News


Voters overwhelmingly approve school parcel tax measure

Seventy-eight percent of voters said yes to $360 tax measure

A $360 parcel tax measure in the Menlo Park City School District was approved by 78 percent of voters, county election officials reported at a little after 10 p.m. Tuesday with all precincts counted.

Update: The county's final official vote tally in this election had 5,858 yes votes (79.1 percent) and 1,548 no votes (20.9 percent) with voter turnout of 43.1 percent of registered voters.)

A crowd of backers of the tax measure gathered at the Mama Coco restaurant in Menlo Park on Tuesday night to watch the election results come in.

From the beginning, when the first results were announced at 8:05 p.m., the measure lead by far more than the 66.7 percent margin it needed.

Assistant Superintendent Erik Burmeister, who will become the district's superintendent on July 1, was one of those in the crowd. "I'm grateful that the community has given us this vote of confidence and I'm committed to using not only their financial resources responsibly, but also their trust," he said. "I look forward to a continued conversation about the impact great schools have on our community."

The country reported 5,034 yes votes (78.4 percent) and 1,389 no votes (21.6 percent).

The measure authorizes the school district to impose the annual tax on each parcel in the district for seven years.

Measure X campaign chair Stacey Wueste said the committee worked hard to convince the community to support the measure, which was crafted by the district after two parcel tax measures failed last May.

"We spent a lot of time in the late summer and early fall with a lot of community listening meetings," Ms. Wueste said. The meetings helped the district to "understand where the community was" and everyone to better understand the financial condition of the school district.

The campaign had eight co-chairs, a steering committee of 50 and and hundreds of volunteers, she said.

"I am definitely relieved," she said. "We put a lot of hard work into this campaign."

The district still has "a lot of work to do," she said. "This is only part of the answer. Community funded school districts face a lot of challenges," she said.

School board president Stacey Jones praised the district staff for remembering their priority was "business as usual in educating the kids" even as they worked to educate the community about the district's financial situation.

"I'm so impressed with what our teachers and administrators and staff do," she said.

The work isn't over, she said. "We still have a lot of cuts to make. We still have a big shortfall. We have a lot of work to do," she said.

School board member Caroline Lucas, who had opposed the two 2016 parcel tax measures, but backed Measure X, said she is grateful for the community's support. "It will provide us time to partner with the community to establish a longer-term financial plan," she said.

The tax, she said, "is in no way a long-term solution for the budget shortfall." She promised "to use the time the voters have provided us to focus on developing a long range financial plan that is viable for the district. I welcome input and encourage the community to engage in this process," she said.

The parcel tax measure was put together by the district and its governing board over months of public meetings that followed the failure at the polls of two parcel tax measures less than a year ago, in May 2016.

Deficit looming

The district has said that without the parcel tax it faced a more than $5 million budget deficit by 2020, if current spending and revenue patterns continue.

Contributing to the district's financial difficulties are continuing enrollment growth, state requirements that the district pay ever-escalating amounts into the state retirement system, and quirks in the allocation of local property tax revenues dating back to the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 that give the district less in revenues per student than neighboring districts.

The district has an existing $207 parcel tax expiring June 30, so the new measure would result in a net increase of approximately $153 a year per parcel.

Because the district has three other parcel taxes that do not expire, total annual parcel tax revenue going to the district would be $1,078 per parcel, plus this year's increase in the Bay Area consumer price index. All the parcel taxes appear as one on the property tax bill.

Property owners 65 and older may ask for an exemption from the district's parcel taxes. Those who already have an exemption would have it automatically applied to the new parcel tax. Once an exemption is in place, the property owner need not reapply, the district says.

Measure X is estimated to raise $2.83 million each year "to be spent only on teachers and essential educational programs," according to the ballot language.

The 75-word statement that appeared on the ballot said the tax is needed "to protect outstanding public schools; retain high-quality teachers, excellent programs, and reasonable class size; avoid teacher layoffs; and sustain property values."

District funding

The Menlo Park district is "community-funded," receiving 62 percent of its revenue from local property taxes.

Other funding comes from parcel taxes (15 percent), foundation giving (8 percent), other local revenue (2 percent), the state and federal government (13 percent), and a state contribution to the teacher retirement fund (4 percent).

