays dwarfs the exemption adjusted combined general tax that he pays to the district of $428.12 along with his adjusted bond payment of $101.35 or $529.47 of ad valorem taxes which he pays to the district.

Respectfully, most people folks who purchased in the last 15 years are not going to see these kind of numbers.

The %'s for Atherton Tax Rate Area 01-001 as of (I believe) 2013 were:
GENERAL COUNTY TAX 0.2361431355
FREE LIBRARY 0.0344233709
CITY OF ATHERTON 0.1055972931
MENLO PARK CITY ELEM GENL PUR 0.1663709035
SEQUOIA HIGH GENRL PURPOSE 0.1556013778
SM JR COLLEGE GEN PUR 0.0675698832
MENLO PARK FIRE DISTRICT 0.1569872046
ATHERTON CHANNEL DRAINAGE 0.0017559543
MIDPENINSULA REG. OPEN SPACE 0.0182962909
BAY AREA AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT 0.0020822272
COUNTY HARBOR DISTRICT 0.0035125939
SMC MOSQUITO & VECTOR CONTROL DISTRICT 0.0019121769
SEQUOIA HOSPITAL DISTRICT 0.0145832165
COUNTY EDUCATION TAX 0.0351643717




2 people like this
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2016 at 8:20 pm

> his valuation is reduced by $1400.92

his general tax amount is reduced by $1400.92


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 8:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

FWIW - Thank you for this detailed analysis.

It is a bit scary that you, or anybody else , can deduce this much personal information about another person but so be it. The facts speak for themselves.


5 people like this
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2016 at 8:47 pm

> It is a bit scary that you, or anybody else , can deduce this much personal information about another person but so be it.

Agree. And indirect apologies for so doing. It is one of the reasons that I am only known as fwiw.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Interesting that FWIW could access my tax records as California law requires that, as an elected official, those records cannot disclose the name and address of an elected official (Name private per CA AB2238.)

For me it is not a problem as I have always freely disclosed my name in this Forum and my property tax info.


Like this comment
Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardi�a
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 11, 2016 at 9:01 pm

Roy Thiele-Sardi�a is a registered user.

FWIW

What is the rate for Tax Zone 008-001 (central menlo)?

Where did you get the complete rate for Atherton (001-001), that is what I was looking for....

Thanks
Roy


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 9:03 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Where did you get the complete rate for Atherton (001-001), that is what I was looking for....

Thanks
Roy"

Look on your tax bill - it lists your particular TRA.


2 people like this
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2016 at 9:03 pm

Your address is freely associated with your name, approximately 10 seconds on google to get your address. Then the address went straight into the tax records which are available anonymously based on either APN or address from the county tax collector website. done.


4 people like this
Posted by Atherton mom
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 11, 2016 at 9:09 pm

I like the idea Jack Hickey suggests of increasing class size to conserve classroom space to rent to a private ate school. Someone could make that an Immersion school and end the Spanish Immersion provided by the district. That program is quite popular and an immersion school in either Spanish or Mandarin would easily fill up, and remove some students from the district. In fact, if class size is to increase, Spanish needs to increase by more since students who drop out/leave that program are not replaced. Fourth and fifth grade classes often have 17 or fewer students while English classes at those grade levels have 25-26.


4 people like this
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2016 at 9:21 pm

> What is the rate for Tax Zone 008-001 (central menlo)?

008-001
GENERAL COUNTY TAX 0.2408858816
CITY OF MENLO PARK 0.1222088501
MENLO PARK CITY ELEM GENL PUR 0.1697123320
SEQUOIA HIGH GENRL PURPOSE 0.1587265053
SM JR COLLEGE GEN PUR 0.0689269683
MENLO PARK FIRE DISTRICT 0.1601401686
SAN FRANCISQUITO CRK FLD ZN 2 0.0023310259
MIDPENINSULA REG. OPEN SPACE 0.0186637577
BAY AREA AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT 0.0021240485
COUNTY HARBOR DISTRICT 0.0035831451
SMC MOSQUITO & VECTOR CONTROL DISTRICT 0.0019505865
SEQUOIA HOSPITAL DISTRICT 0.0148761119
COUNTY EDUCATION TAX 0.0358706185

Courtesy of Jack Hickey who got the pdf for all of the local TRA's directly from the assessor via personal communication. I copied them off his website. Not sure if he still has them around, terrific service and important info. I'll put the pdf out there if needed though it would be nice to get the most current numbers.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 9:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Just so that Roy does not feel left out I also pay $973.00 to the West Bay Sanitary District which is twice what I pay to the Fire District.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 9:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Then the address went straight into the tax records which are available anonymously based on either APN or address from the county tax collector website. done.

Were you not concerned with violating the law regarding disclosing the named owner of this property?

Again, it does not bother me but many elected officials' families have been subjected to attacks because of such disclosures.

Fortunately my wife would quickly intimate any such intrusions.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 9:48 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Fortunately my wife would quickly intimidate any such intrusions.


2 people like this
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2016 at 9:56 pm

> Were you not concerned with violating the law regarding disclosing the named owner of this property?

Wait, what have I disclosed other than tax rate information? I have said neither an address nor identified a specific property.


Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2016 at 10:14 pm

> Were you not concerned with violating the law regarding disclosing the named owner of this property?

From the Consumer Federation of California Online Privacy Site:
"Public Officials, Online Privacy This law prohibits posting or displaying on the Internet the home address or telephone number of any elected or appointed official, as defined, if the official has made a written demand not to disclose his or her information. Entities receiving such a demand must remove the information immediately and ensure that it is not reposted."

None of the public records that I looked up directly contained the combination of this information, and I certainly did not disclose either of the aforementioned items. The records which do disclose that information are freely to be generically found on the internet as they are for most of us who purchased our property directly under our own names. The tax collector website with your property tax info omits your name, so you have to already have an address.


2 people like this
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2016 at 10:19 pm

And finally I do want to add that under normal circumstances I would entirely consider it an invasion of your privacy to be posting your specific tax information (and would not have done so) but for the fact that you had already listed very specific percentage about your own property which I felt needed to be put in perspective. That and I recall you previously disclosing the fact that you were a disabled vet (seriously hats off to you).


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 11, 2016 at 10:29 pm

Fair - no problem. Thanks for your explanation.


Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2016 at 10:30 pm

> were a disabled vet

ARE a disabled vet. sorry.

(only your disclosure is in the past)


81 people like this
Posted by our town
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 11, 2016 at 10:36 pm

our town is a registered user.

I have been told that there are school board members posting here under aliases. Fine, so am I, and that is their prerogative.

However, if the board has privately bought into the belief that "the community misunderstood why the district asked for the money" that is disturbing. We're a pretty well educated bunch, and I for one went through the budgets and read the arguments on both sides before making up my mind. I'd guess that most of us understood only too well what was happening.

Although I admire the board members for their dedicated volunteerism on behalf of the schools, they've been such a closed little group for so long that I suspect they are out of touch with the community. I'm concerned that after the Tuesday meeting was over, they reassured themselves that only a few troublemakers showed up to complain and that 99% of the voters have no problem with the current governance. But many of us do want changes in district operations; we simply could not make a 6 pm meeting on a school/work night.

One of the district's mantras has been that strong schools equate to a strong community. I would agree. But let's try to respect the entire community and stop running the district like a private club, with key decisions made outside any public forum and numbers seemingly invented on the spot to justify everything.


15 people like this
Posted by MPCSD Mom
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 11, 2016 at 11:45 pm

As stated by some at the meeting last night, the conversation about our schools has gotten bogged down by complicated numbers and issues with trust and transparency. The issue is really whether we want the same quality teaching and education for our kids that they are currently receiving. If we do, we need to pay for it. If we don't, we need to make cuts.

Transparency and Trust - The school board screwed up. They went about the special election in a seemingly sneaky way. Whether that was their true intention or not, the election timing and flying under the radar came across as insincere. They need to learn from their mistakes.

Numbers - The budget - the way it was done in 2013/2014 vs. 2015/2016 or the way our district looks at numbers vs. the way the State looks at numbers - is confusing. Unless you have the time to sit down and really look at things, it's hard to figure out. The district needs to work on educating the community about its finances.

Taxes and the state of California politics - Yes, the way the State of California works, or doesn't work, is screwed up. We should lobby the State to improve how education is funded so that districts aren't put in situations that don't allow them to have funds to run. Parcel taxes are not ideal and in a perfect world we wouldn't need them. It's hard on people to have to pay even more taxes.

MPCSD is not so bad off - Yes, MPCSD is a relatively cushy school district. We live across the road from Ravenswood, a school district that makes us look spoiled. Our kids have small class sizes, fantastic teachers and tons of enrichment programs.

Our teachers are lucky - Our teachers are well paid ("for teachers"), get to have their kids attend our schools and benefit from much parent involvement.

All of the above statements are true and are reasons people have listed for their anger about and opposition to the parcel tax. All that being said, please consider the following:

Perhaps the board isn't acting out of malice. Perhaps the numbers that the board provides are legitimate and that expenses are rising much more than revenues and that due to increasing enrollment we really don't have enough money to keep things going as is.

Regarding the systemic issues with California taxes, etc...there are many issues with California (prop 13) that perhaps need fixing. That's great that people want to fix our State politics, but in the meantime, we need money for schools. Parcel taxes are not ideal, but our schools need funding to keep up with increasing enrollment.

Menlo Park has great schools. While my heart goes out to those less fortunate and to those that can't send their kids to MPCSD, my family contributes to causes to help struggling families in our charitable givings. Dragging our kids down because we feel bad about what other kids don't have isn't the solution. Saying that other schools have larger class sizes, so ours should too, doesn't make sense to me. By investing in our schools we are investing in our future. There's magic that is happening inside the small classrooms in Menlo Park, and who are we to say that the magic will still happen with 23, 24, 25 students per class? The students in the classroom aren't entitled spoiled brats. They are little kids who are soaking in every bit of knowledge they get. The fantastic teachers and small class sizes are facilitating their learning. I don't know what the district policy is on visitors, but all you need to do is spend one hour in any of the classrooms to see the benefit of small class sizes.

