News


Tonight: Menlo Park school district seeks public comment on financial issues

 

A series of meetings designed to get public input on how the Menlo Park City School District should balance its budget will continue on Tuesday, Oct. 18, when the district's governing board looks at staff recommendations for cutting spending and reviews public input about why the recent parcel tax measures failed.

The budget discussions will be part of the regular agenda of the school board's meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in Hillview Middle School's Performing Arts Center at 1100 Elder Ave. in Menlo Park.

Also on the agenda are:

• A discussion about the district's interdistrict attendance policies. Currently 67 students who are the children of 45 district staff members who live outside the school district attend district schools. The district's existing policy says children of employees who work half-time or more have priority to be approved for interdistrict transfers.

• Approval of a contract that would make assistant superintendent Erick Burmeister the new superintendent starting July 1.

• A discussion about videotaping board meetings

• A $12,000 contract with a communication and strategy consultant from Oct. 19 to Dec. 19.

• The creation of an employee recruitment and retention board task force to "study and research salary and benefits and additional employment factors to attract and retain high quality teachers and staff," according to the agenda.

At the district's first public-input session Sept. 27, about 35 people showed up at Hillview, many of them district staff and teachers, to talk about what could be learned from the failure of two parcel tax measures in May.

Each measure needed two-thirds voter approval for passage. Measure A, which would have renewed a tax of a little more than $200 per parcel that will expire at the end of June 2017, won the support of 60.3 percent of voters, shy of the two-thirds threshold.

Measure C, which would have added an annual $2.20-per-parcel tax for each student who enrolled beyond the district's then-2,938 students, was supported by 54 percent of the voters. (This year's enrollment growth of 55 students, would have meant an additional annual tax of $121 per parcel.)

Alex Keh, one of those who led the opposition to the tax measures, said the district has gotten itself in a bind by trying to keep its per-pupil spending up with other neighboring districts that have higher property tax assessment bases to work from.

"The district was on a course of higher and higher spending" with greater and greater reliance on parcel taxes, he said.

Instead, he said, the district needs to have a budget plan in place that is "sustainable in the long term" and retains enough reserves "so that we can weather the next recession" without cuts or more parcel taxes.

"If you put such a plan in place, many of us, like myself can come around to supporting a new temporary parcel tax," he said.

Other speakers said they opposed the fact that the parcel taxes would, like three other parcel taxes in the district, be permanent, with no sunset dates. Mary Beth Sur, a longtime district resident, said, "I would not be inclined to vote for any permanent tax increase."

Scott Saywell, a school board candidate, said, "I think fundamentally one of the issues the school board faces is a trust problem."

See a video of the meeting online.

The district's website will post links to videos of the whole series of meetings about the budget.

The district's website also has a new tool, called OpenGov, for looking at the district's budgets going back to the 2005-06 fiscal year.

Comments

31 people like this
Posted by A Teacher
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 15, 2016 at 6:06 pm

As a teacher in Menlo Park for over 10 years, I am so saddened by the feeling I am getting that the community no longer supports the truly outstanding job Menlo Park public schools do. I do not have children in the schools, and I commute over an hour each day to get to and from Menlo Park, and I've done it gladly because I have loved the children, parents, and schools in this beautiful town. I have always felt appreciated and supported. I never thought I would find myself actually looking at other districts, but the bitterness of some community members is seeping into the classroom. The commute is getting longer, and the days are harder as I worry about what the next few years hold. Thankfully the teacher shortage ensures that I will find a job in a district closer to home. There is always uncertainty in every community as a public employee, but by reducing the commute I can control at least one painful part of my day. I encourage the hard working Menlo Park tax payers to think about the long-term effects of inadequately funding your public schools. Thank you for listening, and thank you for sending me your children to love and teach!


17 people like this
Posted by Scott Lohmann
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 15, 2016 at 11:41 pm

Scott Lohmann is a registered user.

I am glad that a teacher was the first individual to comment. Hopefully, others will see this comment and the concerns that not only the school board has, or the parents have, but in addition the teachers. I had heard the same concerns voiced by teachers leaving our District that past school year. THIS is a problem. We can argue this point over and over, but teacher turnover can really destroy the culture of a school district. The additional costs incurred with posting positions, searching, interviewing and selecting capable candidates can be much more expensive. This again, is another reason our community MUST continue to reinvest in the MPCSD!


13 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 6:35 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"As a teacher in Menlo Park for over 10 years, I am so saddened by the feeling I am getting that the community no longer supports the truly outstanding job Menlo Park public schools do."

You would not get that feeling IF you read the original comments by those of us who are concerned about the poor financial management and lack of transparency by the School Board (and NOT at all concerned about the superb quality of the education being provided by the teachers) instead of reading what HH, Scott and others allege that we have said.

I challenge you to show one original post that does not "support the truly outstanding job Menlo Park public schools do".

The biggest detractors are those who misrepresent the valid concerns that many taxpayers have about the way that the district is managed and the way that the district ignores the people who actually pay the bills.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 7:20 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" teacher turnover can really destroy the culture of a school district."

1 - What are the statistics on the district's teacher turnover?

2 - What is the average teacher tenure at MPCSD?

3 - How does MPCSD's teacher turnover and tenure compare to the "comparable" districts?

4 - What are the findings of the exit interviews with departing teachers? (The District does do exit interviews and then reports the finding to the Board doesn't it?)


15 people like this
Posted by Something smells
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 16, 2016 at 7:58 am

Peter, why don't you email Erik Burmeister with your questions instead of acting like school administrators have time to monitor on line forums? If you could bother to attend board meetings instead of constantly attacking our schools on line, you'd know that Burmeister, who is head of HR, has been raising these issues for quite some time. So glad that your Fire Department is so overfunded thanks to Prop 13 that you don't need any public support to fund it. Why don't you look into getting the law changed to put our property tax dollars where they are needed instead of attacking our schools for simply trying to meet the needs of our community's children? Oh, wait -- when Atherton tried to open a discussion of this, you attacked our town for wanting to talk.


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 8:10 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Smelly - The purpose of this Forum "to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion." If you do not want to engage in this discussion then just don't come here.

And my interest is not in having someone in the District raise these questions, it is in getting ANSWERS to questions like this.


Questions formally submitted to the School Board 6 months ago have still not be answered.

And the minutes of the Board meeting where such issues are raised simply state "Minutes:
The following community member addressed the Board:
Peter Carpenter"

Period

No listing of the questions that are raised - how exactly is the public to know what goes on in these meetings which are not video taped and posted?