Unlike most other California districts, which receive state funding based on the number of students, very little of the Menlo Park district's funding increases with enrollment.

The amount of property tax revenue a school district receives per student depends on factors including the number of students, how much property tax revenue it was receiving prior to Proposition 13, the turnover in residential and commercial property, and the number of apartment buildings in the district.

Property tax revenue in the Menlo Park district is $2,500 less per student than in the neighboring Las Lomitas district, and $6,800 less per student than in the Woodside Elementary and Portola Valley districts.

While total property tax revenues have steadily increased in the district in recent years, spending has grown even faster, with the two main factors being enrollment growth, up 40 percent since 2005 to a total of 3,001 students today, and a dramatic increase in the district's required contributions to the state retirement system for teachers and other employees.

Pension costs

The district says if its personnel costs grow at projected rates, its contributions into the state pension system will increase from $2.25 million in the 2013-14 fiscal year to approximately $6 million by the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Required pension contributions by all California school districts will increase from 8.25 percent of teacher salaries in 2013-14 to 19.1 percent by 2020-21.

The increases were adopted in 2014 after years of underfunding left the retirement system verging on bankruptcy.

Contributions by the state, and by employees, are also increasing. Teacher contribution rates will rise to 10.25 percent of their salaries (up from 8 percent) over three years while the state's contributions will rise to 8.8 percent (up from 3 percent) over three years. (The state recently announced that the contributions by teachers hired after 2013 will go up an additional 1 percentage point over the next two years.)

Opposition to earlier measures

The two parcel tax measures that failed last May were on a mail-in-only ballot. The taxes had no expiration date, and at their maximum could have increased property owners' total annual parcel taxes to $1,320 per parcel, plus increases in the Bay Area consumer price index.

One measure, which would have renewed an expiring parcel tax, received just over 60 percent approval, and the other, which would have tied the amount of the tax to increased enrollment, received 54 percent approval. They needed two-thirds approval.

After the failure of the two measures the district made efforts to reach out to the public, including expanding its mpcsd.org website to include answers to questions from the public and an interactive budget tool. Presentations from meetings, along with transcripts of public comments about the district's budget deficit, are also on the site, and meetings are now video-recorded and put online.

The district's school board chose a parcel tax amount that will also require some spending cuts even with the parcel tax's approval. Just what cuts to make will be part of the board's budget deliberations in coming months.

The board has agreed on a list of 30 positions that could receive layoff notices if the parcel tax is not approved. The board did this because the deadline to notify teachers that they may not have a position in the 2017-18 school year is March 15.

The district plans to eliminate six to 10 positions even if the parcel tax measure passes. Assistant Superintendent Erik Burmeister said layoffs can probably be avoided due to attrition, but some temporary employees may not be rehired.

Spending reductions to be put into place even if the measure passes include $927,000 that the district had planned to spend in the current 2016-17 fiscal year and $1.3 million in net reductions over the next two fiscal years.

While there was organized opposition to the two parcel tax measures in 2016, this time the only ballot argument against the measure came from the Libertarian Party of San Mateo County and was signed by Jack Hickey of Emerald Hills and Harland Harrison of Belmont, both living outside the district.

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Comments

42 people like this
Posted by Katie Ferrick
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 7, 2017 at 11:12 pm

Thank you to the community for supporting local public education!

As a campaign volunteer, I really enjoyed talking with residents about measure X and the importance of protecting our programs and stabilizing funding for our schools.

Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers! I appreciate the incredible amount of time hundreds of volunteers invested in talking with residents about Measure X.

Most of all, I'm so grateful for the thousands of voters who affirmed their support of local funding for public education by voting yes on measure X.






35 people like this
Posted by Karen Dearing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 6:14 am

Karen Dearing is a registered user.

Thank you one and all for supporting our schools, our children, and our community. What an amazing result!!

Thank you also to our district for working to help the public understand the need for this tax. As Erik Burmeister said in our gathering last night, Menlo Park public education sets an example for what all of California public education should be.

I'm proud of our district, proud of our community, and proud to be involved in advocating for and advancing strong public education.

YES ON X!