On a personal note, we weren't sure one of our children would do ok in public school. Our child has a learning difference and we thought private school would offer this child more attention and specialized learning. We looked at 7 private schools, applied to 3 and were rejected from all of them. We had NO CHOICE but to come to public school. It turns out that MPCSD is the place our child should have ended up. Because of the small class sizes and amazing teachers, our child is thriving. If this weren't the case, our child would have ended up in Special Education, draining the district of even more money...There are MANY kids like this in MPCSD...kids who are being served, whose needs are being met because of small class sizes and great teachers. These things are not luxuries. Every child in California deserves these things. Those of us in Menlo Park are lucky enough to have a community that can afford to support its children.

One last word about the teachers. Some say that if we cut salaries or reduce benefits that teachers will have to deal with it because they have no where else to go. Not only is this offensive, but it is not true. Teachers will leave the area. Teachers are our greatest asset. Honor them.

Finally (really, I have to go to bed!), please be civil to each other. I don't agree with everything being said, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. I teach my kids that. Imagine your kids were reading your comments. Also, while the Almanac is used as a way for some members of the community to voice their opinions, please let the school board know directly how you feel. The school board wants to hear from community members about what they value.

Thank you for reading.


Like this comment
Posted by Joe G.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 12, 2016 at 12:13 am

Joe G. is a registered user.

So if I read this correctly, MPCSD gets the second largest percentage of property taxes behind the general county assessment?

GENERAL COUNTY TAX 0.2408858816
MENLO PARK CITY ELEM GENL PUR 0.1697123320
MENLO PARK FIRE DISTRICT 0.1601401686
SEQUOIA HIGH GENRL PURPOSE 0.1587265053
CITY OF MENLO PARK 0.1222088501


Like this comment
Posted by fwiw
a resident of Woodside: other
on May 12, 2016 at 12:56 am

> MENLO PARK CITY ELEM GENL PUR 0.1697123320
> MENLO PARK FIRE DISTRICT 0.1601401686
> SEQUOIA HIGH GENRL PURPOSE 0.1587265053
> CITY OF MENLO PARK 0.1222088501

> MPCSD gets the second largest percentage

Well, yes. But you need to keep a couple of things in mind. First compare to Sequoia and it looks like the school is getting more, but consider that Sequoia only has 4 years of students versus the 9+ years of school at TK-8.

Secondly, that elementary number should probably be considered in the context of other local elementary districts. Here are some typical numbers:

BELMONT ELEMENTARY GENERAL PURPOSE 0.2153365253
SAN CARLOS ELEM GENRL PURPOSE 0.2220674620
LAS LOMITAS ELEM GNRL PURPOSE 0.2021938615
PORTOLA VALLEY ELEM GENL PUR 0.2094534936
WOODSIDE ELEM GENRL PURPOSE 0.1914412462
REDWOOD CITY ELEM GENL PUR 0.2289842013

Why the difference? Generally speaking it's the cities but sometimes
it's other local districts. (Menlo Fire collects less than Woodside Fire
for those that are wondering):

CITY OF MENLO PARK 0.1222088501
CITY OF WOODSIDE 0.0573304842
TOWN OF PORTOLA VALLEY 0.0430260879
CITY OF ATHERTON 0.1055972931
CITY OF SAN CARLOS 0.1254501621
CITY OF REDWOOD CITY AREA 1 0.2472063708 (includes fire)


16 people like this
Posted by Caroline Lucas, local educator
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 12, 2016 at 12:56 am

Caroline Lucas, local educator is a registered user.

All-
I spoke last night about teacher salaries and am sorry if I offended my colleagues. Live whispers and pointers, plus several blogs have referenced my comment, so I would like to respond here.

As I stated at the meeting, teachers deserve to have a quality of life that includes the American dream. A teacher, like anyone, should be able to buy a home, raise a family and not have a two-hour commute because s/he can only afford to live across the bay or in the south bay 20+ miles away. When I said that MPCSD teachers are paid well, "for teachers", I believe the facts show that they are. As I said, I’ve been teaching for 25+ years, have never had a salary as high as those in MPCSD, nor have any of my colleagues.

My district has a merit pay system and teachers can choose to go high or not. That's up to them and that attracts a certain kind of talent. If you know that you are only going to get a raise if you work for it, some folks don't apply. Those who do apply are Ok working very hard forever, or know that they won't be increasing their income.

I am NOT saying that MPCSD teachers should do this, nor am I saying that they don't work very very hard. I am also not saying that they shouldn't have a raise. They should (if resources were more readily available). I am saying that they make more than the rest of us (and not necessary because they work harder but because the taxpayers pay more). This is an undisputed fact.

