Portola Valley school district to put parcel tax renewal on March 2020 ballot | News | Almanac Online |


Portola Valley school district to put parcel tax renewal on March 2020 ballot

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A survey commissioned by Portola Valley School District has found that voters would support renewal of a parcel tax that district officials say is necessary to keep current programs afloat.

The survey by Godbe Research and TBWB Strategies found that 72.8% of voters in the district would support renewing Measure O in March 2020, according to a presentation prepared for the district's Oct. 2 school board meeting. Surveyed voters expressed the same level of support for renewing the measure in November 2020. Two-thirds of voters must approve the parcel tax for it to pass.

After discussing survey results, board members asked staff to draft a resolution to put renewal of the parcel tax on the March 2020 ballot.

"In the context of the November (2020) election, we (the district's parcel tax committee) thought the tax might get crowded out" by other ballot items, said Superintendent Roberta Zarea. "It came down to wanting to move forward, and we feel like we have this momentum."

The measure, which passed in 2013 with 69% of the vote, is set to expire in June 2021.

"Given the survey findings and the two-thirds majority required for approval, TBWB and Godbe Research recommend that the Portola Valley School District continue the process to prepare for a March 2020 parcel tax measure election that extends the current measure for 8 years, with cost of living adjustments, senior exemptions, independent citizen oversight, no money for administrator salaries, and no funds for Sacramento," according to the presentation.

In June, district staff said the parcel tax, which generates about $1.2 million annually, "must be renewed" to maintain classroom programs and teaching staff.

Measure O raises revenue that goes toward advanced math, science and technology programs; reading and writing programs; art and music programs; reduced class sizes; and retention of teachers, according to the district website.

Measure O consolidated two expiring measures: Measure C (with an annual tax of $290 per parcel) and Measure D ($168 per parcel) and increased the rate by $123 per parcel to $581, district Chief Business Officer Connie Ngo said.

A little over half of those surveyed have a very favorable or somewhat favorable view of the district's management of public funds. About 20% answered that they have unfavorable or very unfavorable views of the district's management of public funds. Nearly a quarter answered that they don't know whether the district effectively manages public funds.

The most popular aspects of the measure include its focus on maintaining enhanced science, math, reading and writing instruction; retaining qualified and experienced teachers; supporting music and arts programs; and limiting class size increases, according to the survey.

A draft resolution to put the tax on the ballot next March will come back to the school board for discussion at an Oct. 23 meeting, said Ngo. The board will likely vote on the resolution at a Nov. 20 meeting, which is the last meeting before the deadline for a March election, Ngo said.

The full presentation on the survey can be viewed at tinyurl.com/parceltaxsurvey.

At the same meeting, architects updated the board on construction funded by Measure Z, a $49.5 million bond passed last November to pay for school repairs and renovations.

Cody Anderson Wasney Architects completed the schematic design phase of the construction projects, and the firm is beginning the projects' design development phase.

At Corte Madera School, the district is finishing up work on a fault trench, which should be complete by Oct. 11, according to a district staff report. The school is located just inside a fault zone as indicated by the California Geological Survey (CGS).

The contractors have finished backfilling and compacting the first section of the trench through the garden and asphalt area behind the school's 900 wing. Once the remaining length of the trench is complete and backfilled, its entire length will be patched with asphalt.

A representative from the CGS visited the site twice and has not found anything significant in the sections exposed, according to the staff report.

The school district plans to host public open houses to review Measure Z construction design plans with architects at the end of October or early November, Zarea said.


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15 people like this
Posted by Just Curious
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 10, 2019 at 10:12 am

The Almanac has run some articles in the last few months that indicate enrollment in the local school districts are dropping (Portola Valley enrollment declines 4.5% this year) while at the same time property tax revenues are soaring. Portola Valley Property tax revenue is up almost 6% this year. Given that there are less students and more money how does the district justify not only renewing the current parcel taxes for 8 years but raising them as well?

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6 people like this
Posted by Parcel Tax Comment
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Oct 21, 2019 at 12:06 pm

Parcel Tax Comment is a registered user.

Just Curious asks a good question. Here's part of the answer:
Unlike many others up and down California, Portola Valley is a "community funded" district. That means property and parcel taxes account for 80% of school funding. Only 7% of the district's revenue comes from the state (the remainder comes from the local schools foundation at 6% and "other" sources at 5%). So the parcel tax, in part, fills in where other, larger districts' state funding otherwise would.
Without a new parcel tax, the district would lose nearly 8% of its funding. That's enough of a chunk to cause significant cutbacks in a district that, because of its small size, can ill afford to lose even one staffer. (Many staffers in the PVSD fill multiple roles, as is the case in most small companies and organizations.)
And yes property tax revenue is up but so are state and federally-mandated expenses: districts are now required to pay into increasingly strained statewide teacher retirement pension funds (a problem acknowledged statewide - even nationwide), the cost of teachers' healthcare plans are going up, and special education spending is projected to rise 21% statewide next year.
Those are just three examples of why, even though enrollment is dropping, a district's overall expenses can still go up.
The Portola Valley School District is no exception to the problems facing districts statewide.
Also, it may be helpful to note that the PV district has local financial oversight and audit committees. And two recent external audits, both by the state and by a private bond firm for Measure Z funds, showed it's spending its money wisely and carefully.

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