22 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 7:18 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The School District has been thrown a life preserver - hopefully they will now use the very short time available before they will go into deficit spending (including proper funding of pensions) to fundamentally restructure the MPCSD programs so that they can live within the District's revenue sources.


28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 8, 2017 at 7:28 am

Thank you community member for supporting our schools!


36 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:15 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Let's see if the board acts responsibly with this money. I suspect they will be back in two years asking for more.


26 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:23 am

I am sure they will be back and will engage in the same scare tactics and misleading information they use every time. Someone should take a serious look at the Superintendent and the salaries of the administration and see what savings can be made there...


25 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:30 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The fundamental problem is that the Board established total compensation costs of the District must be increased by the State set pension costs.

The District cannot control the pension costs but it can totally control its total compensation costs by either reducing the number of employees or by reducing the average individual compensation. Unless this is done then future deficits are inevitable.


21 people like this
Posted by Caryn Wasserstein
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 8, 2017 at 9:23 am

Thank you to our community who came together to support public education and the future of our community and most importantly our community's children.


45 people like this
Posted by Pot meet Kettle
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 8, 2017 at 9:52 am

Oh the irony of a Fire District Board member assailing the compensation costs of School District employees.


32 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 10:13 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire District has a balanced budget, fully funds its own pension costs and does not have a any parcel taxes.

It does this by very carefully controlling its pension earning compensation expenditures - like not hiring more employees than it can pay for with its non-parcel tax revenues.


28 people like this
Posted by Plubius
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 11:21 am

I echo Peter's comments. The district has been given a couple of years breathing room to get it's financial house in order. I opposed the last parcel tax election but supported this one for three reasons: 1)It had an end date 2)The district ha committed to make reductions 3)This recent parcel tax provided only a bandaid and not a open check to cover the larger systemic issue around ballooning pension liabilities.

Now what is to be seen is if the Board and administration will seriously tackle the pension issue or just hobble along for the next two or three years and then go back to the voters with a "sky is falling" campaign. I hope it is the first otherwise I may be back in the role of actively campaigning against as in the prior parcel tax election.

The first sign will be if the Board grants any salary increases this year given the budget and pension situation. I hope they do not follow the same path as PAUSD where they begged for a parcel tax to save programs and then turned around the gave a nice across the board raise. That was a slap in the face to PA residents.


23 people like this
Posted by Happy Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Mar 8, 2017 at 1:46 pm

I'm so glad the community overwhelmingly supported this measure.

Yes, there are those who are feeling gloomy and writing about how the district will come back for more, and using words like "scare tactics."

Despite the negative language, at the core they're probably correct. The cost of living is going to continue to rise in our area. Your groceries, your cars, your rent, your clothes, your technology are all going to get more expensive down the road.

Providing an outstanding education to our students will also continue to be more expensive down the road. More families will move heaven and earth to get into our district because it's so strong and so valuable. Every new development in town that increases housing will bring more families with more students.

I applaud Menlo Park schools for doing an incredible job at proving an outstanding education to our kids. When the inevitable day comes again that they ask for my support through another parcel tax, if all things are equal I'll probably support it again. I'll likely feel a lot better about it as opposed to everything else in my life that will likely also cost more.


27 people like this
Posted by Karen Dearing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Karen Dearing is a registered user.

"like not hiring more employees than it can pay for with its non-parcel tax revenues"

Lucky for the fire district, the square miles/number of buildings it is asked to protect don't change over time. Not so for our schools, which have seen rapidly growing enrollment. If only it were so simple...


14 people like this
Posted by Peter F Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 3:10 pm

How strange that someone could think the population served by the school district keeps increasing while the much larger population served by the Fire District does not change.

Fifth grade remedial math?


20 people like this
Posted by Peter F Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Any even stranger that the someone could believe that there has been no increase in the number and size of structures protected by the Fire District given all the new and approved developments.

But then perhaps they have alternative facts.


35 people like this
Posted by Karen Dearing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Karen Dearing is a registered user.

Peter, unless you can provide data showing that the number of fire dept responses has increased as a result of old buildings being torn down and replaced by newer buildings (with sprinklers and other modern fire-preventative infrastructure!) or by 1- and 2-person households occupied by seniors being replaced by 3+ person households with middle aged adults and children, the alternative facts and 5th grade math are yours to bear, not mine.


