News

Guest opinion: What kind of school district will its new superintendent lead?

Challenges facing Menlo Park City School District

By Erik Burmeister

I like adventure. And when the Menlo Park City School District board put my potential appointment as the district's next superintendent on the agenda, it was clear that adventure might possibly await.

In addition to a new superintendent, the district is opening a new school, welcoming two new board members, addressing the ramifications of two failed parcel tax measures, and making difficult decisions regarding its financial future.

The most important question at the heart of my potential adventure is not, Am I excited to be considered? Without a doubt, I am humbled and honored. The real question for all of us is: What kind of district will I be tasked to lead?

Different narratives swirl as to why the district has found itself in a structural deficit in the first place. The economy is strong, California is returning money to schools it once held back, homes are selling faster and for more than ever. How could the district possibly be in this position? This is a fair question.

From my perspective, informed by many years outside of the Menlo Park City School District, our district is partly a victim of its own success.

Years ago, leaders in our community felt strongly that our schools could and should compare favorably to those of our neighbors. To my estimation, we have exceeded expectations.

As a result, housing prices have soared, families have flocked to homes in the district, and enrollment has increased. New families have invested in this community with the expectation that this quality of education is something on which they can depend.

While our neighboring districts experience decreasing enrollment, our district has added 55 new students this year alone. After an enrollment growth of more than 18 percent in seven years, we anticipate adding another 300 students by 2025.

Being "community funded" means the district will receive the same amount of money each year, regardless of how many students attend. So as our neighboring community funded districts have negative or static enrollment growth, they have more money to spend per student than the Menlo Park district. Our community can be proud of the excellent product we provide, and we've done it for less money per student than any of our neighboring districts with similar programs.

Were increased enrollment our only challenge, we could probably address it without significant reductions or revenue increases. However, two other challenges stare us in the face.

The first is the expiration of the 2010 Measure C parcel tax, which brings in $1.6 million annually and will sunset on July 1. Were enrollment to have stabilized in the last six years, we might be able to manage simply with the increases to our property tax rate. Sadly, and contrary to what one might assume, the portion of the property tax increase that the district receives doesn't make up the difference in the costs related to enrollment increases, much less cover the costs of the projected increase of 300 students over nine years.

The third and final challenge that faces all California districts is the state's decision to move more of its financial burden of providing a solvent teacher retirement system to the local districts, amounting to an increase from 8.25 percent of a teacher's salary in 2014 to 19.1 percent by 2020. Regardless of what one thinks of public pensions, this is a real cost to the district, one we cannot avoid.

So where does this leave us? I believe it leaves us with a choice. What kind of a district does our community want the next superintendent to lead? Do we want to spend the next five years tied up in a budget crisis, or do we want to spend our time doing what we do best – imagining and providing a truly noteworthy education?

The answers are out there; we just have to come together to find them. They will likely involve a combination of reductions and revenue.

Honestly, the decisions about what we should do have not been made. In fact, the decision to appoint me has not been made. These decisions happen in public and the public is invited, in fact implored, to share its perspective.

You will determine what kind of district the next superintendent leads. I hope you will visit district.mpcsd.org and get involved.

As for me, should the board appoint me superintendent, I am excited for the adventure.

Comments

18 people like this
Posted by Schools are important
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 13, 2016 at 9:53 am

As Burmeister says, it's a pretty simple choice before our district. We can either choose to continue ensuring that per student funding is sufficient to maintain existing high quality programs and teachers, or we can decide to be victims of the fact that our property tax funding is less than the other districts with high quality programs and teachers. We all know that Peter Carpenter wants to starv our schools of sufficient funding to maintain the existing high quality. The fact that our schools have been managing to do what they are doing with less than the comparable districts is not good enough for him.


1 person likes this
Posted by Caped Crusader Returns
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 13, 2016 at 1:55 pm

[Post removed. Poster using multiple names on same thread.]


19 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 13, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" We all know that Peter Carpenter wants to starv our schools of sufficient funding to maintain the existing high quality."

False.

I want the schools to reflect the desires and the tax paying ability of all of the citizens of this district, not just that of the parents who simply want someone else to pay for their children's premium education.

I want the schools to live within their income and not sign long term contracts that require deficit spending - even with four parcel taxes.