I am also saying that the district will not fail to attract talent because SADLY, I mean this wholeheartedly MP teachers, SADLY, there is nowhere else to go. If you want to live in SV, you are not going to leave MPCSD simply because you don't get a raise. If you want to live in SV, you are not going to apply only to other districts because honestly, there are not comparable districts that pay more, AND have strong pensions/benefit packages AND perks such as bringing your children. (yes, I agree that it's great to stay late at school because your children are around the corner AND it's also true SADLY that teachers would probably come anyway because the salary is still much higher than just about anywhere else). I am not saying that it should be this way; I am saying that it is this way. I suspect that the teachers may have felt that I "sold them out" by making such comments. I just want it to be known that I, a fellow teacher, also want to retire, have a quality of life and my taxes are paying your pensions and who is paying mine and other hard working talented teachers? (teachers don’t always have lower salaries because they are not as good; sometimes in all fairness, sometimes it’s because they are not employable in strong districts and it’s also sometimes because they want to serve certain populations of students)

Now, onto Ravenswood. I mentioned that I work part time as a literacy coach and that I have watched teachers leave in droves. This is not fair that some children rarely get seasoned teachers. Having thoughtful generous altruistic volunteers is not enough to level the playing field folks. All children need to have teachers who are experienced at points in their careers. I know many wonderful teachers like this in Ravenswood but many of them commute from Oakland or even farther away because that is what their salaries can afford. Very often the ones who want to stay local, leave. Some of them are now in MP. Ask them about it. It's easy to "think" about the poor kids and teachers on the other side of the track" but it's another thing to BE them. Someone said that just because ‘they’ don't have what we have, doesn't mean that we shouldn't give wonderful programs/class sizes etc. to our children. The problem with this argument is that this is PUBLIC education. How can a child who hasn't grown up with a one to one ipad program, possibly compete with ‘our’ children once they arrive to M-A? Families may choose SHS, Menlo etc. but MPCSD is preparing children to enter SUHSD and once there our children and Ravenswood children should all have a fair shot at the advanced track. For many reasons (some out of our sphere of influence) they do not. However, there are some reasons, within our sphere of influence that we can control. At MPCSD, I personally cannot justify going from amazing to super amazing, when it's good enough; until the state makes teaching a priority and gives us ALL a bigger piece of the financial pie (and I mean ALL OF US including TEACHER COLLEAGUES WHO WERE OFFENDED BY MY COMMENTS), I only ask that you, MP teachers settle with what you have and not ask the taxpayers in MP to pay more because you do have more than everyone else (in your profession). Go bigger if you are angered by this and try to get more money for teachers, but not from your local taxpayers.

Parents, I understand the when we are in the middle of the system, it can be hard to go for silver plated when we have had gold plated. If it were just us paying, we could demand a gold plated education for our children (that’s what private school parents can do). However, it’s not. 80% of the taxpayers don't have children in the system and they want an amazing great system but it seems that they are OK asking for some give from the parent/staff community. So…

Will we increase our class sizes? (It’s not ideal but maybe it's preferable to letting go of Spanish for all, which is a luxury.... and I say this even as a Spanish teacher!)

Will we outsource certain jobs within our legal options? (It’s also not popular to lay off beloved staff when it's their livelihood but might need to be considered…).

Perhaps the leasing options will be considered? Would that be more palatable than cuts in administrative staff positions?

Which hurts less, cutting professional development or cutting special programs?

Finally, let's be sure that we are not throwing money into places where we shouldn't be (grievances, frivolous law suits and the like) at times of financial strain. We need to count on the school board to oversee this so that every penny that we pay to schools is going to our children and not to ward off the consequences of imprudent actions or decisions.

As a teacher, the following are given:

I want to reach all my students with a small class size.

I want to have my children at work, so I can dedicate more hours to the job.

I want to have a salary that affords me the ability to live near my school should I choose to do so.

I want to have professional development opportunities so that I can stay abreast of best practices.

I am a teacher and I am also a MP taxpayer and I also want these things. I don't think we can have it all. It's time to make choices and as Joe stated, "Everyone" needs to do his/her part. So what we will collectively decide?

Submitted with respect for
- my colleagues in MPCSD
-the hardworking innovators for these amazing programs
-the board members who listened to my concerns (and Maria for really listening and seeking to understand)
-the courageous members of the public who spoke for those who were unable to do so including Peter, Mary Beth, Joe and Resident from the Willows)
-those who continue to support a collective conversation from behind the scenes for a better Menlo Park


15 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 12, 2016 at 10:19 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

@our town:
"I have been told that there are school board members posting here under aliases." I haven't read a single comment in any of the Almanac articles that remotely sounds like it comes from a School Board member. I'd bet any amount of money that they're staying as far from these comment sections as they possibly can. They're no doubt aware of the content of the Almanac articles, but as far as commenting under aliases ~ no matter what you've heard, I think it's highly unlikely.
"I'm concerned that after the Tuesday meeting was over, they reassured themselves that only a few troublemakers showed up to complain and that 99% of the voters have no problem with the current governance." I attended the meeting and stayed for its entirety, and I saw nothing to make me think the Board is anything but 100% sincere in its desire to engage with the community. I don't think the Board is laboring under any delusions about the fact that there's dissatisfaction and a degree of distrust out there.

@MPCSD Mom: I really appreciate your thoughtful, balanced, articulate post.

@Caroline Lucas: I'm sure your heart is in the right place, but are you really surprised that MPCSD teachers who were at the Board meeting were taken aback at you saying, in a public forum, essentially that they should be happy to take a salary cut, and that they won't leave MPCSD because there's nowhere else to go? I'm not a teacher, and I was very taken aback by that. I didn't, however, see or hear any of the finger pointing or whispering you mentioned; I just saw a room full of people listening in silence.