18 people like this
Posted by SEC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 8, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Well done!!!! Almost 80%....fantastic. I love it when a community has their voice heard. Yes, there was a vocal minority in the comment section, but this is a great decision for a fantastic school district that we ALL should be proud to call our own. Congrats and thank you all the volunteers. Thanks also to those who opposed to it for providing alternative viewpoints and a healthy discussion.


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The assessed value of structures protected by the Fire District went from $17,693,042,389 in 2007 to $28,553,987,103 in 2016 which is a $10,860944714 increase or a 61% increase.

During that same period the number of employees in the Fire District went from 107 to 111 which is an increase of 4 employees or 3.7%.

The way to control pension cost is to control the number of employees and their non-reimbursed and non-overtime compensation .


12 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 8, 2017 at 4:59 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Keep bashing the Fire They have nothing to do with the school district which has more employees than needed. Giving salaries they can not afford. An Asst. Sup. is nice, but really needed??? Hopefully the board will stay within budget.


18 people like this
Posted by Karen Dearing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Karen Dearing is a registered user.

As I suspected. Nothing to indicate that Fire District personnel would actually need to increase. Congratulations, Peter, for holding FD personnel count steady and controlling all of those salary and pension expenses in the face of absolutely no demand to hire more personnel. Unfortunately, this is not the case for MPCSD.


28 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Karen - Quit digging before you really embarrass yourself.

The Fire District population increases every time there is an increase in the MPCSD population and that is for only a small part of the Fire District.

The number of Fire District responses over the last ten years have increased substantially.

The number of total sq ft protected by the Fire District have also increased significantly because of new developments like Facebook and downtown Menlo Park.

The Fire district has focussed on increased productivity and improved efficiences rather than resorting to parcel taxes and construction bond measures.

Good management of the taxpayers' money is hard work but it pays off - why not try doing the same.


53 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Mar 8, 2017 at 6:45 pm

I'm relieved measure X passed. As I previously stated, I supported Measure X but only due to the unreasonable pension liability, as a temporary funding bridge while the district works out a long-term, financially stable plan. I stayed mostly quiet as my way to contribute to it passing :)

You're welcome. Now I'm going to go back to correcting grossly inaccurate statements...onward!...


Happy Resident wrote:
"Providing an outstanding education to our students will also continue to be more expensive down the road."

Thankfully, property tax revenues for MPCSD EXCEED both student growth and inflation. So the 5th parcel tax you allude to won't be necessary.

Geeez people, the same uninformed, boilerplate arguments over and over. The "we need a 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, etc parcel taxes because of inflation" argument has been refuted over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Property tax revenue increases exceed student growth. So please, stop.


The school board needs to treat this Measure as a means to buy time while it comes up with a viable, long-term financial plan that doesn't include additional parcel taxes.

This measure is a TEST, specifically:

1: will the board hold the line on costs? Specifically will it approve above CPI compensation to the various Unions, or will it keep wage growth below CPI while it works out a long-term financially stable plan?

Keep in mind that the teachers of MPCSD have the highest average salaries of ALL Bay Area elementary school districts. Below-CPI wage growth is a small price to pay considering the taxpayers are more than doing their part.

I'll also mention that holding the line on CPI wage increases has NO EFFECT on step-and-column salary increases.

If Measure X goes to compensation (like how things went in PAUSD) the board will have a crap-storm on its hands the likes it has never seen.


2: Will MPCSD...and other districts...actually campaign to Sacramento on the unreasonable burden that pension liability has become. I'm not expecting miracles here, but I do DEMAND effort. Squeaky wheels do get grease, and just sticking your hand out to the exceptionally generous taxpayers of this community and putting zero effort into resolving the underlying problem will be COMPLETELY unacceptable.


I'm with Peter Carpenter, what the board does next will be critical. I hope they don't betray the trust of the community and approve above-CPI compensation.


23 people like this
Posted by Karen Dearing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 8, 2017 at 6:52 pm

Karen Dearing is a registered user.