If the parents want more then they should contribute more as do the parents in Woodside and Portola Valley.


12 people like this
Posted by Schools are important
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 13, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Peter: we are all tired of listening to you tell our community that it should not continue funding its public schools at a level to maintain quality programs and teachers comparable to Las Lomitas, Palo Alto etc. If that is your opinion, fine, but stop telling everyone else what to think. You constantly criticize our schools despite the fact that they have been delivering a comparable program to the other top districts for less. Nothing our schools ever do is good enough for you.


13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 13, 2016 at 2:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Excuse me !

YOU keep telling people what I think - and quite incorrectly I would add.

I am simply responding to your false claims/lies by stating what I do think.


16 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 13, 2016 at 4:57 pm

Perhaps my memory fails me but I recall that Peter (1) provided more trustworthy facts and analysis of the recently failed parcel tax ballot than anyone else in the Almanac Town Square (2) opposed primarily the way the ballot measure was structured and the campaign was run, (3) offered tips on how to garner broad, future community support for any additional funding that was needed (4) and even offered to personally help. I appreciate that Peter was willing to invest so much time understanding what was happening and sharing his findings with other residents. Did the District accept his offer?

Erik: I appreciate your outreach to the community. If you openly engage our community and build trust securing needed school financing will not be nearly as hard a process. Good luck!


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 13, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Did the District accept his offer?"

I personally submitted a letter with 18 specific questions to the School Board at their 10 May 2016 meeting.

Those questions have still not be answered and they were just recently referred by the Board to a Dec 2016 Finance Committee meeting.

I guess this is what Roy means by "outreach" by the Board.


15 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 13, 2016 at 6:43 pm

Dana, contrary to your assertion, I was appalled by the false information distributed by opponents to Measures A & C, including Peter Carpenter.

I assumed that the Measures' proponents would deal with the falsehoods, but that didn't happen.

After both measures won a majority of votes but failed to clear the 67% supermajority required to pass, I spent over a week documenting, first, the essential falsehood about MPCSD spending propagated by the opponents, and, second, answers to Peter Carpenter's 18 questions and 4 'agenda items'.

It did not seem to me that MPCSD staff had any obligation to devote the dozens of hours they would have needed to deal with one poorly informed member of the public. I sent the analysis and the answers to Mr. Carpenter (and also Alex Keh) in early June.

That would not, however, appear to be enough, so I am now going to publish my analysis on Tumblr. My first post is a detailed analysis of the essential falsehood published by the opponents in the Voter Guide.

The blog can be found at: Web Link
I will try to publish one or two pages (of the 25+ I sent Mr. Carpenter) twice a day. Forgive my slowness -- I document whenever possible with screenshots from public data sources and moving those into a blog from MS Word is very time consuming.


14 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 13, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Jennifer:

"It did not seem to me that MPCSD staff had any obligation to devote the dozens of hours they would have needed to deal with one poorly informed member of the public."

Seriously? That is EXACTLY their duty. They work for US. Not the other way around.

This is the primary problem with the board and their sycophants. They think the tax payers are "poorly informed" and we don't deserve any answers to our LEGITIMATE questions. Questions they are LEGALLY required to answer. Yet as of today they have not.

The taxpayers have DEMANDED transparency yet we get NOTHING in response. And folks like you that think that's just hunky dory. Sorry, it's NOT. When the board answers the questions they MIGHT get some support from the MAJORITY of us that actually pay the bills.


14 people like this
Posted by Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 13, 2016 at 8:44 pm

Menlo Man is a registered user.

Peter keeps referring to the fact that the Board did not respond to his questions, as evidence that the Board is not transparent, or not willing to engage the public.

Peter the 18 questions you asked were....

1) 18 QUESTIONS! Do you expect them to a) have those responses immediately b) drop everything and dive head first into answering them, along the regular business of running a district?

2) Almanac readers: Have you read some of these questions? They are not simple : "Lemme check with HR and get right back to you" type questions. They are DENSE and COMPLICATED, as is this one: "Would new out of district students have been counted as increased enrollments under Measure C thereby causing every parcel to pay an additional tax for these out of District students?"

3) Perhaps the Board is being cautious about engaging with you Peter given your combative stance. You have threatened to sue the school district for violating the Brown Act Peter. Wouldn't you deal carefully and methodically with someone who has threatened to sue you ??


