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School district unfurls plan for $378M bond

Original post made on Jan 23, 2008

A plan for a $378 million bond measure to improve and expand local schools without additional costs to Palo Alto taxpayers was presented at Tuesday's school board meeting.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 23, 2008, 12:04 PM

Comments (63)

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Posted by not good enough
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jan 23, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Due to past school boards negligence I shall be voting no on this bond. Until the school board addresses the problems it currently has and develops a reasonable guidelines to follow there is no way they should get any more money.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2008 at 2:53 pm

I think there will be many who feel like NGE.

An interesting aside, there were no school bonds during the years 1967 to 1975 which may sound laudable until you realise that during this time the school district raised the money it needed by selling schools. And, we are paying for that now to our cost.


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Posted by Yet another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2008 at 2:57 pm


Very well.

I will vote NO


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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2008 at 3:02 pm


By the way, another reason I'll vote no is that my children have already gone through years of construction on their school campuses. I don't want them to be exposed to more.

Demolition, excavation and construction will likely expose all the kids to high levels of pollutants, toxics, and carcinogenics, as well as noise pollution. I can't believe this has never been discussed in this community. There has to be a negative health impact on our kids from having constant construction projects in schools.


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Posted by Parent - not impressed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2008 at 3:21 pm

I was not impressed with the site by site improvement plans that were presented last year, that are behind this bond. For example, they modify every elementary school incrementally, but they don't maximize the potential for ANY - ie: they don't rebuild state of the art facilities that maximize the use of the real estate anywhere. And last year they had no middle school or high school remodel plans. Do they have any now? What are they? How much more will they be asking for a year from now for the middle school and high school. I don't appreciate being fed just part of the story now to make it sound as palatable as possible

And what does 'up to par' mean (Camille's statement). What is our goal, what are the comparative schools she's referencing? What do they have that we don't? When we're done changing the windows and expanding the MP rooms, will ~any~ of schools be "up to par". How many students are each of our schools intended to hold - how many will be crammed in to each one? (In other words ,what the student population policy for each school?) Will any of our schools be brought up to current environmental standards for example for energy efficiency? What are the operating cost savings per school, per year, in getting that done

I think the district owes the community a comprehensive 20 year plan that includes elementary through high schools, and a disclosure of the total bill up front - even if they don't ask for the entire bond funding right now... (instead of this ongoing game of hide the pickle) Where's the planning?

Baten Caswell - you ran on a platform of improvements in long term strategic planning? Please ask for the comprehensive 10-20 year K-12 plan. They're asking for a 40 year bond - they should be able to come up with a comprehensive plan!

Finally, as long as Townsend is on the board - no go for me. I will vote no to give this board control of anything more than they already have. Unless and until this board shows that Townsend's voting weight on this board is irrelevent.


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Posted by In Denial
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2008 at 3:30 pm

It wasn't that long ago that the Board felt there was no urgency in school growth - hence no need to open another elementary school. Portables would do just fine. Camille, I think, spoke of the problems we'd face in *closing* a school if the population headed back down.

Now she wants to hit the ground running! How soon can we spend the money?

And still no real debate on a new high school - that was another area prior boards seemed to take at their leisure. Now with the Cubberly proposal, the lack of a clear direction regarding a third high school becomes one more x factor.

The lack of critical, forward thinking by our school board is stunning. Plenty of time to discuss minor issues to death but the big picture is forgotten.

This board doesn't know what it wants to do with the money. Get it first and figure out how to spend it seems to be the thinking.

Uggggg.


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Posted by money money money
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 23, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Anyone keeping track of all this:
- School bond: $378m
- Library bond: $45m
- Public Safety bond: $81m
- Storm drain shortfall fee: ???
- ...


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2008 at 4:15 pm

3 x money

Yes, and our city council has just spent $10,000 on a plaque outside City Hall.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 23, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Does anyone know where the 200 additional elementary students are coming from NEXT FALL?