Responses have increased exactly how substantially? Substantially enough to warrant hiring more personnel that the fire district has somehow managed to avoid because of how it is governed/managed? Unless the answer to that is yes, then continuing to try to draw parallels between the fire district and the school district is comparing apples to oranges.

That said, I never said I was against good management. I fully agree that, even though the district provides an amazing "product" for the amount it spends per student, there is always room for improvement in how funds are managed and spent. I'm all for calling on the school district to dig deep to find every possible avenue to trim expenses. However, to imply that the district should be able to do as the fire district has done and not hire more employees is simply not a viable answer to the competing forces of funding and enrollment at play in our schools.


3 people like this
Posted by paying taxes, no benefit
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 8, 2017 at 6:54 pm


If only Belle Haven could be in the MPSD,

It's beyond in bad shape it's a fire waiting to happen.

Doesn't seem fair to pay parcel taxes for the city the school is in and not receive the benefit of the tax

Since it's in Menlo Park perhaps Peter would know if the Fire dept. has inspected it for hazards.


12 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 8, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

Excellent post Train Fan!


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 8, 2017 at 8:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Karen - stop trying to use a Trumpian distraction.

Deal with MPCSD


7 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 9, 2017 at 12:15 am

Karen,

The fire district provides medical emergency response services also. When the area population increases substantially, then the number of calls goes up proportionally. That would be a key reason the fire district needs more funding.

OTOH, a great fire district will help the community with prevention. That should reduce the number of fire emergencies.

Thus, the number of responses are an imperfect measure of how to measure the financial needs of a fire district.


22 people like this
Posted by Willows Man
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Mar 9, 2017 at 8:00 am

The Fire District is overfunded based on the share of our tax dollars allocated to the FD. This is a long term structural issue that has been in place for years, resulting in a mis-allocation of resources between the fire districts and education spending across the state. Bragging about the Fire District's financial position is like patting yourself on the back for living within your means as an Atherton millionaire.


17 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 9, 2017 at 8:11 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Wow - the denial here is unbelievable.

The problem is that the school district cannot continue to operate its existing structure even with the newly approved parcel tax.

Payroll is 89% of the District's revenue.

And that does not include fully funding the District's pension obligations nor does it provide for new construction.

Total payroll costs must be reduced to 75-80% of revenues so that the pension costs can be more fully covered.

The new parcel tax gives the district a very short lifeline to make the structural changes necessary to have a semi-balance budget. ( Semi-balanced because it will still not include full funding for new construction).

Starting yesterday the district needs to develop a new educational model that can be supported by its existing revenue stream.


15 people like this
Posted by Daniel Gehant
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2017 at 12:36 pm

"The assessed value of structures protected by the Fire District went from $17,693,042,389 in 2007 to $28,553,987,103 in 2016 which is a $10,860944714 increase or a 61% increase."

Peter, honest question: Is the FD funding also tied to that value increase? I'm curious to understand how historical FD funding compares to property values over the past 5/10/15/30 years? Does it float or is it anchored to something else less elastic?

Likewise what portion of FD pensions are funded by local, state, fed? And has that contribution mix changed over the years?

Since the FD budget is well balanced/structured, how do we learn from it...I have a suspicion the rules and circumstances are different...but want to learn more about these aspects.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 9, 2017 at 1:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

David - If you start a separate topic I would be pleased to answer any questions you have regarding the Fire District.

Pot meet Kettle, not so cleverly, introduced the Fire District into this discussion because the questions that I raised about the school district were too difficult/painful for her /him to answer so, in true Trumpian fashion, he/she attempted to shoot the messenger and attack my affiliation with the Fire District. Karen saw an easy out and jumped on the diversion horse.

Let's keep this topic where it belongs - on the future of MPCSD now that it has been given a temporary lifeline.


4 people like this
Posted by Daniel Gehant
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Who's David? ;) I'll do that once I have some more time. To be honest...not sure how to start a new thread here.

I agree, Measure X is something worth pausing for and celebrating *today*, and it's just one of many steps on a longer journey.

In terms of criticisms of any organization, I try to follow Hanlon's Razor until proven otherwise: Don't assume bad intentions over neglect and misunderstanding.

