Vote Yes on Measure S | April 9, 2021 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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Viewpoint - April 9, 2021

Vote Yes on Measure S

Portola Valley district's tax measure lowers the current rate and supports schools at a crucial time

It may seem like deja vu for residents of the Portola Valley School District — another spring parcel tax measure, just over a year after voters narrowly rejected a measure that would have renewed the current parcel tax that is set to expire this June.

But things have drastically changed since the last time a parcel tax was on the ballot in the district on March 3, 2020. Schools soon shuttered and pivoted to distance learning due to COVID-19, leaving children homebound and limited to online communication with their teachers and classmates. About seven months later, Portola Valley was one of the first public school districts in San Mateo County to get the green light to reopen for in-person instruction, which it did in a phased approach beginning in mid-October.

With COVID-19 vaccinations ramping up and talk of the California economy fully reopening in June, there's hope that school life can begin to return to some semblance of normalcy statewide this fall. But that continued transition will be hampered should voters fail to support Measure S, a district parcel tax initiative on the all-mail ballot May 4. According to district officials, eight teachers would need to be laid off and programs cut should Measure S not receive the necessary two-thirds support from voters. The current parcel tax, Measure O, raises about $1.2 million annually and helps pay for teacher salaries, reduced class sizes, and programs such as advanced math, science and technology, and art and music.

District officials say the new parcel tax initiative is indicative of an effort to listen to the community and only ask for what's necessary, as Measure S would implement a tax of $471 per parcel annually versus the current rate of $581. So for $110 less per year, Portola Valley voters can help local schools retain their renowned programs and teachers, which benefit the entire community regardless of whether you have a child in the district. One could argue that it's more important than ever before to keep class sizes small, have teacher continuity and fund academic programs that have enriched the lives of so many children, especially ones like science and music that heavily rely on in-person interactions and have been harder to engage in virtually.

Opponents of the measure argue that the parcel tax is unnecessary because enrollment has declined in the district, meaning there should be fewer expenses. But the enrollment decline will not necessarily continue, nor does a decrease in enrollment automatically translate to a decrease in expenses at a time when schools are spending money on air filters, cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment to help create a safe environment for students and staff amid the pandemic.

It's hard to complain about being overtaxed by the district when voters are being asked to approve a decrease from the current rate, and the well-respected local schools are a big factor in keeping the town's property values high. The Almanac recommends a yes vote on Measure S.

Comments

Posted by Karl
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Apr 9, 2021 at 1:08 pm

Karl is a registered user.

Another year, another parcel tax. It's always amusing how proponents disingenuously proclaim that the tax will sunset (knowing that they will, naturally, seek to renew it)...or how this time cost cutting measures will be put in place. The argument is akin to a spouse buying items on sale and telling everyone what a good deal they got - versus the savings of simply not shopping! Sorry, this is an easy pass as it was last time. Say NO to never ending taxes in CA!


Posted by PV Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Apr 21, 2021 at 8:03 pm

PV Resident is a registered user.

In '98 voters approved a 30-yr bond, with buildings done in '02. In HALF the promised lifetime of those buildings, we were told they were in disrepair and needed $48m upgrades and new construction…that the schools were in poor shape when our eyes told a different story. So either the district can't construct schools well OR they can't maintain them OR they skewed the picture to present a crisis that didn't exist. (It's #3)

Here's your property tax bill for the next decade:
- $17m bond from '98
- $7m '02 bond for budget overages
- $50m '18 bond
- Unbudgeted Phase 2 of '18 bond
- Interest on the above. Original forecast for 2018 interest was $47m
- PLUS annual budget dramatically in excess of state & national levels

That's about $140m of construction for 25 years across two major projects that each promised to be 30-year solutions. $280k/student.

US average cost of a new school is under $50k/student. Average lifetime is 42 years. Most school districts can build buildings that exceed the promises and the bonds they put to voters. Portola Valley does not.

The parcel tax is from the same taxing authority, the same people who told you in 2015 that our schools were crumbling. Now they're telling your our classrooms will fail without this tax.

Average CA spend per student is $12-18k per year. Here it's nearly $30k. Somehow, that's not enough.

Enrollment
2009 741
2010 711
2011 709
2012 671
2013 652
2014 628
2015 628
2016 626
2017 608
2018 574
2019 548
2020 495

We have lost 30% of our students but the budget (and buildings) only get bigger

A NOTE TO SENIORS, SEQUOIAS AND PRIORY RESIDENTS
There's an exemption for seniors. It's cynical economic gerrymandering to get your vote. It literally costs you nothing. Same for renters and Sequoias/Priory. When you vote, please think of ALL OF US. Look at the numbers above. Think of the millions and millions of spending ON THE MERITS.

You can love our community, schools and kids and also say "enough." Vote NO.


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