Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 7, 2010

Palo Alto parcel tax passes, with highest-ever approval

Seventy-nine percent endorse $589-per-year parcel tax to maintain core school programs and staff

by Chris Kenrick

Palo Alto voters have said a resounding "yes" to their public schools, according to a vote tally announced at 8:01 p.m. Tuesday by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Voters approved Measure A, a $589 annual school parcel tax, by 79.36 percent, far more than the two-thirds needed.

The approval percentage was the highest ever for a parcel tax in Palo Alto, according to campaign consultant Charles Heath of San Francisco-based TBWB Strategies.

The result is "really energizing," Palo Alto Superintendent Kevin Skelly said. "This is a big 'yes' to our children and our community."

More than 50 percent of registered voters in the school district cast ballots in the mail-only campaign.

The tax replaces the current $493-per-parcel-per-year tax. It is expected to generate an annual $11.2 million, about 7 percent of the operating budget of the Palo Alto Unified School District.

The tax carries a 2 percent annual escalation adjustment and an optional exemption for people over age 65. It will expire in six years.

"This is incredibly important for our school district," Board of Education President Barbara Klausner told campaign volunteers at a victory celebration Tuesday night at the home of Sunny and Dan Dykwel.

"This is a new reality for California and for our schools. ... This is what we need to do to protect our schools."

School parcel taxes also passed Tuesday in the Menlo Park and Portola Valley school districts, as well as in Sunnyvale's Fremont Union High School District, San Jose's Union Elementary School District and the Loma Prieta Joint Union Elementary School District.

Measure A campaign Co-Chair Tracy Stevens said more than 500 people had volunteered in 35 phone-bank sessions during the campaign, calling 25,000 voters.

"We did call several people repeatedly and they let us know that," Stevens said to laughter from fellow volunteers. Repeat calls were made to people who hadn't yet sent in their mail-in ballots or whose ballots hadn't yet been listed as received.

"I'm not a big fan of phone banks. I do not like getting the calls. But they work."

Heath said Palo Alto's 79.36 percent approval is "in the stratosphere" for school parcel-tax results, although other communities occasionally have reached approval ratings of more than 80 percent.

"It's a strong mandate and a high turnout," Heath said, noting the 50 percent-plus turnout refutes criticism that mail-in ballots squelch participation.

"It's also notable that this occurred in a down economy."

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by ex-Palo Altan, a resident of another community
on May 5, 2010 at 12:41 am

Congratulations! The schools are what drew me to Palo Alto and they are an investmentment for the future of the community.

Having more than 50% of voters send in a ballot is a high number for the USA (I come from a country where voting is compulsory), so this reinforces the strength of the result.

I hope most 65+ year olds continue to invest in their community and pay the parcel tax. They will benefit through increased home values.


Posted by happy to be free to vote ( or not), a resident of Meadow Park
on May 5, 2010 at 6:08 am

Yes, I am always grateful we don't have "compulsory" voting, so that only those who care enough to vote, vote...which helps us get more informed vote outcomes......(usually) than otherwise.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2010 at 7:05 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Obviously a compliment to a well run campaign.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2010 at 8:09 am

I for one am embarrassed to be part of a PTA which hounded people over the past month to get across a one sided message to vote.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 5, 2010 at 8:27 am

A very well conceived and executed parcel tax campaign for our schools. Congratulations to all involved.

Clearly, 80% of Palo Alto voters are willing to invest in a quality education for our children.

Educational excellence drew our family to Palo Alto over 40 years ago. Our children received, and most of our grandchildren are receiving, valued Palo Alto public school educations.

We are grateful for the community benefits available to all. We are happy to support our city both financially and with our volunteer time.


Posted by One Parent, a resident of South of Midtown
on May 5, 2010 at 9:45 am

Parent, I'm with you. I've worked on a number of these campaigns but this time was too busy with other things. I received several urgent phone calls and emails insisting that I vote. It's invasive to have someone call several times and tell me I haven't yet voted. I'm fine with one call reminding me when the vote is, but once they step over the line and monitor whether I've voted or not, they've gone too far. Also, rather than have these endless local efforts to save the schools, I'll put my future efforts into changing the prop 13 situation, which is very unfair and much too heavy handed. It leaves the schools of our entire state in a demeaning, wasteful, perpetual search for funding.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 5, 2010 at 11:00 am

Parent & One Parent:

Did either one of you say: "Please take me off your calling, email and postal lists and do not contact me again." ???