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 13, 2016 at 8:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"1) 18 QUESTIONS! Do you expect them to a) have those responses immediately b) drop everything and dive head first into answering them, along the regular business of running a district?"

No, my request specifically asked "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 ltem."

That did not happen.

I then expected them to answer the questions during the summer months when school was out.

That also did not happen and six months later there are still no answers.

The question "Would new out of district students have been counted as increased enrollments under Measure C thereby causing every parcel to pay an additional tax for these out of District students?" is neither dense or complicated and calls for a simple Yes or No answer.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 13, 2016 at 9:10 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Jennifer - Your opinions are certainly interesting but you are not an authorized spokesperson for the District and any "answers" that you provide are simply your opinions.

IF however the District has provided you with the answers to my questions then that begs the question - why would the District give an insider answers to questions that it has refused to give to an outsider?


8 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 13, 2016 at 9:39 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Menlo man:

the board has had MONTHS to respond to these questions yet they only recently "referred" them to a committee. Still no answers. This is BS. The taxpayers deserve answers to these questions. The board works for US. They need to respond if they expect any more money from us.


8 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 14, 2016 at 6:31 am

SteveC is a registered user.

A new failure on bonds is about to happen. The board still does not understand.


7 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 14, 2016 at 4:10 pm

Gentle Readers,

This morning’s my blog post addresses why Menlo Park has the three remaining, perpetual, parcel taxes – and why, indeed, Menlo Park chooses to pass parcel taxes. If time is tight, I hope you scroll down to the bottom of the post to see how, over the past 15 years, Menlo Park residents have chosen to raise our “Current Expense of Education per Average Daily Attendee” up to the level provided by Palo Alto -- through substantial parcel taxes and education foundation contributions as well as property tax growth.

The blog can be found at: Web Link


15 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 14, 2016 at 4:15 pm

Mr. Carpenter, why is it that when women over 60 present facts, they are derided as opinions – and, when men over 70 present opinions, they are hailed as facts?

I am going to the trouble of publishing my responses to your questions to illustrate what concerned, committed citizen input actually looks like. Of course, reading school board materials, researching comparable financials, and reviewing academic papers on school funding does take work – while generating lists of questions is rather fun. However, since you publicly dismissed the district as “dishonest” and “misleading voters” in the Official Voter Guide, it seemed that, perhaps, an outsider was needed to generate credible answers.

In preparing my analysis of your questions, I only had to ask three questions of the school district. These concerned specific enrollment numbers. I was told that two of these questions had been asked by your co-opponents (and responded to), while the third, (concerning undifferentiated headcount related to the Tinsley program) had not. Otherwise, no, I asked no questions of the school district, nor did I need to. The answers to your questions were either available in board material online or required information available from the LAO and Ed-data. I am as much of an outsider as you – though hopefully a more respectful one.

In terms of non-response to community members, however, may I point out that I have still not received an answer to the question I asked at the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board meeting on May 17th? The one that I also presented in writing at that meeting? The one that I followed up with the MPFPD Administrative Services Manager about, three times, just to make sure she had my email?

Admittedly, it was not an interestingly loaded question like, “Why assume unrealistically low property-tax revenue increases?” Perhaps, “What percentage of the County’s Excess ERAF distributions are paid to MPFPD?” is too boring. But, since it was part of the spreadsheet I was developing to address one of your agenda items (namely, merging Ravenswood, Menlo, Las Lomitas, Portola Valley and Woodside school districts), I had hoped to hear. Of course, MPFPD administrative offices are closed on Fridays, so perhaps that’s why five months have proved insufficient to answer that question.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2016 at 4:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From: "Carpenter, Peter" <
Subject: Citizen's inquiry
Date: October 14, 2016 at 4:20:06 PM PDT
To: Fire Chief
Cc: Jennifer Bestor
Chief,

Can you please make sure that Jennifer gets a timely response to the MPFPD ERAF question that she includes in this posting:


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2016 at 4:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Jennifer - This information has long been posted on the Fire District's web site:

General Fund Revenue FY 16-17

Education Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF) Shift
Description:
The most significant shifts in property tax revenue from the District by legislative action is the Education Revenue Augmentation Fund
(ERAF) shift.
The State passed into law two tax shifts, ERAF I (FY
1992-93) and ERAF II (FY 1993-94) which shifted local AB8
property tax revenues from counties, cities, special districts, and redevelopment agencies to K-12 schools and community colleges. The base ERAF I and II tax shifts were specified by the State using population and other factors, and are adjusted yearly per the incremental growth
rate in assessed property values. ERAF III was an additional tax shift implemented by the State for FY 2004-05
and FY 2005-06. The District was not subject to this last
shift; however, the continuing trend towards the
allocation of more tax revenue to schools and other state specified entities
is a precedent setting event.
Analysis:
Using data provided by San Mateo County, the District’s ERAF shift can be calculated as approximately 11 percent of each of the applicable property tax revenues: Secured, Unsecured, and Home Owners Property Tax Exemption (HOPTR).
The 11 percent rate has been used for the budget estimate.
The following table provides a summary of the property tax revenues and the amount of the gross ERAF shift, for the categories of taxes and inter-governmental(HOPTR).
ERAF Shift
Actual FY 2010-11
Actual FY 2011-12
Actual FY 2012-13
Actual FY 2013-14
Actual FY 2014-15
2015-16 Estimated
2016-17 Proposed
Secured
29,065,900
$
30,834,500
$
34,454,470
$
36,039,100
$
34,490,578
$
38,323,828
$
39,856,800
$
Unsecured
1,724,800
1,470,100
1,842,177
1,881,800
1,774,307
2,155,486
2,241,700
HOPTR
221,700
220,500
272,600
227,300
247,757
257,667
267,974
Sub-Total
31,012,400
32,525,100
36,569,247
38,148,200
36,512,642
40,736,981
42,366,474
Shi ft
(3,543,200)
$
(3,601,000)
$
(3,805,500)
$
(4,097,000)
$
(3,921,300)
$
(4,768,350)
$
(4,588,200)
$
%
11%
11%
10%
11%
11%
12%
11%
For a better formatted table see:
Web Link
page 35


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 14, 2016 at 4:47 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Jennifer's blog states:
"Question: Why have five parcel taxes than never expire rather than one consolidated parcel tax?
This is actually three questions.
Why are there three ongoing parcel taxes now on the books?
Why don’t the taxes sunset?
Why did MPCSD present voters with two parcel tax choices this year?"
*********************
Actually Jennifer's three questions do not answer my fundamental question of why not have "one consolidated parcel tax?" To which I have always added "that has a sunset"

To be fair Jennifer does provide cogent explanations for the three questions which she chose to ask but she does not answer my question.


22 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Oct 14, 2016 at 10:28 pm

Train Fan is a registered user.

@Jennifer Bestor

Thank you for the excellent information in the blog post, for a couple reasons:

1: this is the type of interaction that is actually helpful to the debate. The constant regurgitation of the same tired talking points (which have been refuted time and time again) from the pro-4-parcel tax crowd does not move the conversation forward.

2: This statement in your blog is one of the keys to the points of contention on a 4th parcel tax:

"2000 parcel tax – was passed 'to improve children’s academic performance, reduce class size, improve teaching quality, and expand art, music, technology and other courses.'”

This is exactly right. And the takeaway is clear: we are ALREADY PAYING for "improve[d] children’s academic performance, reduce class size, improve teaching quality, and expand art, music, technology and other courses.” And we have been paying for it for over 16 years.

The community fully supports and embraces the 3 permanent parcel taxes (including myself), but it is unreasonable to expect the community to pay even more for something that we're already paying for, especially when you factor in the unprecedented growth in property tax revenue.

Thank you, Jennifer Bestor, for so eloquently making the case against a 4th parcel tax.


12 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm

Train Fan, could I ask you to look at my most recent blog post? I think it will clarify a key misunderstanding.
Historically, when the school board has proposed a parcel tax to provide additional (named) services, it has done so in the context of current predicted headcount. But the growth in MPCSD headcount has exceeded each prediction, substantially. (Before excoriating MPCSD for poor planning, it's important to note that enrollment in the state as a whole has remained basically stable since 2002, while MPCSD has grown by 42%. As state funding for schools falters, more families buy into the few remaining 'good' districts. [From ed-data.k12.ca.us and ed-data.com: MPCSD 2039 in 2002, to 2904 in 2014; State 6.244 million in 2002, 6.236 million in 2014.])
Thus, funding that would normally cover the named services is unexpectedly diluted by additional headcount growth.
Thus, as wonderful as it would be to think that a parcel tax passed in 2000 that was designed to pay for given services would continue to cover the cost of those services in 2017, you can't pay for 3,000 kids with a sum raised to cover 2,000 kids.