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 8:18 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Why don't you look into getting the law changed to put our property tax dollars where they are needed instead of attacking our schools for simply trying to meet the needs of our community's children? "

The Fire District already contributes millions of dollars a year to local school through the ERAF program. In 2016/17 the District will pay $4,588,200 into the ERAF fund and will receive about $3 million refund from past year's overpayments to that fund.


10 people like this
Posted by Something smells
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 16, 2016 at 9:23 am

Typical diversive response from Peter. The issue is that the Fire District is overfunded from our property taxes while our town and our schools are underfunded from our taxes. Instead of trying to fix that, Peter attaks our town leadership and attacked our school leadership. He then attacks Jennifer Bestor for pointing out that his harangues about merging school districts will hurt school funding for all while enriching the Fire District. Peter, your deviousness is the ultimate in lack of transparency!


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 9:50 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" his harangues about merging school districts will hurt school funding for all while enriching the Fire District."


Please post any facts which support the assertion that "merging school districts will hurt school funding for all while enriching the Fire District".

I support merging school districts, just as I support merging ALL of the San Mateo County fire agencies, because I believe that the merged entities would provide better service at a lower cost.


14 people like this
Posted by A Teacher
a resident of another community
on Oct 16, 2016 at 9:50 am

Train Fan- I did indeed make a mistake in the pull down menu. I live in another community, and commute to a beautiful school in Menlo Park. My apologies for selecting the wrong option. I am really sad that your cynical comment got so many likes... the exact reason why I feel sad and defeated working in your community. I will be at the board meeting Tuesday night and my hope is that there will be more supportive members of the Menlo Park community there than can be found in an online forum. As of today, I will no longer read this decisive forum. Thank you and I hope people will come to Hillview to support their community schools.


16 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 16, 2016 at 10:02 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

Peter, I don't believe I've ever said or implied that you dispute the high quality of the education the teachers of MPCSD provide our children. What I have protested, and will continue to protest, are your allegations of financial mismanagement and/or malfeasance on the part of the District and School Board, your constant harangues about "lack of transparency", and your misrepresentation of the facts to suit your own ends.

You don't speak at School Board meetings or engage in person with anyone at the District, you expect people to ask "how high?" when you say "jump," you aren't a presence or voice of positivity and hard work within the District; rather, you choose to dominate the Town Square comment threads and drown anyone who doesn't agree with you in a torrent of posts and ad infinitum repetition of your all-important list of questions. It's disheartening, frustrating, and unproductive.


20 people like this
Posted by HelloHanalei
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 16, 2016 at 10:06 am

HelloHanalei is a registered user.

Thank your for your post and for all that you do for our children, A Teacher. I'm sorry that you had to encounter the cynicism and negativity of these comment threads. I can assure you that I and many other positive, supportive people will be at the School Board meeting on Tuesday to lend our voices to the conversation. Have a great day!


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 10:14 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"ou don't speak at School Board meetings"

Wrong, I have done so on a number of occasions.

"or engage in person with anyone at the District,"

Wrong, I have meet personally with three Board members and with Maurice and Erik.

How many other of your assertions lack a factual basis?


18 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

@A Teacher

It's not bitterness from community members you hear. It's frustration. We're frustrated that our voice hasn't been heard. It took a parcel election defeat for that to happen. As a result, the school board is making changes with more community feedback sessions.

The entire community values teachers. The problem is that we can't value teachers, small class sizes, a broad curriculum, and reasonable taxes all at the same time. A compromise needs to be found.

There's enough tax revenue coming in right now to pay teachers more, but class sizes will need to go up by a few students and there will be fewer electives.

Previously, the district gave parents and teachers almost everything they wanted, then left the taxpayers to pick up the cost. The new school structures built in the last decade are an example. Many community members, including parents, thought they were over the top.

I took a look at my property tax bill. I see a big charge for MPCSD parcel taxes, then a big charge for MPCSD bond repayment, then about 40% of my regular property taxes go to the school districts. That's a lot of money already. The taxpayers are saying they want some equity in consideration.

If the parents don't want to make compromises in class size increases and curriculum cuts, but still pay teachers more, there is a solution: increase MPAEF donations. The taxpayers can't be expected to provide the best of everything to the school district just because the parents control the school board and can ask for a parcel tax whenever they want.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 10:20 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

HH - Read what the experts have to say:

Web Link

See the warnings on page 4 and 5.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 10:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

At the link look at this document under item XIII. 10:05 P.M. WRITTEN COMMUNICATIONS


The Board received the following written communications:

SMCOE Examination of MPCSD's 2016-17 Adopted Budget

Attachments:

SMCOE's Examination of MPCSD's 2016-17 Adopted Budget


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 10:32 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are the pertinent excerpts:

"Due to the loss of a parcel tax as ofJune 2017, the district has included in the current year $900,000 of projected budget reductions. Should the immediate projected budget reductions of $900,000 for on-going expenditures not occur, the District could double the projected deficit spending in the next fiscal year. The available reserves do not include assigned amounts in the General Fund of approximately $1.8 million."

"The District is encouraged to carefully review the assumptions used in the budget and identify measures to address the growing operating deficit in the General Fund."

"Salary Negotiations
The District has not settled negotiations for the 2015-16 or 2016-17 fiscal years. If any collective bargaining agreements result in additional ongoing costs to the District, such costs must be supported by additional recurring revenues or permanent expenditure reductions.

In accordance with Government Code 3547.5 and Assembly Bill 2756, the District must provide the County Office of Education with an analysis of cost and impact on operating budget of the proposed salary settlement. The District is also required to submit the following documents reflecting the financial impact:
1) Disclosure of Collective Bargaining Agreement ten (l0) days before the Governing Board takes action on any tentative collective bargaining agreement (requires the signatures ofthe Superintendent and the Chief Business Official).
2) Multi-year spreadsheet (reflecting current and two subsequent fiscal years).
3) Budget revisions (if necessary, must be posted to the financial system prior to processing a salary settlement on the payroll system).
The County Superintendent encourages school districts to be cautious in their negotiations and to conduct thorough pre-settlement analysis of any proposed collective bargaining agreement to protect from cost increases beyond the scope of bargaining. Increases in CalSTRS and CalPERS contributions must also be considered to ensure affordability of proposed settlements."

Are these expert concerns clear enough?


14 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"Are these expert concerns clear enough?"

Crystal.