11 people like this
Posted by Caroline Lucas, local educator
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 12, 2016 at 10:36 am

Caroline Lucas, local educator is a registered user.

HH-

I don’t say anything that about teachers that I am not willing to live with myself, as I don’t support hypocrisy, but that’s why this was so hard to hear, because it came from a teacher. It’s not just my truth. It’s the truth. We are ALL stuck and at the mercy of the taxpayers. We love what we do and we love the students so we don’t leave the profession generally and the public knows it and doesn’t have to react because we stay on board because our hearts are big.

No, I'm not surprised that teachers felt that way. I think it needed to be said however, that while it's a hard that the money that they make is not enough, it is still more than the other SV teachers. It was being presented by the board that teachers would leave and while I feel badly that teachers are "stuck", no they won't leave for the reason that I stated. (no one is going to pay more). I'm not surprised at how teachers feel and didn't suggest they be happy about it but want teachers to know that while I don't agree with the reality, it is the reality and putting a scare into the public that teachers will leave if they don't get raises is not really true, from my experience. I've never seen it happen. Unless they move to Kansas or leave the profession (which are both possible), teachers stay because it's better than leaving. A low bar and SAD, as I mentioned.

I am only the messenger and as a taxpayer didn't want the community to think the sky was falling. That being said, dealing with a teacher shortage, is a very big deal but it's one that needs to be looked at by our state, as not enough people want to do into teacher to sustain our great society. We need a collective look at why but that's a different blog.


29 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on May 12, 2016 at 10:36 am

Train Fan is a registered user.

“Perhaps the board isn't acting out of malice.”

I agree that the board and the 5-parcel-tax proponents are not malicious. From my experience in this debate, I have no doubt their intentions are good. But do I think there’s heavy spin, intentional opaqueness, and even outright deception about the financial numbers, both past finances and present? ABSOLUTELY. Are they doing this because they think “the ends justifies the means”? I believe so.


“Perhaps the numbers that the board provides are legitimate and that expenses are rising much more than revenues and that due to increasing enrollment”

Well, that’s one of the KEY problems; the financial numbers and projections from MPCSDs OWN BUDGET show that projected revenues have-and-will-continue-to grow faster than projected student population growth. Anyone with a grasp of basic math can come to no other conclusion based on their published budget: the 2017-2018 budget is projected to be over $1,000,000 higher than the current-year budget. And that 1 million is a very very low estimate; even if real estate prices were to stagnate…or even drop 30%… the average assessed value and tax basis for property tax revenue would continue to go up.

So one of the major issues is, if revenue has been outpacing inflation and student growth, why would expenses grow even faster? That is never addressed by 5-tax proponents, I suspect in part because they don’t have a palatable, PR/marketing friendly answer. It’s easier to just say 5-parcel-taxes are for class sizes, when in reality any additional parcel taxes will go for pay raises (you just have to look at PAUSD RIGHT now to see that is true), and likely retirement benefits.


18 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 12, 2016 at 10:51 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

@Train Fan: One of the messages of the Board meeting was that drawing conclusions from the posted budgets *isn't* a matter of basic math, now that the State has changed the way it reports STRS contributions. My understanding is that since the State is unable to meet its obligations re unfunded pension liabilities, it has shifted a greater percentage of those costs to individual districts, and has compelled districts to show a bug chunk of STRS costs in their budget as a pass-through line item. This line item artificially inflates the revenue number, but those aren't funds that our District, or any other, can access and use for operational expenses. My explanation is probably imperfect, but I know ~ because they said so at the Board meeting ~ that Board members, the Superintendent, and the CBO are available to explain the changes and answer questions. It would be nice if it were as simple as "take the total revenue figure and divide by the number of students," but it really is not that simple. I don't believe anyone's trying to deceive, manipulate, or pull a fast one.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2016 at 10:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"My understanding is that since the State is unable to meet its obligations re unfunded pension liabilities, it has shifted a greater percentage of those costs to individual districts, and has compelled districts to show a bug chunk of STRS costs in their budget as a pass-through line item."

Wrong. These pension obligations are and always have been the District's responsibility, not the State's responsibility. The State simply administers the pension program and it passes back to the agency that granted the pension the responsibility for paying ALL the bills.

A wise local agency charges itself more than the State requires in current payments because it knows that the State will be back to recover any shortfall. Changes in the accounting rules have now required the State to also shift the unfunded liability from its books to the books of the pension granting agencies.

These are MPCSD granted pensions and MPCSD must pay the full costs of these pensions and MPCSD's books must now show MPCSD's unfunded liabilities.


13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2016 at 11:08 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A major reason for the failure of Measures A and C was that the Board refused to answer any of the many questions that were raised both in this Forum and directly to the Board.

IF the Board does not supply clear documented answers to the questions that have been and will continue to be raised then people like Jack, Alex, Train Fan and I will be forced to continue to do our best to come up with the best answers that we can. And we all welcome being corrected if someone can come up with better documented answers.