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2008 at 5:49 pm

"still no real debate on a new high school - that was another area prior boards seemed to take at their leisure. Now with the Cubberly proposal, the lack of a clear direction regarding a third high school becomes one more x factor."

There was debate and it was decided that we will not open a third high school. News article Web Link


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Posted by but the survey said...
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 23, 2008 at 6:42 pm

Apparently you all didn't get the memo that the community overwhelmingly supports a bond measure for the district: Web Link

Sheesh.


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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 23, 2008 at 6:47 pm

That's a lot of money to perpetuate government installations that conscript our children and politically indoctrinate them to be dependent to the "public interest". I'll vote against it.


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Posted by But But..
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2008 at 8:16 pm

But the Survey Says...

Take note that the survey was done before the election...


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Posted by Ada
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 23, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Paying $44.50 per $100,000 of property value? So if a median house is $1.5M these days, it translates into $670 (for those of us who bought at market values in recent years). Is it every year?
Clearly - city and state governments can't control their spending. They need to look at cutting costs, not raising taxes.


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Posted by 14k/yr
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 23, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Sorry Ada:

If you bought a house in Palo Alto in recent years you are politically irrelevant.

Most people who have demanding jobs and families cannot afford the time necessary to fully participate in the Palo Alto process.




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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2008 at 11:05 pm

Go ahead, vote against the bond, and watch your property values drop like a stone. Do you think that PAUSD's infrastructure is sufficient? Go ask around.


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Posted by Ada
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 23, 2008 at 11:15 pm

Don't get me wrong. I completely agree that our schools facilities need a major facelift, same for infrastructure. But we need to hold state and city authorities more accountable for their spending. It is much easier to raise taxes than cut costs.


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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2008 at 4:39 am

Take a trip and look at schools in Conneticut, Illinois or just about any other state and you will find beautiful buildings, fully stocked libraries, lovely playing fields and adequate supplies. And, taxes for the most part are less than what we pay. Administration in Palo Alto schools is top heavy, buildings are crumbling and teacher salaries are not on par with the cost of living here. I have lived in 10 other states and observed these very things. It is sad that Palo Alto is considered the "crown jewel" of school districts. The others must be in pitiful shape.


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Posted by April
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2008 at 6:53 am

Each Palo Alto generation is called to invest in infrastructure. Where would our community be without the bond measures passed in previous decades? Where would we be without the philanthropy of Lucie Stern, Elizabeth Gamble, Packards, Hewletts, Arillagas and others? Where would we be without the citizens who stood up to the naysayer and saved the Baylands, Foothills, Winter Lodge, and build bike trails.

This is our time. This is our opportunity to leave a lasting mark. Let's get this done and then get the new Mitchell Park Library and Community Center and Public Safety building built. No matter what these buildings are used for in the future (leased, community centers, etc) our schools and libraries are of lessening use to our community in their present state. AND THE COSTS JUST KEEP GOING UP.

Imagine the difference a new theater will make at Paly and for our community. These measures are a small price to pay to have better windows, security, technology, and structures that work. Folks can be sour grapes about process but this is about investing in our kids and our property values. We are called to do no less, and actually more, for the future of our community. VOTE YES!


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Posted by looking for value
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 24, 2008 at 8:18 am

"Each Palo Alto generation is called to invest in infrastructure. "
"This is our time. This is our opportunity to leave a lasting mark. "
"No matter what these buildings are used for in the future"

I've always wondered at the sort of people who make these types of arguments without anything substantive. Are they really expecting everyone else to just pay $378m without questioning. Here's a bridge I can sell you...


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2008 at 8:52 am

It is one thing to expect residents to pay for a bond, but what about corporate investment. How about some of our very successful PA companies sponsoring improvements to our city. Does anyone ask them?

These companies are based in Palo Alto and they want their employees to live close to where they work. If they help to make the community a more desirable place, then they will be helping their own employees just as much as the community which is a benefit to themselves. If they can keep their key employees happy they are less likely to look further afield for jobs because they will want to stay in Palo Alto.