To those who don't think their has been financial mismanagement and misfeasance (not malfeasance, two different things) this just highlights it. Anyone that bases a budget on income that is uncertain is an idiot.(of course that begs the question as to why the board would assume the parcel taxes passage - that's what happens when one assumes) Is that how you handle your family's budget? You spend money and budget based on a raise your THINK you're going to get? I doubt you do. This is why so many of us are upset with this school board. We all must live within our means. All we ask is the district do the same.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 1:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Why does the School Board 18 Oct meeting agenda END with this very important and insightful 16 Sept 2016 SMCOE Examination of MPCSD's 2016-17 Adopted Budget as item XIII rather than STARTING the meeting with a discussion of this critical expert report?

Why did the School Board not review the 16 Sept 2016 SMCOE Examination of MPCSD's 2016-17 Adopted Budget BEFORE the Board approved all the new across the board salary increases at its 20 Sept meeting:

VII. 10:20 P.M. DISCUSSION / ACTION (Action Item)
VII.a. Approval of Collective Bargaining Agreement between the District and Menlo Park Education Association (MPEA) for 2015-16 and 2016-17 Fiscal Year (5 minutes) (Action Item)
VII.b. Approval of Collective Bargaining Agreement between the District and California School Employee Association (CSEA) for 2015-16 and 2016-17 Fiscal Year (5 minutes) (Action Item)
VII.c. Approval of one time off schedule payment for 2015-16 and Salary Schedule Adjustment 2016-17 Fiscal Year for Unrepresented Employees (Certificated Administrators, Classified Management, Counselors, Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, and Confidential) (5 minutes) (Action Item)
VII.d. Ratification of Terms of Employment Agreement for Chief Business and Operations Official Pursuant to California Government Code Section 53262 (5 minutes) (Action Item)
VII.e. Ratification of Terms of Employment Agreement for District Assistant Superintendent Pursuant to California Government Code Section 53262 (5 minutes) (Action Item)
VII.f. Ratification of Terms of Employment Agreement for District Superintendent Pursuant to California Government Code Section 53262 (5 minutes) (Action Item)


7 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

We know why. The board yet again trying to hide their mismanagement. Putting this item at the end of the agenda virtually assures no one from the public will be there to hear it.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From: Peter Carpenter
Subject: Inquiry re San Mateo County Office of Education examination of the Adopted Budget of Menlo Park City Elementary School District and a Public Records Request
Date: October 16, 2016 at 5:00:16 PM PDT
To: Jeff Child <jchild@mpcsd.org>, SJones@mpcsd.org, MHilton@mpcsd.org, JLambert@mpcsd.org, Terry Thygesen <TThygesen@mpcsd.org>
Cc: Maurice Ghysels <mghysels@mpcsd.org>, Erik Burmeister <eburmeister@mpcsd.org>, Lanita Villasenor <lvillasenor@mpcsd.org>, Barbara Wood <bwood@almanacnews.com>, Kevin Kelly <kkelly@bayareanewsgroup.com>, price@padailypost.com

Dear School Board Members,
I have read with interest the 16 Sept 2016 San Mateo County Office of Education examination of the Adopted Budget of Menlo Park City Elementary School District (the District) for fiscal year 2016-17.

I note in particular these statements:

"Due to the loss of a parcel tax as ofJune 2017, the district has included in the current year $900,000 of projected budget reductions. Should the immediate projected budget reductions of $900,000 for on-going expenditures not occur, the District could double the projected deficit spending in the next fiscal year. The available reserves do not include assigned amounts in the General Fund of approximately $1.8 million."

"The District is encouraged to carefully review the assumptions used in the budget and identify measures to address the growing operating deficit in the General Fund."

"Salary Negotiations
The District has not settled negotiations for the 2015-16 or 2016-17 fiscal years. If any collective bargaining agreements result in additional ongoing costs to the District, such costs must be supported by additional recurring revenues or permanent expenditure reductions.

In accordance with Government Code 3547.5 and Assembly Bill 2756, the District must provide the County Office of Education with an analysis of cost and impact on operating budget of the proposed salary settlement. The District is also required to submit the following documents reflecting the financial impact:
1) Disclosure of Collective Bargaining Agreement ten (l0) days before the Governing Board takes action on any tentative collective bargaining agreement (requires the signatures ofthe Superintendent and the Chief Business Official).
2) Multi-year spreadsheet (reflecting current and two subsequent fiscal years).
3) Budget revisions (if necessary, must be posted to the financial system prior to processing a salary settlement on the payroll system).
The County Superintendent encourages school districts to be cautious in their negotiations and to conduct thorough pre-settlement analysis of any proposed collective bargaining agreement to protect from cost increases beyond the scope of bargaining. Increases in CalSTRS and CalPERS contributions must also be considered to ensure affordability of proposed settlements.”

I have two procedural and three public records questions.

On the procedural side:
1 - Why does the School Board 18 Oct meeting agenda END with this very important and insightful 16 Sept 2016 SMCOE Examination of MPCSD's 2016-17 Adopted Budget as item XIII rather than STARTING the meeting with a discussion of this critical expert report?

2 - Why did the School Board not review the 16 Sept 2016 SMCOE Examination of MPCSD's 2016-17 Adopted Budget BEFORE the Board approved all the new across the board salary increases at its 20 Sept meeting:

VII. 10:20 P.M. DISCUSSION / ACTION (Action Item)
VII.a. Approval of Collective Bargaining Agreement between the District and Menlo Park Education Association (MPEA) for 2015-16 and 2016-17 Fiscal Year (5 minutes) (Action Item)
VII.b. Approval of Collective Bargaining Agreement between the District and California School Employee Association (CSEA) for 2015-16 and 2016-17 Fiscal Year (5 minutes) (Action Item)
VII.c. Approval of one time off schedule payment for 2015-16 and Salary Schedule Adjustment 2016-17 Fiscal Year for Unrepresented Employees (Certificated Administrators, Classified Management, Counselors, Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, and Confidential) (5 minutes) (Action Item)
VII.d. Ratification of Terms of Employment Agreement for Chief Business and Operations Official Pursuant to California Government Code Section 53262 (5 minutes) (Action Item)
VII.e. Ratification of Terms of Employment Agreement for District Assistant Superintendent Pursuant to California Government Code Section 53262 (5 minutes) (Action Item)
VII.f. Ratification of Terms of Employment Agreement for District Superintendent Pursuant to California Government Code Section 53262 (5 minutes) (Action Item)

And on the public records side:

The report notes that:

"In accordance with Government Code 3547.5 and Assembly Bill 2756, the District must provide the County Office of Education with an analysis of cost and impact on operating budget of the proposed salary settlement. The District is also required to submit the
following documents reflecting the financial impact:
1) Disclosure of Collective Bargaining Agreement ten (l0) days before the Goveming
Board takes action on any tentative collective bargaining agreement (requires the
signatures ofthe Superintendent and the Chief Business Official).