Look forward to learning more about these complex issues. I have confidence, there are some very passionate, daring, & gritty people who are focused on these issues.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 9, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Daniel - click on Post a New Topic on the top left of this page.


13 people like this
Posted by Fair game
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 9, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Assessed value of housing has nothing to do with the cost to serve a set of fairly stable number of houses/buildings to protect.

Running schools and running fire districts are 2 very different entities, but both serve the same larger community and can be subject to scrutiny.

If you don't like having a target on your back, don't throw stones at others, especially when your own house is obviously not in order. (massive overtime expenditures and total comp that greatly exceeds fair market rates).

There is no


10 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 9, 2017 at 5:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Fair game - as noted, If you start a separate topic I would be pleased to answer any questions you have regarding the Fire District.



11 people like this
Posted by MPCSD Parent2
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 10, 2017 at 11:11 am

Train Fan, Menlo Voter, Peter Carpenter and others:

In response to comments such as " Will MPCSD...and other districts...actually campaign to Sacramento on the unreasonable burden that pension liability has become. I'm not expecting miracles here, but I do DEMAND effort," I invite each and all of you to move on from posting comments on the Almanac site to actively working to get Sacramento to do something about "the unreasonable burden that pension liability has become" and otherwise reform school funding (e.g. reforming Prop 13, for example, not allowing commercial property to be protected by Prop 13).

In the next few years, even assuming property tax revenue growth keeps up with enrollment, growth in pension burdens (and other costs) will make it difficult for MPCSD to deliver the same level of education that it does now with additional revenue.


2 people like this
Posted by MPCSD Parent2
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 10, 2017 at 11:13 am

...withOUT additional revenue...


10 people like this
Posted by Tom P
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 10, 2017 at 12:05 pm

MPCSD Parent2,

The pension problem cannot be fixed by providing more revenue to the districts. Anytime new revenue comes into the district, the unions demand pay increases. They never ask for more money to backfill the pensions. And when base salary increases, pension requirements increase too.

If you don't believe me, take a look at what happened in Palo Alto Unified. Their recent parcel tax increase proceeds went to pay increases only. There was no more money for other programs, which was promised during that campaign. The unions got all the money. And, of course, their pensions got bigger too.

Prop 13 does have its problems, but reforming it won't solve the fundamental problem with the pension structure, which is small pay raises create large long term ongoing liabilities. Private companies realize the economic flaws with pensions, which is why you can hardly find a company that offers new employees a pension. Unfortunately, Sacramento makes decisions based on politics, not economics, which is why state workers maintain their rich pensions.


Like this comment
Posted by MPCSD Parent2
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 10, 2017 at 1:00 pm

Tom P:
So, your proposed solution are ???...


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 10, 2017 at 2:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The only solution for MPCSD is for it to control the things that it can control.

MPCSD cannot control pension rates.

MPCSD has total control of its total salary costs - which are then multiplied by the pension rate to establish the total compensation costs.

Total salary costs can be controlled by controlling the number of employees and their average compensation.


19 people like this
Posted by Tom P
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 10, 2017 at 5:27 pm

MPCSD Parent 2,
Cap total employee compensation to some fixed percentage of district revenue. Find a percentage the district can live with and put it in the next union contract.

The cap should include total compensation: salary, benefits, and making sufficient pension payments from here on out so that our liability isn't increasing. The current pension hole will still exist, but we can at least stop digging the hole we're currently in.

The current strategy of minimum pension payments will catch up with us one day because the minimum doesn't cover actual liability.

The key tenet is bring long term costs into control. If that is done, then the district won't be under the gun to increase the parcel tax every few years.


4 people like this
Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 10, 2017 at 6:36 pm

MPCSD Parent2 great comment and spot on. I too would love to see those questioning here use their time and energy to go to Sacramento and help with the issues that have put us where we are - Prop 13 reform, Commercial property tax reform, even all the unions. How about the local agencies who get more money than they need??

MPCSD Parent2 my assumption is that Menlo Voter, Peter Carpenter, Train Fan, Tom P and others are homeowners protected by Prop 13 (having owned their home since 1978 or had their home transferred to their name and not reassessed) and have no interest in leveling the property tax playing field. Thus they have no interest in Prop 13 reform.