Even if they are a political or charity group (exempt from the national "do not call" list), they still have to honor your request for removal from their list.

Problem solved...


Posted by Eva, a resident of Barron Park School
on May 5, 2010 at 11:12 am

Well done Palo Alto. It's refreshing to see how much our city values education even during this tough financial time. And, as several people have stated, a strong Palo Alto school system benefits all home owners by keeping our city a desirable place to live.


Posted by Aaron, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 5, 2010 at 11:22 am

I appreciated the early phone call or two I received.

I realized any good campaign team would be monitoring the voter list and only calling those who hadn't yet voted, so I voted the day my ballot arrived.

It felt really good to vote YES on Measure A.

And I greatly appreciate the efforts expended on behalf of our Palo Alto community by 500-plus volunteers who reinforced the importance of our exercising our fundamental right to vote.


Posted by Yipee, a resident of Professorville
on May 5, 2010 at 11:41 am

That's great that it passed. Now the School District can pay for the school crossing guards instead of the City having to shell out $350K per year.


Posted by MJ Wolf, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2010 at 11:44 am

Dang, another year without a new pair of shoes. I support education but this is a regressive tax.


Posted by Mom, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 5, 2010 at 11:46 am

How much money did the campaign consultant get?


Posted by Frustrated, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2010 at 11:46 am

So yet another bond measure passes and where is the money going to go this time? we have had too many bond measure wherein the money was not used for what it was suppose to be used for. Enough is enough. I am sure when this measure expires, there will be another and yet another. There has to be another way to help the schools instead of taxing the residents to death.


Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on May 5, 2010 at 11:50 am

How many people take the senior exemption?


Posted by Dean, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2010 at 11:56 am

I don't mind additional calls to supporters at all. As it happened, I filled out the ballot the day I got it, but then misplaced it. I was going through a pile of mail a week or two later, and found my ballot! I could have easily missed mailing it in, a reminder call would certainly be welcome in this case.


Posted by too many taxes?, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2010 at 11:59 am

You want a solution besides "taxing residents to death"? Simple, REPEAL PROPOSITION 13 FOR COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE!!! Before Prop 13, property tax collections were evenly split between commercial owners and homeowners. Now, homeowners pay 2/3 of the tax. This was not the intention of Prop 13 at all - the intention was to keep people from losing their homes due to rises in property taxes.


Posted by Eva, a resident of Barron Park School
on May 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Dear Frustrated,

I agree it's always good to know where your bond money goes. In this case it is an investment in maintaining and improving Palo Alto schools. Here is the link to the Bond Project list. Download the PDF and then scroll through until you get to the specifics of what the bond money will fund for our elementary, middle & high schools:

Web Link Project List FINAL.pdf


Posted by Eva, a resident of Barron Park School
on May 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Darn, didn't go through. Link to PAUSD page. Hope this works

Web Link


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm

CP Dad

Phone calls came for our over 18 year olds who are registered voters including one who is away at college. Each registered voter appeared to generate an individual phone call, or two. We want to get school emails so don't wish to be taken off email lists, but we do have 2 schools sending us emails (plus another on which we got on by mistake and have not yet succeeded in being taken off).

It is not only myself who complained, but I heard from others who were approached at grocery stores and at school and other functions.


Posted by careful what you wish for, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I agree with those who say it's unfortunate to have to resort to a parcel tax to get money to our schools, but that is the only way they will get the funds. If prop 13 were repealed, Sacramento would take all of the additional revenue.


Posted by EcoMama, a resident of Community Center
on May 5, 2010 at 5:01 pm

To the parent who commented that their PTA offered a one-sided message to vote Yes (which, thank goodness, people did): Our school's PTA took a vote (unanimous yes) on whether or not to support Measure A. As elected officials, I believed I represented the parent body, as not a single person had approached me, messaged our Yahoo group, or come to the meeting with any suggestion to vote against it. Don't complain about the PTA when you probably didn't show up and object.