2) Multi-year spreadsheet (reflecting current and two subsequent fiscal years).

3) Budget revisions (if necessary, must be posted to the financial system prior to
processing a salary settlement on the payroll system)."
**********
3 - When were those required documents provided to SMCOE?
4 - Are copies of that submission to SMCOE with those documents on the MPCSD web site?
5 - If these documents are not already on the MPCSD web site please consider this a formal Public Records Request and post those documents as soon as possible.

Thank you,

Peter Carpenter


19 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 16, 2016 at 7:24 pm

Mr. Carpenter, what fresh nonsense is this?

The Fire District does not “contribute millions of dollars a year to local school through the ERAF program.” The Legislature, having reassigned a share local property taxes away from schools in 1979, returned it to education in 1992-1993.

In 1979, a year after Proposition 13 decimated school funding, the Legislature took 30% of what school property tax remained and redirected it to counties, cities, and special districts (e.g., MPFPD) to backfill their losses after Prop 13. Known as the AB 8 Split, this was codified in Chapter 282 of the 1979 statutes.

The Legislature hoped to be able to backfill schools’ (now even greater) losses out of its own coffers. This failed dismally.

In 1992, the Legislature yanked this property tax funding back. However, instead of returning the property tax to individual school districts, it directed it to each county’s Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund to fund schools up to their revenue (now LCFF) targets. This is how my property tax – and everyone’s in Menlo Park, Las Lomitas, Portola Valley, Woodside, etc. – goes to fund Ravenswood, Redwood City, and other local districts that do not have large property tax bases.

In the handful of counties where those targets could be completely met by the Fund, remaining monies were to be redistributed to the county, cities, and special districts. (Excess ERAF, or the ERAF rebate.) San Mateo, Napa, Marin and Amador are “excess ERAF” counties. Your fire district is lucky to be in one.

You should read the Legislative Analyst Office’s excellent “Insufficient ERAF” whitepaper, published December 18, 2012, for an explanation of how ERAF works.


20 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 16, 2016 at 7:26 pm

Mr. Carpenter, now I’m ROTFL.

Have you ever read a County Office of Education budget examination before? Obviously not.

The COE told MPCSD what MPCSD had told the COE, namely that it would be running a $900,000 deficit this year AND effecting $900,000 of budget reductions.

The COE told MPCSD, that if they didn’t make those $900,000 of reductions, they risked running a $1,800,000 deficit. (Duh.)

The COE then (to be helpful, and let everyone know that this was Not A Big Crisis) mentioned that MPCSD’s available reserves had not included $1.8 million (yes, the same amount as the total deficit if MPCSD didn’t cut expenses by a penny) of “assigned amounts.” What this means is that MPCSD has additional reserves of $1.8 million that have been assigned to specific projects, but not necessarily committed to be spent yet. So that $1.8 million could be available if there were problems making the cuts.

Then the COE reminded the district of exactly what it has to provide the COE in terms of its proposed salary settlement. This is boilerplate.

Go look at EVERY OTHER COE letter to EVERY OTHER district in THIS COUNTY. You will find EXACTLY the same paragraph. For Redwood City Elementary, it’s on Page 7. No, actually, read the whole document. Then you’ll see what the COE sounds like when it’s actually worried about a school district’s financials.

And, oh, yeah. It’s agenda item 12.1. At the end of their agenda, too. Why? Because they’re hiding something? No, because this is the kind of hard work that a school board does that the public doesn’t like to stick around for.

Honestly, how can you waste so much of the school board’s time – and taxpayer money? We want that money spent on kids!


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 7:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.


Jennifer states "The Fire District does not “contribute millions of dollars a year to local school through the ERAF program.”


See pages 24 and 25:

Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2016 at 7:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" We want that money spent on kids!"

Then why is almost all of the money going to salaries and ALL of the money from FUTURE parcel increases going to salary raises?


17 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 17, 2016 at 9:16 am

Mr. Carpenter, calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one. The Fire District doesn't "contribute" to local schools through the "ERAF program." Try withholding it! You can't. It never comes to you in the first place.

The County Controller automatically allocates property tax to local services, including the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund, according to the state's mandatory allocation formula.

Your finance manager seems to have decided to report it this way, perhaps because MPFPD's receipt of an ERAF "rebate" is otherwise incomprehensible -- or perhaps (in common with various cities and counties) out of a determination to keep staking a claim to tax revenue that was returned to education a quarter century ago.

However, you may want to direct whoever is preparing that report this year to the passage of Proposition 1A (2004) and its introduction of Section 25.5 to Article XIII of the Constitution. Cities, counties, and special districts' property tax share has been inviolate for the past 12 years, so stating that "allocation of more tax revenue to schools and other state specified entities
is a precedent setting event" has long been obsolete. Indeed, quite the opposite. School tax revenue was not protected -- and has since been taken away by the state with impunity.


11 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Publius is a registered user.

So..... To get back on topic.....

This is one of my favorite Norman Rockwell painting - "The Expert Salesman"
Web Link

The residents of Menlo Park are the native inhabitants and the MPCSD is the salesman.

I hope residents are submitting their opinions and feedback on the budget issue although I think once again the Board already has made up their minds to go back out again and ask the residents to make up their budget shortfall with a parcel tax.

Case in point. At the October 18 board meeting, the board approved spending $12,000 on a "communications and campaign consulting firm out of S.F., FOR THE PURPOSE of communication and strategy consultation regarding the district's response to its Structural Deficit."

Sounds like - WOW maybe the Board and district are wanting to really work with the community on how to solve the budget shortfall. It even ends with "The Advisory Committee believes its essential to have professional consultation services available over the next two months as the Board and District Leadership consider significant reductions and potential revenue increases." Great! Let's see how we can share the pain and balance the long term budget and fiscal strength of the district.

The Board approves the contract with Whitehurst and Mosher.

Then you go to this firms website.
Web Link

Does not really look like a firm that is there to help you "consider reductions and potential revenue". Looks more like a campaign consulting firm with the goal "We Win For You!"