Instead of naming a new building after someone to honor them, (Iwould give an example but don't want to get on that one here) why don't we sell sponsored naming rights to our schools and public buildings?

If ATT Park and Candlestick can do it, then a precedent is already set.


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Posted by Concerned Voter
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 24, 2008 at 9:18 am

I will be voting NO. Not interested in giving the school more money when they can't seem to do a good job with what they have.


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Posted by Igor
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:23 am

Completely agree with Concerned Voter, why pour more money down the drain? When there is little fiscal responsibility, it becomes a "bottomless barrel". When hard times hit, private businesses slash costs and they do it very effectively. Cities should learn to do the same. It is painful but it works.
I have not seen an analysis yet that would explain why other districts in CA and rest of the country manage to afford better facilties, libraries, schools at much lower costs.


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Posted by Tapped Out
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:38 am

No from me, too. I already pay through the nose in property taxes. I also wouldn't vote for any measure that exempts some people, retirees or not, from paying their fair share.


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Posted by yet another parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2008 at 4:00 pm

RWE,


Please RWE stop the fear-mongering.... What use was the last bond measure if the more than 130 million we spent then was for nothing and our schools are so "decrepit" now after their 12 years of refurbishing.

Please, please.... enough of the dire predictions.

Our house values are not going to fall any time soon because we denying local officials and local contractors another barrel full of pork.


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Posted by Laura
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Oh yes, another bond to pay for.....

Can't you people get a real job?

Wait a minute, I almost forgot you have a real job, stealing my money with the force of government.

I can't wait for Hillary to save me from all these taxes.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 24, 2008 at 5:10 pm

"Seniors" cannot opt out of bonds - but can do so for 'parcel taxes'. Bonds and parcel taxes are two diffenent taxing entities. Bonds are based on t'x' number of dollars per "X" amount of assessed vauation. Usually it has been per $100,000 assessessed valuation. In parcel taxes, every parcel pays the same amount - whether it is a tiny cottage or a big McMansion. or a piece of commercial property.


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Posted by Wynn
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:01 pm

I suggest people wait for the details before making decisions so at least they are informed ones. One example: the bond measure that was proposed during this week's study session is specifically designed so there will be NO increase in taxes - it will simply be a continuation of what people are currently paying, with new bonds being issued as the old bond rolls off. So arguments about tax increases don't hold water.

I certainly understand the degree of skepticism out there, and stated publicly during the fall campaign that I shared it. But this thing isn't even on the ballot yet. Let's wait and learn the facts before reacting in knee-jerk fashion. Our kids and community deserve it.


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Posted by but the survey says...
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 24, 2008 at 10:41 pm

Hey, Wynn, good to see that you're still out there. I wish you were behind the board desk, rather than in front of it -- then people might feel very differently about this issue.

I will probably vote for the bond, but I won't be one of the people manning phone banks and pounding the pavement to drum up support. Been there, done that for Measure A, and the district proceeded to abuse our good faith and trust in ways that have been covered to death on other threads.

Yes, I know, many of the players have changed, but the new ones have failed to understand the need to rebuild community trust before plunging headlong into ventures that will require our support.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 8:35 am

Wynn, sorry that's not exactly how I think its working. The bond materials published by the district say its been designed to keep a consistent 'tax rate' not the same keeping the taxes paid by each parcel flat with what they pay today. In other words, its not set at the fixed amount of $473 per parcel (or whatever it is today). As poster above points out - today's parcel tax is flat on all properties - this proposal is a rate per assessed value. Some people's tax bill will be higher - much higher - than the $473 they pay today. (if its set at $x per 100,000 in value, its mathematically impossible for all homes to be fixed at $473.)

Everyone should go look at the materials and do the math on how much their tax bill will actually increase versus the current $473.

