Election set for Woodside Elementary parcel tax

All-mail April 4 special election will require two-thirds approval

A ballot measure asking voters to approve a parcel tax identical to an existing tax that expires June 30 will go before voters in the Woodside Elementary School District in an April 4 special mail-in election.

The measure, which the school board unanimously approved putting on the ballot at its Dec. 6 meeting, asks voters to authorize an annual tax of $290 per parcel, adjusted annually for the local consumer price index. The tax would expire in eight years. To pass, the measure must be approved by at least two-thirds of district voters.

As of Nov. 8, the district had 2,357 registered voters. The school had 398 students in September. Past elections held by the district have seen very low turnout with only a little over 1,000 voting in a June 2014 bond measure election and 1,134 voting in the last parcel tax election in May 2009.

The district's boundaries include only about half of the town of Woodside, mostly west of Interstate 280. Woodside's Emerald Hills neighborhood and parts of Canada Road east of I-280 are also in the district, but the parts of Woodside west of Philip Road, including part of Mountain Home Road, are in the Portola Valley School District.

The current parcel tax contributes a little more than $300,000 a year to the district's annual revenues of about $10 million.

At the meeting, which did not include a public hearing on the tax measure, school board members discussed only the language of the 75-word ballot measure and the statement that will appear in the voters' pamphlet. They did not talk about why the tax is needed.

In an earlier interview, Superintendent Beth Polito said that the district is not in financial need, but simply wants to extend its expiring parcel tax so it continues to have the $300,000 in revenue from the current tax.

"For us it's about maintaining a $300,000 revenue stream," she said.

If two-thirds of the voters don't approve the measure, "we would just have to cut back in any way we can and go out again (with another measure)," she said. The district could do without the revenue for a year, she said, but "for the long term that's a problem," she said.

The resolution adopted by the board, however, says "unless (the parcel tax) is extended by voters, the loss of funding will result in a substantial reduction of educational programs."

The district receives a grant of about $1.8 million a year from the Woodside School Foundation, accounting for about 20 percent of its budget, Superintendent Polito said.

The district spends approximately $21,000 per student, the superintendent said. That's the highest in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties and second highest in the state for a district with between 350 and 450 students. She said the district's funding "allows for small class sizes, robust student support, credentialed full-time staff in art, music, design, (transitional kindergarten) and library."

The number of students at the school has fallen from 452 students in the 2013-14 school year to this year's 398 students, a drop of about 12 percent. During that time the school's property tax revenues increased from $5.5 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year to a projected $6.6 million in 2016-17, a 20 percent increase.

During that time, the district's June budget report says, salaries and benefits increased from 79.9 percent of the budget in the 2013-14 fiscal year to a projected 84.3 percent in the 2016-17 year. A three-year budget forecasts that amount increasing to 84.8 percent by 2018-19, including an annual state-mandated increase in retirement costs of about 2 percent each year.

This year's budget includes five administrators -- a superintendent, two principals, a business official and a director of special education -- plus the full-time equivalents of 42.6 teachers and 12.7 other non-management employees.

According to the state's website, in 2014-15, the last year for which data is available, Woodside had an average class size of 15.5 students, had a ratio of one credentialed teacher per 10.5 students, and one administrator per 109.5 students.

Those numbers are all better than they were in the 2010-11 school year, when the district had an average class size of 17.6 students, 1 credentialed teacher per 14.2 students, and one administrator per 151 students.

The three-year budget projection made in June did not include the parcel tax as revenue after its expiration date. The projection showed that the loss of the parcel tax revenue would still allow the district to maintain the state required reserve of 4 percent of the general fund budget, getting down to 4.35 percent in the 2018-19 school year if revenues do not increase or expenses are not cut.

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a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jul 30, 2017 at 10:35 am

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