Seems like the decision has already been made for the residents. Maybe the question to ask at Tuesday's meeting is not "what is the balance between increasing revenue and what reductions to make?" but "How much will this new Parcel Tax Measure be for?"

So back to the Norman Rockwell painting - I feel like we are being sold a bill of goods by this board and district administration.


12 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 17, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Dear Teacher,

It breaks my heart that I was so busy responding to Peter Carpenter’s fresh nonsense that I didn’t respond to you. And now you’ve stopped reading Town Square. I do hope someone prints this out and gives it to you.

Menlo Park supports the truly outstanding job our schools do. Please, never believe otherwise. As much as a nasty cadre on Town Square wants to invent an upwelling of sentiment against the school district (to justify lying to voters in March?), both parcel tax measures received majority voter support.

Understand that it is not just in our nature, but also in our community’s financial interest to support the excellent job the MPCSD school board has done!

When I realized that the Keh-Sun household was just 1-1/2 blocks south of the Redwood City School District border, I had a brainstorm. Why not move the borderline two blocks south?

I sent Mr. Keh an email describing this great idea, with a copy to Mr. Carpenter, in June. Mr. Keh and Ms. Sun would save money on parcel taxes AND their base property tax. Why? Because their home value would fall. Prop 8 (1978) provides for a decline-in-value reduction to base property taxes when this happens.

How much would it fall? Well, I found a way of estimating that, too. About 15-25%!

And, in doing so, found a group that would LOVE to fund the change – if their properties could just move INTO our district.

I have just published this June email on my blog. (I created the blog to contain my answers to Mr. Carpenter’s endless ill-informed questions – so that I’d only have to write down all the detail once. I too gave up following Town Square years ago because, as soon as I’d carefully researched and documented reality in the face of one of his assertions, he was off that thread and onto another! With the same claims. Deja-pu all over again.. Honestly, I am trying to remember who this process reminds me of. You know, where it’s all throw it against the wall – and anything that isn’t immediately rebutted is now The Truth.)

Here is the link! It’s my best estimate of what MPCSD is worth to local households.

Web Link

So thanks for teaching and loving our kids. And helping to make our community the vibrant, thriving, respectful place it (usually) is.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 17, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Why? Because their home value would fall"

Wrong. The portions of Atherton that ARE in the Redwood City School District have Higher property values than some of the portions of Atherton that are in the MPCSD.

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 17, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" The Fire District doesn't "contribute" to local schools through the "ERAF program."

Wrong. Check the TRA for your property taxes. Property taxes are collected on behalf of each taxing authority. The MPFPD is a taxing authority.

There is no ERAF listed on your TRA because ERAF is not a taxing authority.

Millions of dollars of property tax collected for MPFPD are diverted to ERAF. Some of those dollars are later refunded (note the word refunded which means give back) to MPFPD after the currrent ERAF payments to schools have been funded.


2 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 17, 2016 at 3:42 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

The attact dogs and Little Trumps are at it again. Back and forth with their fight to die attitudes. As a tax payer I am going to ask for excemption from the school district taxes fron now on. I am tired of the constant fight and attacking of the taxpayers in this city. Schools are importantant, but THEN END


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 17, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From: "Jackson, Kathleen"
Subject: RE: Excess ERAF Percentage - Decline in Value - etc.
Date: October 17, 2016 at 3:43:34 PM PDT
To: 'Jennifer Bestor'
Cc: "Schapelhouman, Harold", 'Peter Carpenter'

Hello Jennifer,
I apologize for not getting back to you on this. I followed up on my email to the county, and then spoke on the phone with someone from the County Controller’s Office who said he didn’t believe they had that information, but would find out and get back to me. He didn’t and I hadn’t followed up. My daughter had a serious accident on May 24ththat took me out of the office for about 2 weeks and this slipped through the cracks, I guess. Again, I apologize. I believe your question from the email string below was:

“what % of the County's Excess ERAF distributions go to MPFPD”

The person I had requested the information from at the County evidently didn’t know they had it. I have attached:
1. Fiscal Year 2015-16 Excess ERAF Distribution on January 7, 2016.;
2. Staff Report to the Fire Board on September 13, 2016 with the Historical ERAF shift and Rebate.
3. Analysis of Menlo Park Fire Protection District ERAF Shift, Rebate and Net ERAF in excel.

I hope this answers your question. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Thank you,
Kathy


10 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 17, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Publi,

If it comforts your restless soul, consider May’s election a plebiscite on that key question, "Should we have a parcel tax?"

60% of 6,000 of your fellow plebes said YES to the first question (Measure A, a renewal).

54% said YES to the second (Measure C, extending the parcel tax to additional enrollment).

And that’s with a campaign in opposition that began with a lie. And the Almanac confusing MPCSD’s behavior with that of other local school boards …

For the School Board not to consider another parcel tax, but simply to kowtow to a minority hiding behind monikers … well, that would be irresponsible. Even in this post-Prop 13 minocracy.

So, as George Bernard Shaw said, we’re just haggling over the terms.

(Nota bene the correct use and declension of the vocative. Et tu, Brute, notwithstanding.)


10 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 17, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Sadly, the Fire District hasn’t had taxing authority since Proposition 13 passed in 1978. If you think you have it, Mr. Carpenter, try to raise MPFPD’s tax rate. Go on, I dare you. Similarly, the Fire District has no authority to change the level of ERAF that is assessed against the portion of property taxes it used to receive after the AB 8 Split in 1979. You think it does? Try to get a nickel of it from the County Controller!

But it’s not just the Fire District. Neither cities, nor counties, nor school districts have what used to be called taxing authority. Prop 13 sent ad-valorum property tax authority the way of the dodo bird. That’s why cities and schools and special districts have to pass PARCEL taxes now.

And, yes, different areas in Atherton have different underlying values. That’s why I analyzed the homes that front Atherton Avenue. We’re talking about 100+ homes that face each other -- along a single street. That is an apples-to-apples comparison.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 17, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Jennifer - You really are not listening. The Fire District's tax rate is set by Prop 13 and AB 8 for each individual TRA. The Fire District has NO control over this rate. But only agencies with property tax authority are included in the TRAs.

There is no taxing authority for ERAF. ERAF funds are diverted from the Fire Districts's property taxes and every other agencies' property taxes.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 17, 2016 at 4:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" That’s why I analyzed the homes that front Atherton Avenue."

Those homes are all in MPCSD.

Try comparing Atherton homes in MPCSD with Atherton homes in Redwood City School District. For example, homes in Lindenwood, which are in MPCSD, have lower values than Atherton homes on the same size parcels that are in the Redwood City School District.