(I'm using $473 off the top of my memory - please correct me on that number, but I think that's a pretty close approximation of today's parcel tax)

Anyone interested can learn alot of the facts by going to the PAUSD website and looking at the meeting minutes from the Jan 22 meeting (not the glossy slide they published - but the actual proposed bond posted in the meeting agenda.)


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 8:44 am

The PAUSD materials say its going to be $60 per $100,000 of assessed value. If your assessed value (not market value, but the value on your tax assessors bill) is $700,000 then the tax bill would be $420 per year.

If your assessed value is $1M, then your tax bill would be $600 per year. If your assess value is $2M, your tax bill would be $1200 per year.




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Posted by Sparky
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 8:49 am

Great - the prop 13 nightmare continues...


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 8:52 am

Wait, I'm not sure. When they make comparisons of the tax rate in this bond to current - are they talking about what we currently pay for the parcel tax bill? So the parcel tax bill (at some point) expires and we institute this bond and they claim we remain flat? Or are they not even including the parcel tax bill here - in other words do we approve this bond and KEEP paying the parcel tax? I'm confused.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:17 am

The material says;
"setting an amount and structure such that it will not increase tax rates that PAUSD residents presently pay for school bonds."

They don't say anything about this being an offset for an expiring special parcel tax assessment. So I guess we pay for the school bonds and we continue to pay the parcel tax assessement until that expires?

Do we currently pay for school bonds? Is that bond (we are currently paying) about to expire or something? Im wondering how do we add more school bonds to an existing amount, and keep the tax rate for school bonds from increasing? Anyone know? It seems confusing.

I'm really trying to figure out if my tax bill will go up, and by how much.


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Posted by Tapped Out
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:39 am

""Seniors" cannot opt out of bonds - but can do so for 'parcel taxes'. Bonds and parcel taxes are two diffenent taxing entities. Bonds are based on t'x' number of dollars per "X" amount of assessed vauation."

Oh. But still No. Having bought in the not-distant past, I'm being asked again to shoulder the burden for others.

(Pegging it to valuation sounds suspiciously like a stealth property tax increase that violates Prop. 13.)


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Posted by pahleeese
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:42 am

Wynn,

"One example: the bond measure that was proposed during this week's study session is specifically designed so there will be NO increase in taxes - it will simply be a continuation of what people are currently paying, with new bonds being issued as the old bond rolls off. So arguments about tax increases don't hold water."

Interesting that a "continuation" of what people are currently paying is not considered an "increase". So, if I ask you to pay me $5.00 a week for 5 weeks and then ask you to extend it for 50 weeks, I'm not asking you for an increase.

Are you really saying that the fact I've now asked you to pay me 10x what we originally agreed on does not constitute an increase. You are simply paying the same and arguments to the contrary do not hold water?


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Posted by looking for facts
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:43 am

my property tax bill says:

Elem or Unif Sch Bonds: .04450 % That's 44.50 per $100,000

There is a separate line that says

814 PAUSD Parcel Tax $493.00

Two different things.

So they are suggesting the school bonds line will remain at .04450%? or go up to .06000%? And would this line item otherwise be expiring and going off our bill? (Because I'm not clear on how they ask for more, and keep the rate flat - are they just extending the time?)

The parcel tax was approved in 2005, for 6 years, and is $493 per parcel. (through 2011).


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Posted by George
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:59 am

> And what does 'up to par' mean (Camille's statement).

It means that Camile Townsend should not have been elected to the School Board. She is simply not capable of doing anything but rubber stamping spending proposals.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2008 at 11:07 am

Palo Alto Mom - there actually was no debate on the third high school issue - and certainly no task force on the third high school issue. In fact we waited for years for the task force to be approved and finally get underway, and Skelly came in and single handedly decided that the research was a wast of time.

Your article says:
"Superintendent Kevin Skelly eliminated a third comprehensive high school from the group's focus"

You'll recall from a previous board meeting that Skelly and Lawrence stood up and said they had decided to redirect the high school task force away from the 3rd high school research, into research of programs at existing schools. They originally claimed the task force claimed they weren't qualified to research 3rd high school - which the task force members later denied.