9 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 15, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Mr. Carpenter, I was aware of the 11% ERAF Rebate ratio to secured, unsecured and HOX refund. And salute MPFPD for having included that useful information on its website.
However, that was not the question I was asking. I asked what percentage of the County's total ERAF Rebate accrued to the Fire District.
Your proposal to consolidate the Ravenswood, MPCSD, Las Lomitas, Woodside and Portola Valley elementary districts would take about $14 million of property tax funding the latter four districts to backfill some of the county's estimated $24 million obligation to fund Ravenswood from ERAF (the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund funded by a portion of local property tax). Furthermore, by creating a district that was less than 55% unduplicated (i.e. Low Income/English Learner/Foster youth), the proposal would remove a $5 million grant for districts of concentrated disadvantage from Ravenswood (also funded from our property tax-funded ERAF).
This $19 million would then be redistributed to the County, cities, and special districts. (The remaining $5 million would flow to the new, consolidated LCFF revenue-limit district.)
In doing the analysis, I am trying to figure out how much of the $19 million lost to our schoolchildren will even flow back to our local services, like the Fire District.
I cannot calculate this from the 11% number, since it is that 11% number that will change. But whether it will be 12% or 15% or ... ? ... I can't tell. But the County controller should be willing to share it with a local agency.


6 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 16, 2016 at 6:05 pm

For your Sunday delectation, two more of Mr. Carpenter's questions are now on the blog. Why aren't school bonds included in expenditure per student, and what percentage of new age-eligible students attend MPCSD schools!

I do hope you all enjoy the answers to these questions? It seems that getting the answers to them is really, really important? I would hate to think it was just foot stomping ...

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Jennifer - I think that you are doing a great job. Thanks.

Any chance that MPCSD will certify that your answers are correct?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 6:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I asked what percentage of the County's total ERAF Rebate accrued to the Fire District."

That question should be directed to the County as there is no way that the Fire District could know that number.


10 people like this
Posted by Former MPCSD parent
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 4:35 pm

As a former parent of the district, I'd like to submit some information I know to be correct. The extent of the issue, I do not know. I'll leave it up to others to figure out. Over the time we were in the district, we were here for the taxes that passed. We heard all the stories about how 'the teachers would get pink slips if we did not vote yes.' Most of the parents sighed in relief when the taxes passed. However, over the years, we watched growth in the ADMINISTRATIVE roles. For example, Hillview added at least one assistant/vice principal (please, forget the exact titles, the idea is there was a principal (Burmeister) and ONE vice principal; then there were TWO VPs). Then Mr. B. moved to the district. And THAT position was an addition for him. I always wondered about how many ADMIN positions were added and how many TEACHER positions were added. It is a question that should be pursued. Anybody can look at the past years' school directories and count (students, teachers, admin, etc.) if the MPCSD will not provide it directly. PLEASE consider this when you vote. I certainly will.


2 people like this
Posted by If you go to Little House
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 6:03 pm

You should know that Mr. B. is a very persuasive speaker. He is bright, articulate, and a school champion. Be ready with YOUR questions. Otherwise you will get the answers to the questions he provides for you. I am not saying he is bad for the district or the schools. He gets things done for sure. But if you want to critically review the issues at hand, be ready with your critical thinking skills. :)


2 people like this
Posted by Remove the Board
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 19, 2016 at 7:17 pm

Funny, engaging with each other in an attacking form does not make any of the points more valid, but the rest of us lose interest in your positions on both sides. You need only offer your opinions once, that is by far enough. My Opinion:

The board has continually made bad decisions. You likely will not get answers form the board that any of us would agree is a valid answer. Erik is NOT the Board, so his words are what we are really discussing here (or at least in my opinion).