Web Link


15 people like this
Posted by Publius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2016 at 6:03 pm

Publius is a registered user.

Yes Jennifer but lets remember this was a special election that was deliberately put on a mail only ballot with the intention that the 20% of residents who have children in the district would overwhelmingly vote for the tax and the other 80% of the population would not even bother opening this ballot. You may say "well they should be more civic minded and vote when any ballot if put before them." It is great to wish for such an Utopian society but that is not the case. My feeling is that just like it requires a 2/3 vote to pass taxes, it should be required that tax votes can only go on general election ballots.

I also caution you to say it is a small minority that are questioning the constant parade of parcel taxes before the voters by the district. It may be a small vocal minority but I thing the feeling in the community is larger than you want to believe.

Finally, as regards to the Teacher's comments at the beginning, no one is claiming teachers do not work hard or do a great job in the district. And this debate is not about the quality of the teaching or the value of the teachers. In fact that is true in any district. Teacher all over this country do amazing work not just in Menlo Park. Sometimes it seems like these comments come across as Menlo Park teachers are amazing and the teachers in Redwood City, Ravenswood, Mt. View, etc. are crappy.

Now if the commute is that bad then I would not blame you for looking at district closer to where you live. It is a trade off you and 10's of thousand of other workers make each day that commute 1+ hours each way to and from work in the Bay Area. Maybe the district needs to partner with the city to look at affordable housing for public sector works. Seems to be catching on in other cities.


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 17, 2016 at 7:28 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

To anyone who thinks that another parcel tax will be approved by the voters please recognize that the last two parcel tax proposals were easily defeated without an organized opposition and without a penny being spent by the opposition.

We all love our schools and we all respect the superb efforts of our teachers but we are not prepared to continue to write blank checks for expenditures and commitments that cannot be sustained, defended or even explained.

The public schools belong to the public - not to the parents of the students or to the teachers. We own the public schools, we pay the bills and we will decide how much is enough.


19 people like this
Posted by Brown Eyed Girl
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Brown Eyed Girl is a registered user.

Jennifer Bestor: "And that’s with a campaign in opposition that began with a lie. "

There was no lie. I was not part of the opposition group but I conducted all my own research using data and information supplied by the MPCSD and its auditors and actuary. What I found out is that between 2012 and 2016/2017, revenue in MPCSD has increased by over 30% while enrollment growth has been 7% over the same time period (and that includes the 67 students that belong to district employees). If we exclude the growth in employee student population (which as been 168% since 2012), the actual growth in local students has been 5.6%.

While I am not opposed to employee children attending our schools, I think the public should know that this is costing approximately $1 million per year in operating expense in addition to the need for expanded facilities.

The Proponents for the parcel taxes stated that we needed the money to support enrollment growth (ironically, nothing was said about the escalating pension contributions). Hmmm? Who exactly is misleading the public?

Property tax revenue has increased almost 10% year over year and should be adequate to support enrollment growth.

By the way, if you read your May 3, 2016 Official Voter Information Guide you will see the district projected enrollment for this current school year to be 71 students and in June 2016, the District stated it would be 80 students. Actual enrollment growth is 55 students and that includes 10 students that are children of employees and 4 students who did not meet the minimum age required for kindergarten and were admitted early.

If you exclude early admittance (that's free daycare) and employee children, actual enrollment growth is 50% of the projected enrollment growth. The district has not demonstrated an ability to accurately project its future enrollment.

Let's all recall that in 2010 the residents of MPCSD generously stepped up and approved a TEMPORARY Parcel tax to fund the schools at a time when the state had a TEMPORARY reduction in payments to the local school districts.

Since that time: 1) MPCSD will have received all the parcel tax payments for a 7 year period of time; and
2) Has also received payments from the State for payments that were actually deferred and not entirely cut out.

So, as I see it, MPCSD got paid twice and residents PAID twice: Measure C which was supposed to be a temporary parcel tax AND Prop 30 which was supposed to be a temporary income tax hike.

Don't look now but Prop. 55 will extend the temporary Prop. 30 tax for another 12 years.

Let's also not forget that the MPCSD lost almost $6 million in the Lehman debacle as they were not watching how our tax dollars were invested.

So, in my humble opinion, the district has no business coming back to the public until they have exhausted its resources and have restructured.

Jennifer Bestor's comment that the opposition to a parcel tax was based upon a lie is slanderous and disparages the character of honest people.


20 people like this
Posted by Brown Eyed Girl
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 17, 2016 at 9:00 pm

Brown Eyed Girl is a registered user.

"Due to the loss of a parcel tax as ofJune 2017, the district has included in the current year $900,000 of projected budget reductions.

For the record, these are not actual cost reductions. The school district has NOT cut $900,000 in expenses. What they cut was the growth rate in future planned spending.

Don't be fooled and mislead that they have actually cut spending.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 18, 2016 at 7:54 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From: Maurice Ghysels
Subject: Reply to your email sent Sun, Oct 16, 2016 at 5:00 PM
Date: October 17, 2016 at 8:25:08 PM PDT
To: PETER CARPENTER

Dear Peter,

MPCSD School Board President, Jeff Child asked me to respond to your questions below.

(questions and answers excerpted)

I have two procedural and three public records questions.

On the procedural side:
1 - Why does the School Board 18 Oct meeting agenda END with this very important and insightful 16 Sept 2016 SMCOE Examination of MPCSD's 2016-17 Adopted Budget as item XIII rather than STARTING the meeting with a discussion of this critical expert report?

Answer:
The agenda for tomorrow’s meeting includes a discussion (early in the evening) regarding reductions. This discussion is expected to cover most, if not all, of the points raised in the SMCOE report. See 10/18 Agenda: V.b. Superintendent Ghysels will present preliminary recommendations on reductions to address MPCSD’s Structural Deficit (90 minutes) (Discussion Item).

2 - Why did the School Board not review the 16 Sept 2016 SMCOE Examination of MPCSD's 2016-17 Adopted Budget BEFORE the Board approved all the new across the board salary increases at its 20 Sept meeting?

Answer:
The Board has been aware of our ongoing financial issues related to our structural deficit and the impact of compensation increases.

2 - Why did the School Board not review the 16 Sept 2016 SMCOE Examination of MPCSD's 2016-17 Adopted Budget BEFORE the Board approved all the new across the board salary increases at its 20 Sept meeting?

Answer:
The Board has been aware of our ongoing financial issues related to our structural deficit and the impact of compensation increases.