Democracy is run by those who show up.

And Palo Alto showed up for my kids -- for all our kids -- and, for that, I am eternally grateful. I am exceptionally proud to live in a city that values its education so deeply. Thank you to everyone who supported this measure.


Posted by Gunn parent, a resident of Barron Park
on May 5, 2010 at 6:14 pm

As a follow-up to EcoMama, in addition to everything else PTA stands for, PTA is an advocacy organization "To secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children and youth." School funding definitely falls within that umbrella. Not only did every PTA vote to endorse this tax measure, but every PTA president personally endorsed.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on May 5, 2010 at 6:48 pm

As a PTA officer, I'm not thrilled with the PTA's advocacy mission. We can dump the PTA and simply have school-based PTO's, but the dollar savings is small (~$3.50 per member per year) and it takes work to convert. But I do get tired of the PTA politicking on ballot measure.

Every PTA made a donation to the Measure A campaign, btw, about $1,000 per school. These donations were approved by members in the budget, but it seems a shame to take that money to support campaigning instead of school-based activities or supplies.

As for the campaign effort - that was mostly or all volunteers. As Walter said, being complaining about getting contacted is the sign of a well-run campaign.


Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on May 5, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Frustrated may be confused -- the bond measure for capital spending was in 2008; the vote this year was for a parcel tax for current operations -- no bonds are involved.


Posted by not frustrated, just shrugging, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 6, 2010 at 6:50 am

Yes, this is one reason i dumped the PTA. i don't mind the "advocacy' for local funds to schools..ok, i get that..

but unfortunately, they go FAR beyond what is their job, IMO and get into supporting candidates and measures which i completely oppose BECAUSE i want to protect the next generation.

So, i dumped 'em.

I have been in those political meetings and seen what the 'vote" is like. It is not the 'entire' PTA voting. It is maybe 1-2 volunteers who are the reps of the school PTA because they have the time to do so and the desire to be useful, in a roomful of other school reps, taking a very highly pressure-filled non-anonymous vote, so that it takes a LOT of courage to oppose anything that is against the "group think", after being filled with propoganda that is extremely one-sided...which comes from the State PTA which is filled with similar folks, who are similarly short and one sided in their focus.

Not being mathmeticians or economists, these kind folks are herded into their vote and feel great about themselves and their work, not realizing they are being used.

It is NOT a true vote, nor a true representation of 'parents'.

BTW, much along the same lines..no, it isn't clear that 80% of palo altans support more taxes. it is clear that 80% of those who voted in an off-vote election supported more taxes.

very common, esp. with the PTA pushing as it did.

oh well....

it is the system we live in. have fun paying for more raises for PAUSD staff in a recession!




Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 6, 2010 at 9:43 am

Not frustrated -

The PTA board at all the schools is made up of MANY volunteers and anyone is welcome to attend the meetings. (Not sure what you meant there being only 1-2 school volunteers on the PTA) I've been part of various PTA boards for 15 years and I have never felt any "political pressure" to vote any particular way.

It is as true of a vote as it can be and IS representative of the parents - those who care and are willing to participate. PTA general meetings are open to ALL PTA members, not just the Board.

And if you don't like the way things are run, try to change them instead of complaining about it. More volunteers are always welcome.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on May 6, 2010 at 9:59 am

You're both right. My experience is that PTA meetings have very small attendance (barely a quorum) and indeed those that attend are usually the officers and committed volunteers. The meetings are usually rushed and not a great forum for discussion. So I wouldn't call the meetings "representative."

But the meetings are open and advertised. If others wanted to attend and influence, they would be welcome to. I don't think anyone is trying to pull a fast one - there just isn't a lot of parent involvement.

The PTA Council is actually a bigger problem. They tend to drive these campaign activities (as well as some good stuff). The 'overhead" - PTA Council, District, State, National - that's what it would be good to get rid of, in my opinion.


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