6 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 12, 2016 at 11:22 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

@PC: I'm trying to educate myself on this, and I did say my explanation was imperfect. However, I don't believe your assertion that these are MPCSD-granted benefits is correct.

Pensions under CalSTERS ~ the California State Teachers Retirement System ~ are set by the California Teachers Association at the state level. MPCSD has nothing to do with those negotiations, and no say in teacher pensions. They simply have to pay what the state tells them to pay. It was discussed at the Board meeting that the State has increased the amount both local Districts and teachers themselves have to pay in to the system. This clearly impacts MPCSD expenditures. There has also been an increase in the pass-through line item, which artificially inflates the MPCSD budget revenue column. I was there and listened carefully to the discussion, since I don't know much about this stuff and want to learn.


17 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2016 at 11:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is very interesting that these facts were not discussed at Tuesday's meeting:

Posted by Sentinel
a resident of another community
13 hours ago
Sentinel is a registered user.

Our Town:

You are correct. Las Lomitas ESD and MPCSD previously maintained MOUs that included sharing the following departments: Business Services (1 CBO and an administrative assistant); Facilities, Maintenance and Transportation (1 Manager), and Special Education (1 Director and an administrative assistant). The department offices were housed in the LLESD. Due to the small size of the districts, and the close proximity of the schools, this arrangement worked smoothly and effectively. In 2004, MPCSD decided to establish its own departments, resulting in each district hiring its own full-time staff when the MOUs ended.

**********
What seems to have happened is that the District intentionally increased its administrative costs and now propoenents claim "The issue is really whether we want the same quality teaching and education for our kids that they are currently receiving. If we do, we need to pay for it." How exactly has increasing the administrative costs by abandoning these shared services MOU's contributing to the "quality teaching and education for our kids that they are currently receiving"?


16 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on May 12, 2016 at 11:25 am

Train Fan is a registered user.

"the State has changed the way it reports STRS contributions."

Fair enough, but there are issues with that statement:

1) 5-parcel-tax proponents never use the retirements benefits issue as a justification for 5 parcel taxes;

2) STRS contributions are not a problem unique to MPCSD, yet I'm not exactly hearing the siren song for parcel taxes throughout the state; clearly there are ways to address this without 5 permanent parcel taxes, since clearly that's exactly what other districts are-and-will do.

It would, of course, help if the teacher's union actually tried to be a partner in helping address the impact of retirement funding; after all, it IS their members that directly benefit by the retirement funding. They did themselves no PR-favors by requesting a renegotiation of the labor contract right after the district announced their intention for 5 parcel taxes. And considering what has been happening in PAUSD, it's very clear the bulk of additional taxation would have just resulted in additional bonuses (for an elementary school district with some of the highest salaries in the state) instead of addressing the key issues: the desperate need for a budget reserve so that teachers don't need to be laid off during the next economic downturn, and the desperate need to address retirement funding.


"This line item artificially inflates the revenue number"

To be clear, the +$1,000,000 increase I refer to isn't based on some number pulled from thin air; it's from current property taxes and the 3 permanent parcel taxes, multiplied by the district's own estimates on increases over the next 2 budgets. There's no "artificial" inflation in this case; in fact that 1 million estimate is likely low.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2016 at 11:29 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

When MPCSD hires an employee they offer that employee certain benefits. It makes no difference who set the benefit level or costs, those costs are an obligation of the hiring agency.

Just because there is a Federal or State minimum wage don't expect the Feds or the State to reimburse you for paying the required minimum wage.

And there is nothing to preclude MPCSD in its negotiations from offering lower salary increases to offset higher pension costs

There is no free lunch !!


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2016 at 11:39 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Let's no forget that the pensions included with a teacher's job at MPCSD are very impressive:

"Career teachers can look forward to a far more generous retirement than workers in the Social Security system. Not only does CalSTRS give a higher rate, it also bases pensions on the highest-paid year for teachers on the job 25 years or more. That compares with benefits based on a 35-year average under Social Security."

"The difference means a Modesto teacher who worked for 38 years, earning $90,600 in base pay and $15,000 to $20,000 for extra work his last two years, retired at 61 with a pension of $100,454, according to the CalSTRS list.

Had he been making that same amount, but contributing to Social Security instead, he would now be living on $21,180 a year. If he had worked five more years, to the Social Security maximum benefit age, he could expect $29,448."

Read more here: Web Link


14 people like this
Posted by Joe G.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 12, 2016 at 11:45 am

Joe G. is a registered user.

Disappointed with Terry's comment in the Palo Alto Daily. Seems to point to a continuing arrogance to the community as a whole.

"We've never had a situation in our district where someone has ... created a ballot argument with fallacious information," said Thygesen, who has served on the board since 2000. "Maybe that's the difference ... we used to be a small district and now we're a medium-sized district. In a smaller community, people don't do things like that."

Web Link

Terry and Jeff keep responding that the opponents were spreading mis-information.

The Board has NEVER fully answered the questions with a formal response. Claiming to have answered these questions "many times" in verbal conversations one-on-one with Peter, as Terry indicated in the Palo Alto Daily article, is not being open and TRANSPARENT. The board needs to address each of the questions in a written statement back to the community. I definitely would support Peter if he chose to run for the school board. It is time for some community representation other than the insider MPCSD community.