I still haven't seen any QUALIFIED research on the 3rd high school options.

Excuse me - but why are we being rail roaded like this?

I don't consider Skelly unilatterally calling off research on the 3rd high school options a 'debate'.


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Posted by Wynn
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2008 at 9:26 pm

As stated above, the bond issue and parcel tax are two separate things, so we shouldn't confuse the two.

To me, raising taxes means paying more than I do today. Maybe others have figured out when certain taxes phase in and out and what they are paying today vs. what they will be paying in 2011. I know I sure don't.

As I understand it, the bond offerings will be phased so that, as the previous bond goes away, the new one will kick in. The annual cost to taxpayers will remain the same, but the timeline extended, resulting in approximately $30M per year for capital projects.

My main point is that we should wait to see what is actually on the ballot, see what the analysis is about who will be paying what, then make voting decisions based on the facts, not conjecture. I just think deciding now whether you will vote yes or no is premature, unless you automatically oppose all taxes. In that case, we have nothing to discuss because we fundamentally disagree about the role of government and taxes.

I absolutely agree that the district needs to restore trust with those who have been involved before but felt burned. While I had hoped to do that from the board, I'm looking for other ways to play a role.

Also, having gotten to know Melissa and Barbara during the campaign, I am optimistic they will have a positive influence on their own and in working with Barb and Dana to create a more responsive board of which we can be proud.


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Posted by Sparky
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:30 am

Wynn is a nice guy (after all, from Barron Park!) but let's not kid ourselves. They are going to try hard to raise taxes - both now (for refurb) and later (for new buildings and expanded enrollment).

The problem - and is many towns, not just PA - is that the pols low-ball the estimates and spin the numbers, and sell it to us piecemeal, hoping we'll just forget what they said last time. "This will take care of it" ; "All the urgent problems are fully funded" ; "Our estimates are well researched and very conservative" - but oops, a few years later, back for more.

Any spin/packaging that says "It's really just the same as you pay now!" is just a con, cooked up to "manage" us tax-payers. "These aren't the droids you're looking for" - watch out for the Jedi mind tricks! Maybe someone (not sure who) will step up and tell us the truth. We'll see.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2008 at 10:57 am

Let's just face the fact that the PAUSD will NEVER have enough money. They will always want more. JUST SAY NO!


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Posted by Another Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:07 pm

I would rather PAUSD ask the community for the money they need rather than what they did in the past, namely sell property.

There is a call on the lease of Garland and work will need to be done before it is used as PAUSD again, regardless of whether it is used as elementary or anything else. On top of that, there is the loss of income having no tenants there. That is one expense that is needed.

The JCC are moving out of PAUSD property at Greendell and Cubberly and that will mean loss of income regardless of how PAUSD needs to re-use the sites.

The only reason there was a long period of between bonds is because of all the elementary schools that were closed and sold. Now that decision is being regretted because we need the sites. Too late there, but we don't want some bright spark deciding to sell some more property to raise the money e.g. Cubberly.

The schools need money and if they don't get it from a bond then where will it come from. We are not talking about spanking new facilities, just re-doing what was not done last time.

If we can't get money from centralised government either at the state or national level, then where do all these say no people think that the money will come from?


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Posted by Ain't-Buying-IT
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:29 pm

> The schools need money and if they don't get it from a
> bond then where will it come from. We are not talking
> about spanking new facilities, just re-doing what was
> not done last time.

This bond is for almost $400M (almost a billion with interest .. and this on top of the $400M that is still being paid off). That is a lot of "work that was not done last time". Where are the worksheets that prove your claim?


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Posted by Ain't-Buying-IT
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 12:33 pm

> The only reason there was a long period of between
> bonds is because of all the elementary schools that
> were closed and sold.