I am also getting frustrated hearing about Palo Alto teacher raises in relation to our District, especially since we have had many explanations in the Almanac about how each District collects money from it's tax payers and this is not an accurate comparison. MPCSD and PAUSD are not the same. BTW, for those interested the 12% salary increase for PAUSD mentioned time and again here was over THREE years not the day their parcel tax was passed.

MPCSD has had astonishing enrollment growth in the past 8 years, let's continue to do this for our future, for our commuity and for our children. And if Menlo Voter, Peter Carpenter, Train Fan, Tom P have a plan for taking on Sacramento I'll happily sign up. I am no longer interested in hearing the claim that MPCSD is in this situation because elected officials like the school board are not spending the public's money wisely.


21 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 10, 2017 at 8:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" I am no longer interested in hearing the claim that MPCSD is in this situation because elected officials like the school board are not spending the public's money wisely."

The first stage is always denial.

"Peter Carpenter, Train Fan, Tom P and others are homeowners protected by Prop 13 (having owned their home since 1978 or had their home transferred to their name and not reassessed) and have no interest in leveling the property tax playing field."

I have repeatedly posted my strong support for repealing Prop 13 - however that will not happen in time to save MPCSD, if ever.

MPCSD must control what it alone can control -its total payroll.


2 people like this
Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on Mar 11, 2017 at 8:25 am

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

Here is a link to a story on the county's "semi-official" results, meaning they believe they've now counted all the votes.
Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 11, 2017 at 8:32 am

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

enough:

you know what they say about assumptions. You assume wrong about me. Bought my current home in 2000.


18 people like this
Posted by No money
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 11, 2017 at 11:31 am

The solution is simple. No more pensions. Make them pay into a 401K like the rest of us. That's what most private companies have done. However, that's politically impossible since the politicians are all in the union's pockets. Short term solution? Raise retirement age and reduce benefits. Exactly what they've been doing for social security (just like the rest of us). Then you can free up money for higher salaries if needed.

In reality? Never going to happen since no politician will stand up to the unions. What you need is new legislation to rewrite the rules.

At some point, the economic boom will end and you won't be able to get a parcel tax large enough to cover the budget gap. If MPCSD cannot balance the budget in boom times, what will they do when the economy turns south? That's our real concern. Waving your hands and pretending it's all about enrollment growth is like covering your ears and refusing to even acknowledge there'a problem.


16 people like this
Posted by Tom P
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 11, 2017 at 11:58 am

Enough,
I was asked for a solution that addresses the root cause. I provided a solution.

Then, you tell me to go pursue the Prop 13 reform route, which I made clear doesn't solve the problem. The real problem is structural, not revenue based.

I actually feel our school board is spending money efficiently in current dollars. However, that doesn't mean our present spending course is sustainable in the long term. In fact, if the district were spending our money inefficiently, we would be able to find savings easier. We don't have many easy places to cut, but we have to cut somewhere as we look toward the future. The growing pension liability will crowd out our other priorities.

If you use any new funds on higher salaries, then it just makes the pension hole bigger. That's why I point out the problem is structural, not revenue.

By the way, I did not choose to use PAUSD as a comparison district. The district leadership chose it. I merely followed their example.


9 people like this
Posted by Alexander
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 11, 2017 at 1:41 pm

Thanks Tom, for your suggestion to “Cap total employee compensation to some fixed percentage of district revenue. Find a percentage the district can live with and put it in the next union contract.”

This is what the community needs to demand of the school board and the sooner the better. Putting a CAP on the total employee compensation to some fixed percentage of district revenue is the only way I can see that this can be solved before the money runs out. Even if we put pressure on Sacramento, this kind of reform takes time and the unions are likely ready to negotiate now. If we need to pay teachers more to retain them, then we might need to control this cost by having fewer employees/teachers so we can cap total compensation at something lower than what it is now. The parents would need to reconcile that however, because the platform of the campaign was, in part, on NOT increasing class sizes in coming years.

The negotiation should not be whether to give a raise or not give a raise, nor how much of a raise to give. The negotiation needs to be about the percentage of district revenue that should go toward total employee compensation. As Tom P. points, out, “The cap should include total compensation: salary, benefits, and making sufficient pension payments from here on out so that our liability isn't increasing.” Something like this was suggested during the campaign as a part of a position paper for board member, Lucas.