Enough with the scare tactics as quoted from the supportmenloparkschools.org website and their postcard.

"Without Measure A and Measure C, our schools will lose $5,700,000[TRUE - although C was a new tax so you really cannot say you will lose what you don't have] in annual funding. At least 42 teachers will be cut [FALSE], class sizes will increase dramatically[FALSE] and core educational programs will be severely reduced or eliminated.[FALSE]"

Maybe if you picked one area to reduce that would be the case [part removed. Please avoid attacks.] but not if you look at the totality of the budget and ways to raise some revenue while controlling costs.

It is time for fiscal responsibility.


11 people like this
Posted by Joe G.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 12, 2016 at 11:59 am

Joe G. is a registered user.

Peter's comment about the pension liability is spot on. This just puts continued light on the fact that government and public agencies need to do the same think that the private sector did 30 and 40 years ago and move away from DEFINED BENEFIT PENSION PLANS and to DEFINED CONTRIBUTION PLANS(i.e. 401k). My guess is that this is a legislative issue that our elected reps will just keep kicking down the road until it finally collapses under its own wait.


14 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 12, 2016 at 12:15 pm

The board members continued maligning of the parcel tax opponents do not show a willingness to engage and communicate honestly with the broader community. Rather, they put on a good show of wanting community involvement while simultaneously bad mouthing the opposition publicly. If the "misinformation" spread by the opponents was fully refuted by the district as they claim, it speaks volumes that many voters do not trust the information coming from the board and the district. This mistrust did not occur overnight. I hope they recognize their disdain for the broader community is showing through and they sincerely try to change their ways.


27 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Thygesen acknowledged Wednesday the district could have conveyed its message better, but didn't blame communication for the ballots' failure. Roughly 3,000 fewer people voted in this parcel tax election than in the 2010 one, she said. "

But THEY choose the timing, THEY set the Special Election and THEY claimed that a Special Election would get a better turn out.


40 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Thygesen said the district has already met with Carpenter to answer his questions. She suggested that he run for a seat on the board.

"His questions have been answered over and over again," she said."

[Part removed. Please avoid attacks.]

The questions that I and others raised were never answered and I challenge Thygesen to post dated responses to any of these often asked but never answered questions.

[Portion removed due to excessive and/or repetitive post by same poster]


29 people like this
Posted by Apple
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 12, 2016 at 12:42 pm

The reason everyone harps on transparency so much is that there is a lack of trust. The community can't tell if the school board is providing a balanced perspective or spin. Because the community can't tell, they ask for transparency so that they can come to their own conclusions.

The parcel tax opponents pointed out that MPCSD teachers are among the highest paid in the state for a midsize district. While neighboring districts spend more per student, which is more of a factor that these districts are more rural and richer, MPCSD already pays more salary per teacher than their neighboring districts. The district uses conservative projections on when estimating future property taxes, yet uses a more aggressive projection for estimating projected student enrollment.

The district should be supplying the facts for both the pro and con side, then let the community decide which direction they want. That's why parcel taxes are subject to a public vote. The board's mindset should not be "how do we win this parcel tax vote." Its mindset should be to present the facts to the community and let them decide. Then, the board takes the cue from the voters on the desired policy direction.


23 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on May 12, 2016 at 12:53 pm

Train Fan is a registered user.

I was initially encouraged by what I was hearing from 5-parcel-tax proponents and the board if the Measures defeats, but this statement is disappointing:

"We've never had a situation in our district where someone has ... created a ballot argument with fallacious information," said Thygesen, who has served on the board since 2000."

I suspect she's referring to the argument that points out MPCSD revenue was 19 million, when 5-parcel-tax proponents claim it was 23 million. (this is part of the marketing spin that claims revenues have not kept up with inflation+student growth).

Regardless which number is more correct, it is unreasonable to call the ballot argument's information "fallacious" when the numbers are straight from the California department of Education. This discrepancy was discussed many times, but the only thing 5-parcel-tax proponents did was just claim it was wrong without supporting evidence. Yes, they talked with an Almanacnews reporter, but the best we can tell all they did was hand the reporter a piece of paper with the $23 million on it with a list of CPIs-per-year and claim that's the real revenue number for 2005. That's nowhere near good enough.

(and it's noteworthy that they chose comparisons with a year with a different accounting formula...BY CHOICE. Making the comparisons with similar accounting methods shows that revenues are outpacing inflation AND student growth).


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2016 at 2:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Board is now going through the 5 Stages of Loss:

1. Denial and Isolation

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

Let's hope that they can move beyond Stage 1 and Stage 2 quickly.


6 people like this
Posted by Caroline Lucas, local educator
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 12, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Caroline Lucas, local educator is a registered user.

While I appreciate the comments of this recent string, I see that no one is getting excited about a bigger picture. The way that we as a community handle this, sends a message to our children regarding our belief about public education: what it is and what it is not.

If we allow one group of children to gold plate their education (because we are able to) meanwhile our neighbors who doesn’t have the ability to do so, can’t pay their teachers even close to such salaries, we are CREATIING A BASIC INEQUITY IN OUR SCHOOLS.