And on the public records side:

3 - When were those required documents provided to SMCOE?

Answer:
The AB1200 was sent to the County on Sept 13 with both MPEA and CSEA Tentative Agreements (TA). The MPEA TA was also sent on Aug. 30 as a courtesy to the County

4 - Are copies of that submission to SMCOE with those documents on the MPCSD web site?

Answer:
There was a 10-day public notice for the bargaining agreements for the Sept 13 Board meeting. The AB1200 documents are included with that agenda. Confirmation was received from the County on Sept 19 with concurrence of district's assessment that it can meet the costs of the agreement.

5 - If these documents are not already on the MPCSD web site please consider this a formal Public Records Request and post those documents as soon as possible.

Answer:
Documents are available on Agenda Online on the MPCSD for the Sept 13 Board meeting. Also, the collective bargaining agreements are now posted on the MPCSD webiste.

**********************
From: Peter Carpenter
Subject: Re: Reply to your email sent Sun, Oct 16, 2016 at 5:00 PM
Date: October 17, 2016 at 8:33:00 PM PDT
To: Maurice Ghysels

Maurice,
Thank you for your very prompt response and I am pleased that the requested documents are now on the MPCSD web site.

Peter


4 people like this
Posted by Would you please share
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 18, 2016 at 9:32 am

Mr. Carpenter,
Would you be willing to share the entirety of Mr. Ghysels' response? I think many of us would like to see it. We appreciate your persistence.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 18, 2016 at 9:36 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Unfortunately my attempts to post the entire response are blocked by the Almanac's system because the incoming email contains HTML characters.

What I posted contains all of Maurice's responses and leaves out only parts of my previous email to him. No secrets here.


9 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 18, 2016 at 4:49 pm

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

I am so relieved that Mr. Ghysels took time out of his day to reassure you, Mr. Carpenter, that MPCSD was not trying to Pull A Fast One on either the COE or the public.

Regarding ERAF, are we now down to arguing about how the County of San Mateo’s software deals with property tax allocation? Because you’re right! It first allocates by TRA, then the controller manually (via excel) deals with the ERAF shift. This is not unusual in “Excess ERAF” counties, since the “Excess” then has to be reallocated. (Please thank Ms. Jackson for the information on how much of any reduced Ravenswood spending will benefit MPFPD!)

However … in LA County (a quarter of the entire state’s property tax base) their (newer) software allocates directly to ERAF within their TRAs. I’ll include some interesting TRA and ERAF screen shots on my Tumblr blog this afternoon.

And, no, repeat, no, all the homes fronting Atherton Avenue are not in MPCSD. From the blog, “Between El Camino and Selby Lane, the parcels bordering Atherton Avenue to the south are in MPCSD. To the north, they’re in RCSD. And between Selby Lane and Alameda, they’re all in Las Lomitas.”

Web Link

Meanwhile, all of Lindenwood is in MPCSD. To confirm these facts, go the MPCSD school locator – or the MPCSD district boundary map here:

Web Link

Apples-to-apples means parcels sharing the same characteristics otherwise – not simply sharing a city and lot size.


14 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 18, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

Publi,

“Let’s remember” – and then some nasty insinuations.

Jeff Child explained the school board’s rationale in the Almanac, April 20, 2016, “In the Menlo Park City School District, voter turnout has been very high in special elections. In our last special election in May of 2010, 47.6 percent of registered voters actually voted. As a comparison, in the June 2012 presidential primary election, only 36.5 percent of San Mateo County registered voters actually voted.”

Every month the School Board has to make tough decisions. I’ve never heard them do anything but their best. They are out there, in front of the public. You, meanwhile, are hiding behind a pseudonym. Clearly, you don’t want to stand up and be counted – just to sling mud from behind an e-wall.

If you lack the courage of your convictions, why should I -- or anyone in the community -- give them any credence?


19 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 18, 2016 at 5:01 pm

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

BEG,

The Argument against Measure C began with a lie.

I quote, from the Voter Information Guide:

“The district claims there isn’t enough money to fund enrollment growth. FALSE! From 2013-14 to 2014-15 alone, MPCSD’s total revenue increased by $5,748,669 (17%), while enrollment increased by ONE student.”

Wrong. Revenue increased by just 0.2%. Opponents conveniently excluded the prior year’s parcel taxes and state pension contribution.

I have documented the correct calculations – and the history of MPCSD parcel taxes here:

Web Link

It is also on the district’s OpenGov portal here:

Web Link

No wonder you, like Publius, Menlo Voter, et al, hide behind a pseudonym – then throw out a sad morass of innuendo and half-truths.

You seem to willfully misunderstand recent history, for example:
• Proposition 30 contributes only $200 per child to community funded districts like MPCSD ($600,000/year) which may end in 2019 ... or continue, if Proposition 55 is passed, for twelve more years
• While this allowed the State, last year, to repay the cost of mandated programs that the District had been forced to fund out of reserves, this is not a future revenue stream.
o However, if you care at all about less fortunate children, Prop 30 (and any extension) has allowed substantial revenue increases for the most disadvantaged kids. Prop 30 revenue has substantially increased funding in Ravenswood, Redwood City, Daly City, and other property-tax limited districts in our County.
• The Lehmann losses in 2008 were the result of the San Mateo County Treasurer’s decisions. MPCSD, like the vast majority of small school districts in the state, had pooled its funds with other districts under the County Treasurer's oversight, rather than arrogantly thinking it had special investment expertise. And, by the way, 46% of the losses were recovered (Daily Journal, May 19, 2015).
• Increased pension contributions – that is to say, a painfully large catch-up due to the state Legislature’s inability to fund the increased pension commitments it foisted on school districts during the dot.com boom:
(a) were determined by Gov. Brown and the Legislature in 2015
(b) are consuming much of the increased property tax you seem to think you can assign to headcount growth
(c) are not under the control of the MPCSD board in any way.

In fact, we only agree on one thing. Headcount growth forecasting is difficult and the district hasn't got a crystal ball. What a surprise, then, that they tried to offer local voters a parcel tax option (Measure C) that was tied to actual, rather than forecast, headcount growth. Damned if they do, damned if they don't, eh whot?

Your plan? Have the school district exhaust its resources and restructure. Wow.

No wonder you are disparaging the character of honest people.


