Portola Valley school district’s budget sound, but $1.2 million in cuts may come if parcel tax isn’t renewed


The Portola Valley School District's budget remains healthy, but the district will need to make over $1 million in budget cuts unless a parcel tax is renewed, district staff wrote in a report.

The school board will vote on the district 2019-20 budget on Wednesday (June 26) and will also discuss beginning the process to put renewal of the soon-to-expire Measure O on an upcoming ballot.

The Measure O parcel tax expires in June 2021. It generates about $1.2 million annually for the district and goes toward advanced math, science and technology programs; reading and writing programs; art and music programs; reduced class sizes; and retaining qualified, experienced teachers, according to the district website.

The parcel tax "must be renewed" to support the programs, the report states.

The district will have to start talking to constituents about where cuts would have to be made -- be it increasing class sizes or cutting music and art program -- if Measure O is not renewed, said Chief Business Officer Connie Ngo. The money raised each year through the Measure O parcel tax pays for the equivalent of 12 teaching positions, she said.

At today's meeting, the board will begin discussions about considering asking voters to renew the tax on the March 2020 primary ballot, the November 2020 general election, a special election, or on a stand-alone election, according to the staff report.

Passed in 2013, Measure O consolidated two expiring measures: Measure C ($290 per parcel) and Measure D ($168 per parcel) and increased the rate by $123 per parcel to $581, Ngo said.

Meanwhile, the 2019-20 budget includes a projected surplus of $469,249, according to the staff report. The district increased spending on salary and benefits, but decreased spending on materials and supplies, services and operating expenses, and special education, according to the proposed budget.

There are forthcoming increases in pension costs, according to the staff report. Pension rates will continue to increase up to 19.1% for the California State Teachers' Retirement System in 2020-21 and 25% for California Public Employees' Retirement System in 2022-23, according to the report.

The district has not settled salary negotiations with its employee groups for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Negotiations with the teachers union should begin in the fall, said John Davenport, Portola Valley Teachers Association president in an email.

The proposed new budget includes total expenditures of $15.1 million, with 78.5% going to salaries and benefits. District employment remains flat, as enrollment is declining, Ngo said.

The proposed budget projects total revenues of $16.1 million, with 91.4% of revenues coming from property taxes, parcel taxes and donations from the Portola Valley Schools Foundation.

Board policy recommends holding at least 12% of total annual spending in reserves. The proposed budget shows the district surpassing that minimum with 15.3% of its total annual spending in reserves.

The district also relies on Measure Z, a $49.5 million facilities bond that passed last November, to pay for repairs, renovations and new buildings on the district's two campuses.

The full 2019-20 budget can be viewed here.

The meeting takes place at 3 p.m. at Corte Madera School in Room 102, 4575 Alpine Road in Portola Valley.


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15 people like this
Posted by Enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 26, 2019 at 12:25 pm

I think a lot of people are getting fed up with Parcel Taxes. With enrollment declining (Portola Valley's district declined 6% last year) and property values skyrocketing (which results in more property tax when houses are sold) the District already has more money per student. Why can't the manage with the money they already have? Are they that poor at budgeting?

13 people like this
Posted by Incredulous
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jun 26, 2019 at 2:05 pm

Another parcel tax renewal? Agree with 'Enough', this is becoming ridiculous. Enrolment declining, teachers having to move away to afford housing (because of course Measure Z couldn't build the teachers any housing within their $49.5 million budget), cuts on materials, special ed and the Tinsley program? Yet they want more? Let us CHOOSE who we think needs help in our communities, stop enforcing extra taxes on local residents for kids who already have advantages others can only dream of.

2 people like this
Posted by enough
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 29, 2019 at 9:54 am

Just read this in the InMenlo article abount how Menlo Park had the largest growth in assessed property tax in San Mateo County: "Menlo Park — with a 10.5% increase in assessed property value"

With property tax growth like that it means the school districts are all getting a 10.5% increase on the money they get from property taxes, so why do they think they need to make us all pony up more money through another Parcel Tax.

To put things simply, they have less students (enrollment has been declining) and they have more money every year and they can not balance a budget? I personally don't think giving them more money the the answer, making them balance a budget with what they have is the right move (or finding people who can)

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

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