As for the vote, I have talked to over 100 parents (yes not families without kids) how they voted, and for all those that voted against, all voted against because of the evergreen clause of the tax. There were two, one was nothing more than the continuation of the existing tax from 2010. The second was a very fair tax that added a small dollar amount for each child over the current enrollment. I have no doubt these would pass without the evergreen clause.

As for the parents paying more for their kids, and not the community, that is very short sighted. For over 30 years I have lived in this community it has Always passed taxes for the school districts to support what is supposed to be great schools (by the way, "great"is not necessarily true of our district today). Everybody benefits from a great school district via our house values. Current MPSCD families are asked to donate an additional $1500/student, so many are paying extra to make sure they have a great school district.

I would hope most of our community is not short sighted and understands that our kids are among the smartest in the country, and need to be given the best education a Community can. There will always be (what is hopefully) a small amount of people who do not believe in this, and they are entitled to that position! As the rest of us are entitled to want the best schools.


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 19, 2016 at 7:55 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"As the rest of us are entitled to want the best schools."

We already have the best schools. They don't need more money to keep providing the best schools. Property taxes have been demonstrated to more than cover increased enrollment. So, WHY does the district need even more?


5 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 25, 2016 at 10:45 am

@Menlo Voter: If you take the time to read Jennifer's Blog, you'll see proof that property tax increases are not sufficient to cover the costs associated with increased enrollment. I wish you wouldn't continue to state falsehoods when the facts have been provided which show otherwise!


3 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:16 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

Menlo Voter, is is simply not true that "property taxes have been demonstrated to more than cover increased enrollment." It has been said repeatedly on Town Square by you and others, but that does not make it true.

I encourage anyone who wants to delve into the numbers and gain an understanding of MPCSD's budget to:

— Study the information the District has made available via OpenGov.

— Read and bookmark Jennifer Bestor's excellent and informative blog.

Web Link

Web Link


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 25, 2016 at 11:32 am

Brown Eyed Girl's anaysis seems more valid than does Jennifer's:

"Between 2014/2015 and 2015/2016, revenue to the district increased by $4,764,309 (11.62%) while enrollment growth was only 37 students (1.2% of which 46% was attributed to district employees). The prior school year had enrollment growth of only 1 student and if it were not for employee students entering the district, we would have had a loss of 5 students."


1 person likes this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 25, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Reader & Hello:

both brown eyed girl and train fan have shot numerous holes in Jennifer's contention. Property tax income is rising faster than enrollment. That is not a falsehood. It's a fact.


17 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Oct 25, 2016 at 7:24 pm

"both brown eyed girl and train fan have shot numerous holes in Jennifer's contention. Property tax income is rising faster than enrollment. That is not a falsehood. It's a fact."


Just to be fair, this should get a little more explanation.

Historically, yes, revenue growth for the district has outpaced both enrollment growth and inflation, using 2000-2001 as the baseline.

Also, using the districts earlier projections on growth (from the 2015-2016 budget presentations), the general trend for revenue to outpace inflation and enrollment growth continues, with the exception of a 1-year dip in the 2017-2018 school year.

However, the district has repeatedly adjusted some of their estimates (that's not a criticism, btw. Estimates have to be adjusted). If you use the districts most-recent projections, it is possible for revenue-per-student to drop in both 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. However, there are issues with those projected dips that should be noted:

1: The district's older estimates on enrollment growth...so far at least...have been more accurate than the most recent estimates:

2015 estimate on 2016-17 enrollment: 60
2016 estimate on 2016-17 enrollment: 85
actual 2016-2017 enrollment?: 55

30-less students is a BIG difference. I'm sympathetic to the difficulties in projecting enrollment, but there's a risk that we may be stuck with parcel taxes for enrollment that never happens...or at least, by the time it happens property taxes will have more than made up the difference.


2: The district acknowledges that the method of revenue estimating is conservative. I actually appreciate their estimating on the low side, but note that increasing the estimated property-tax revenue by just 1 percent (3%->4%) adds roughly 300+k to revenue. That's revenue for about 20 kids (assuming $15k/kid), and 4% is still a conservative growth estimate for the short term (next 2-3 years).

And if property tax revenue increases are closer to 5%, the need for an additional parcel tax to cover "enrollment growth" becomes highly debatable...and that assumes that their enrollment growth is accurate.


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