This is an interesting point. Where is the money from the sold-off schools? Was it put in a Reserve Fund for future facilities needs? NO! It was ultimately used to pay salaries and benefits via the General Fund. Another example of gross fiscal mismanagement that went on in the 1980s by the PAUSD School Board!

If the funds from the sold off schools had been invested to be used for site improvements in the future, the financial needs of this district would not be as great today as some people claim that they are.


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Posted by Grandma
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Parent, "there were no school bonds during the years 1967 to 1975". There was a bond measure placed on the ballot sometime in the late 1970s, however, it failed.

At that time everyone said: the school district has surplus schools to sell, they should sell the surplus school sites before asking us for a another bond measure, so the bond measure failed. It was the voters of Palo Alto who pushed the School District into a corner and forced them to sell surplus school sites.


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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 26, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Ain't Buying It says: "No it was ultimately used to pay salaries and benefits" The funds generated from selling surplus school sites had to be used for building and maintenance only, that's the law. That money could not be used for operations like salaries and benefits.

Where is it now? It has long since been spent to refurbish the schools in the 1980s and reopen Barron Park, Hoover and Jordan.


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Posted by Another Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 26, 2008 at 8:20 pm

Grandma

That is a great piece of information. Thank you.

Selling school sites was never a good idea. It should not have taken a genius to work out that where there were homes, it would make sense that younger families would come in at sometime in the future.

Even if the sites were to be sold, selling them to something than developers would have made sense. Even then, what were the funds used for. I can't see that many improvements to the school infrastructure could have been made as until the B4E all the schools appeared to be in the same dismal state of repair with the exception of Nixon and Escondido which are connected to Stanford.

This money should have been available for us when we need it. There was no foresight and putting the blame back on the electorate shows their lack of backbone.

Unfortunately, I can see the same scenario about to happen and this time the same mistakes must not be made.


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Posted by Hindsight is 50/50
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 26, 2008 at 10:25 pm

A little perspective - you can call the former school board and voters short-sighted, but this same cycle has played out in towns all over the country as the baby boom and its echoes ripple through town demographics.

My former east coast home, 3000 miles away, had its school population drop by half by the early 80s; schools where shut and some sold off; projections showed they'd "never" be needed (no kidding, really). Twenty years later, neighborhoods had turned over and the school population roared back, and they even had to build a new middle school right next to an existing one, since that's where they had the land, the old site having been sold off.

So maybe it was dumb to sell school land in PA; I don't know, I wasn't here to be a witness. But if so, the same dumb mistake was made over and over by other towns. I'm sure in 25 years, our successors will look at things we are doing today, and shake their heads in disbelief ;-)


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Posted by moving to Palo Alto
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 29, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Dear Residents,

I just visited Gunn HS on a recent relocating trip and was completely stunned by the condition of the school.( Have you visited the school lately? ) You clearly have excellent, committed teachers and intelligent and highly motivated students but you offer them aging, inadequate and outdated facilities. PAUSD has the reputation of being one of the best in the nation. As it is located in one of the most progressive and innovative communities in the country, can someone explain the reasoning behind NOT wanting the schools to provide and reflect this excellence? Many parents have stated that one of the biggest problems they face is convincing the students NOT to persue too many advanced classes and rigorous courses! In most of the country the main problem is student apathy and lack of motivation. Hardly what you seem to be facing in Palo Alto. From what I understand (and from what the housing prices suggest) there are not too many people leaving the area either. I have also been told how the schools are routinely overflowed, with children being placed at whichever school can accomodate them, rather then the one in their own neighborhood. So many communities would give anything to have such bright, committed students. I cannot speak about how the monies and bonds ought to be spent but it is clear that many of the facilities sorely need updating and expanding. Please explain! -- Thnkx from the newbie


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Please explain, The conundrum that faces Palo Alto is one that faces many other school districts, educational institutions (UC), and public/municipal institutions in California.

That conundrum is Prop 13, combined with the fact that referendum-based spending (required spending) is 70% of any one year's available budget.