6 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 5:18 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Jennifer:

many things are subject to interpretation. Call me a pessimist, but I believe in Ocham's Razor; the simplest explanation is usually correct. Why would the board choose to put parcel taxes into a special election and then do very little beyond reaching out to parents for votes? Simple answer: stealth. They thought they could slip it by the rest of us. Fortunately, some of us were paying attention and brought it to the attention of voters outside the parent community. And NO, Scott did not adequately explain why it a happened as it did. You may think so, but the vast majority of us DON'T.

If that's "impugning" someone's integrity, so be it. The facts are what they are. If the board REALLY wanted to reach out to ALL of the community, why didn't they? It's not like they didn't have the opportunity. They certainly got mailers to the parents. Again, Ocham's Razor.


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Posted by Wind Surfer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 18, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Wind Surfer is a registered user.

Are we seriously considering adding the Teachers Union to the School Board?

Candidate Lucas is a current teacher in another district and a member of the Teachers Union (if I am wrong, please correct me).

Candidate Ackerman's live-in partner/girlfriend is the local Teacher Union representative for MPCSD. How can he be objective when contract negotiations come up. More pay raises???

If we are serious about financial discipline, we can't give the Teachers Union two of the five seats on the Board.

Perhaps we can draft Peter C or someone of like mind to run? Write in?


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Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 18, 2016 at 6:23 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

wind surfer;

please read Caroline's position papers. Her membership in the union is not a problem. In fact, the union is very unhappy with her.


6 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Oct 18, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Train Fan is a registered user.

"Headcount growth forecasting is difficult"

Well, yes (and I've said the same in other posts), but certainly the forecasting is made even more difficult by the substantial increase in the employee's adding their children to the school district roles ... a tax free $15,134 per child perk. (45,341,452/(2941+55))

For what it's worth, I don't begrudge that substantial perk per se. If the staff was underpaid or the district didn't have a structural deficit, this and the other perks wouldn't be under as much scrutiny. But when you start adding up all the perks this community ALREADY provides the school district, its employees and the teachers, it has reached the stage where expecting even MORE taxation on top of the unprecedented growth in property tax revenue ... with little substantial effort made by MPCSD to contain costs ... is just an unreasonable stance for you, parents and the school district to take.


32 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Oct 18, 2016 at 8:17 pm

Train Fan is a registered user.

@Jennifer Bestor

While I've appreciated your involvement in the discussion (seriously, you've been by far the most productive person to talk with on this matter. Thank you) I must take you to task on these statements below.


"The Argument against Measure C began with a lie."

A lie...Keep in mind that a lie is saying something that is intentional incorrect. Let's see if you can back that up.


"I quote, from the Voter Information Guide: 'The district claims there isn’t enough money to fund enrollment growth. FALSE! From 2013-14 to 2014-15 alone, MPCSD’s total revenue increased by $5,748,669 '
Wrong. Revenue increased by just 0.2%. Opponents conveniently excluded the prior year’s parcel taxes and state pension contribution."

Well, it's not really a lie if the California Department of Education corroborates a large increase in revenue:

From the California Department of Education:
* 2013-2014 revenue: $32,341,123 (source: Web Link)
* 2014-2015 revenue: $39,842,308 (source: Web Link)

Soooooo...

1: you can argue that the example they gave is invalid due to a change in accounting that isn't reflected in the CDE website. Fair point. But that's not the same as a lie.

2: While the supporting evidence they gave was invalid, the statement itself is accurate: "The district claims there isn’t enough money to fund enrollment growth. FALSE!"

Correct. Enrollment growth is well funded. All you have to do is look at revenue per student to see that revenue growth has exceeded enrollment growth. What is not well funded are the highest teacher salaries in Northern California among all elementary school districts, $15k+ tax free perk for enrolling employees students, employee bonuses and the funding of the retirement fund.

Enrollment growth is not the source of the structural budget deficit.



"Revenue increased by just 0.2%."

I can't let this go without comment.

Enrollment, 2013-2014: 2903
Enrollment, 2014-2015: 2904

That's a 1 student increase. So yes, revenue was 0.2%, but enrollment was even flatter at 0.034%

(source: Web Link)


2 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Oct 20, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

Train Fan,

Thank you for your kind words. I would agree that intent has a lot to do with lying.

However, I respectfully point out that the information you cited was NOT available on the ed-data.org website in time for use in the Voter Guide:
- 2014-15 financials were released on Ed-data on April 4th, 2016.
- Ballot arguments were due February 12th, 2016.
- Furthermore, the Keh-Suns actually footnote the MPCSD 2014-15 budget document (“#2”) for the 2014-15 revenue number – and the budget document contains its own footnotes and titles that clearly point to issues including pension reporting changes and parcel tax inclusion. (I’ve screenshot this in the Tumblr blog’s first post.)

So, the Keh-Suns had the information available to them to accurately reflect the situation. But either couldn’t be bothered to analyze it or chose not to use it. Whether they misstated a key fact through willful carelessness or a determination to win at any cost skates over the line to a lie, in my book.

And I agree that 0.2% is greater than 0.034% … that is to say, that the $78,030 increase between the two school years was greater than the $13,307 to educate an additional student. But, by the same light, the CPI rose 0.204% between the endpoints of those two fiscal years … which means that, on an inflation-adjusted basis, that additional kid got educated at the expense of his peers.

I do love splitting hairs, Train Fan, but suspect neither of us will have any left soon.

Meanwhile, in the credit-where-credit-is-due category, I was surprised to see Alex Keh at Tuesday’s school board meeting. In hopes that he is neither planning to become a professional anti-parcel tax crusader nor energetically collecting tidbits for the next round, I would like to think he’s a perfectly reasonable person who fell into bad company here on Town Square.

If so, he got a small idea of how much will have to be dismantled in the coming months. That must be a bit frustrating.

Like two out of every five MPCSD homeowners -- those bought in the last decade -- he is paying top dollar property taxes: $1.50 for every $1 of services to which he’s entitled. As a result of Prop 13, a third of his enormous check goes to subsidize his neighbors – overwhelmingly the 22% who bought before 1985 (or can claim that base year through inheritance). Actually, it subsidizes less than one of them.

That meeting might have given him the inkling that the $200 a year he saved by opposing the parcel tax renewal was a fool’s bargain.

Indeed, perhaps he began to hope that the collateral changes that have happened since make up in small part for the damage. (I, for one, love the new OpenGov portal.) Or maybe that there will be a benefit from the really, really hard look the district is being forced to take at every single expenditure, when the next downturn comes. Because there is a big difference between a thoughtful, loyal opposition – and the spiteful tone and misleading information in the Arguments against the parcel tax measures.


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

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