Teachers’ salaries nor pensions are luxurious. I enjoy a nice life but it's not a six-figure life even with my benefits in place.

That being said, the MPCSD are more than most other teachers in the state of California.

If we support the continued increased salaries here, we are saying to California's public school children that the access that you have to quality education is dependent upon your zip code. A major concern as I see it is that the pot of money for education needs to be shared amongst all kids and what MPCSD is facing right now is what most other districts face ALL THE TIME- CHOICES.

To be clear- I am all for teachers receiving more pay butt that is ALL teachers, not a select few. If they were better, then that would be supply and demand and what the market will bear. But we are not talking about a brand of gum. We are talking about CHILDREN- OUR FUTURE LEADERS. We are writing off a group of children because we feel so strongly about paying A SELECT GROUP OF TEACHERS, (i.e. those who teach OUR children, more, and a lot more) than those who teach somebody else's children. This is NOT PUBLIC EDUCATION. We cannot control everything (poverty, levels of literacy in the household, parental support, but we can control that every child in California gets a highly effective teacher and the most highly effective teachers have the option to go to the most highly paid districts. Increasing the teacher salaries perpetuates this cycle and if we endorse it, we are a part of the problem, not the solution.

I don't feel like taking a pay cut but I also don't like seeing some children have a revolving door of teachers because they get their careers started and then jump across the tracks. That is NOT PUBLIC EDUCATION.

I don't like seeing site principals on the west side of town create innovative programs during their work days and the principals on the east side work as substitute teachers, yes substitute teachers folks, because the sub pay is so low that they cannot get enough subs to cover their basic absences.

One could say, that we are not responsible for this problem. I would say that we are a part of the problem if engage in behavior that makes the problem worse.

No hirer salaries for CERTAIN GROUPS unless it's based on performance or unless it's for teachers of ALL children because a quality education is a basic right but even though all children deserve this, they can’t afford to attract it by nature of their zip code. An education is not a car. It's a door and it's our job to open it to ALL children. I work for ALL the children and I hope others will join me in not only volunteering but also willing to work to ensure that every child in SM County has a highly effective teacher.

For more information go to newteachercenter.org

(a non-profit in support of this mission)


58 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"His questions have been answered over and over again," she said."

This is an allegation without verification and an untruthful statement.


15 people like this
Posted by Caroline Lucas, local educator
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 12, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Caroline Lucas, local educator is a registered user.

Below is my own experience with these questions, originally posed by Mr. Carpenter.

1. I saw them on the blog.
2. I found them to be reasonable questions to ask.
3. I cut and paste them and sent them to the board president.
4. Mr. Child forwarded them to Ahamad.
5. The district acknowledged receipt (of the 4/21 request) and told me I would hear back.
6. I asked the school board president the day before the election if he could at least answer the yes /no questions directly in a conversation and he asked me "Whose questions are they anyway?"

I didn't even know Peter Carpenter at that time and had just cut and pasted them from the blog because I thought that they were good questions.

We ended the call with a few answers such as
-there were less than 60 children of staff
-the benefit did not have it's own line in the budget because it is a benefit enjoyed by teachers the way that I enjoy small class sizes in my own district
-----------------------------------------------

I expect I will hear 30 days from that date, 4/21 as that is the protocol for Public Records Request and Lanita always follows through on requests. I've never had any problem getting my requests answered from her.


9 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 12, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Peter is correct. I was at an early meeting at Peter's house with Terry, Jeff, Alex, Jen and Barbara. More questions were raised than answered. Most have yet to be answered.
I have had some good response from Ahmad, but he must be under tremendous pressure.
The unfunded pension and medical benefits for retirees is enormous!

I can appreciate the predicament in which the Board members find themselves, but we're here to help. There are solutions.

"When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember you’re there to drain the swamp."


31 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 12, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Why do the Forum moderators remove comments that accurately describe a statement as a lie?

If the statement is untrue why not allow it to be describe as a lie?

Is the word lie offensive or is it acceptable on this Forum to post demonstrably untrue statements without fear of being challenged?


5 people like this
Posted by Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 12, 2016 at 10:28 pm

Menlo Man is a registered user.

[Post removed. Make your point without attacking other posters.]


4 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 12, 2016 at 10:56 pm

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

@Menlo Man: Oh, snap!!

@Peter Carpenter: Yes; the word "lie" is offensive. It's also aggressive and borderline defamatory. if you think something is untrue or misrepresented, just content yourself with using one of those words. In using the word "lie," you tread dangerously close to calling someone a liar, which I would hope isn't your intention. My comment describing one of your posts as "self-righteous," in tone was removed, and I'd argue that "self-righteous" and "lie" are equally subjective and aggressive descriptors. So, pot/kettle.


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

Hotel restaurant to open in Mountain View
By Elena Kadvany | 3 comments | 2,626 views

A Concrete Joy: The Life and Love of Charlie Foley-Hughes
By Aldis Petriceks | 0 comments | 1,096 views

Climate Friendly Cuisine Conference
By Laura Stec | 15 comments | 867 views

Couples: Wanting, Yet Missing One Another
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 576 views