Clearly the community is behind the schools but that doesn’t suggest that STRUCTURAL REFORM is not needed. I hope the board doesn’t just try to shave a little bit here and there and hope that they can still retain good teachers and programs. That would be very short sighted, but wouldn’t surprise me because it’s harder to take an approach that requires a longer-term solution.

The time of denial is over. We have a structural problem with our business model and that needs to be rethought. I encourage our community to come to the board meetings and share ideas. It’s our community and we need to come up with the solutions we want our board to enact.



28 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Mar 11, 2017 at 7:28 pm

"I did not choose to use PAUSD as a comparison district. The district leadership chose it. I merely followed their example."

Hah, excellent point!

MPCSD, MPAEF and its supporters even cherrypick when they cherrypick their cherrypicked comps! :)

I already posted how much I pay in property taxes. The MPCSD board members are protected by prop 13 moreso than I; yet another myth busted.


2 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 13, 2017 at 4:08 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Editor: Time to end the endless subject. Is this the only thing the paper has????? Enough already!!


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 13, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Free Speech does not require SteveC to read anything that he does not want to read.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 13, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is an interesting way of looking at the property tax burden:

"My trusty spreadsheet tells me that when you compare California’s median household income of $64,500 – 10th best nationally – to property tax bills, you find the burden equals 4.8 percent of the household pay. That share ranked 10th worst among the states. (Psst! Texas was 12th worst at 4.6 percent.)

Want to pay less? Move to the national low in Alabama where these taxes run 1.2 percent of incomes.

Want to feel better? Imagine paying property taxes in New Jersey (10.3 percent); my home state of New York (7.6 percent); or Connecticut (7.5 percent)!

So maybe it’s not just California’s fine weather that draws so many transplants from the Northeast!"

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Mar 17, 2017 at 9:59 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Homeowners in the New Jersey pay the highest property taxes of any state in the country, with rates in some areas more than double the national average. The average effective property tax rate in New Jersey is 2.19%, compared with a national average of 1.19%. See: Web Link


11 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 19, 2017 at 10:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Mar 10, 2017 at 2:37 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
The only solution for MPCSD is for it to control the things that it can control.

MPCSD cannot control pension rates.

MPCSD has total control of its total salary costs - which are then multiplied by the pension rate to establish the total compensation costs.

Total salary costs can be controlled by controlling the number of employees and their average compensation.

***********
And now the Teachers' Union has, as predicted, proposed to discuss article 13, salary and benefits.
If the Board approves a salary increase using the new parcel tax funds then any further parcel tax is doomed to failure as it will be seen as NOT "for the children" but as a simple pass through to the teachers,


6 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Apr 19, 2017 at 10:51 pm

"And now the Teachers' Union has, as predicted, proposed to discuss article 13, salary and benefits."

If the board approves an above-CPI raise (or above-CPI bonus, or above-CPI raise+bonus), I will make it my personal mission to not only defeat every future parcel tax measure, I'll get the existing ones terminated (yeah, that can be done).

Keep in mind that the teachers of MPCSD have the highest average salaries of ALL Bay Area elementary school districts. Below-CPI wage growth is a small price to pay considering the taxpayers are more than doing their part.

I'll also mention that holding the line on CPI wage increases has NO EFFECT on step-and-column salary increases.

If Measure X goes to compensation (like how things went in PAUSD) the board will have a crap-storm on its hands the likes it has never seen.

Board, don't betray our trust.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 19, 2017 at 11:06 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

What Train Fan said. If, as I predicted, the board gives raises to the teachers, Train Fan won't be the only one committed to kick any school board member that votes to increase teacher salaries out of office. As expected, the teachers see the passage of the last parcel tax as an opportunity to demand a raise. Now is the time for the school board to stand up to the teachers' union and tell them to shove it. They are currently the best paid in the area. NONE of them is going anywhere if they don't get a raise as there is nowhere in the Bay Area for them to go and get better pay. Stand strong school board. Don't be bullied by the union. They are negotiating from a position of weakness. Remember that.


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