In other words, most municipalities have their hands tied.

Further, if one looks at ongoing State requirements for revenue, combined with the seeming absolute inability for intra- or inter-regional initiatives to take place, Palo Alto and the rest of the State will be facing these problems for a long time.

One way or another, publicly-generated revenues are going to pay for public infrastructure.

Prop 13 saved a lot of residents from being thrown nout of their homes, but it left the necessary building of infrastruture on the backs of municipalities (and the State).

So (big picture), as America's hegemony begins to suffer, and our regional economy takes a hit, we are going to have to deal with shortages and constraints, like never before in our collective regional history.

Back to PAUSD - you are absolutely right about the condition of our public infrastructure from schools to libraries, etc. etc. ) compared to that of other, seemingly poorer places.

There are no easy answers to any of this, but our leaders do have a responsibility to help the average citizen understand what we're up against, and to find ways to lead and mobilize them, collectively, to a new era of solutions, innovation, and possibility. We can do it!


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Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Speaking of prop 13, i wonder what is the approximate percentage of houses in Palo Alto with assessed property value (for property tax) significantly (like 50%) below market? If only 30 - 40 properties are on the market at any single time, and there are 25,000 households with that low of a churn, what is the percentage of households benefiting greatly from prop 13?


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Posted by can you explain
a resident of another community
on Jan 29, 2008 at 10:00 pm

I understand prop 13 but can someone explain why the high schools in Palo Alto have sub-par facilities (i.e. theatre at Paly, pool at Gunn) compared to other schools in Santa Clara County? Other schools seem to have figured out a way around prop 13.


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Posted by RWE
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2008 at 1:56 am

Where in Santa Clara County are you referring to? Most California municipalities struggle with school infrastructure.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2008 at 7:06 am

At Ralston MIddle school earlier this week some parents were marveling at their brand new (about 4 year old) Gym - beautiful. So we looked at the dedication plaque in the doorway listing about 15 corporate business donors in the North bay area. That's how they do it. (And lo and behold - it didn't say 'anonymous, anonymous, anonymous...)


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Posted by explanation
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2008 at 9:24 am

Dear Moving to Palo Alto:

Because we are funded through a set formula for money every year, dependent on several factors. ( We are a Basic Aid district). We do NOT get more money per new student..in fact, just the opposite. We have chosen to put the money into fewer students per classroom, and higher teacher pay, rather than in facilities or Management staff.

The result of a Basic Aid funding structure is that the more students we get, the more "sharing" of the set resources happens. Because we have such a great school district so far, it also means our housing prices are through the roof (ha-ha..good pun)which brings in more tax money to our schools. But it is a delayed mechanism.

That is one of the many reasons our facilities are worse.


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Posted by explanation
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2008 at 9:24 am

This means that prop 13 hardly affects us, in reality.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 30, 2008 at 10:09 am

Moving to PA

On top of the funding issue, we have inhouse politics to do with choice schools and choice programs. These have caused a divide in our community inasfaras a proposed bond issue to invest some money into the schools infrastructure may not get passed due to this division.

We are a City of reasonably wealthy people, (though of course not all) with some very good businesses finding homes here. For some reason, there is no corporate investment in the infrastructure which could really help our schools.

To top it all, we have Stanford University which should make us strive higher in providing the best for our public education, but unfortunately this also seems to divide and cause problems rather than anything else.

Welcome to the City and you will soon find that we are a group of people who have strong opinions on everything, so hope you are ready.


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Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 30, 2008 at 8:01 pm

I overhead a conversation at PAUSD last summer that the district had to accommodate at very short notice the needs of hospitalized children stationed in Lucile Packard hospital. Some of them were going to stay in the hospital for up to 6 months and there were many of them. So the district had to find teaching stuff to dedicate to these kids. I wonder how this was funded.


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 30, 2008 at 8:03 pm

Los Altos is also a basic aid district, but their school facilities are much much better than PA's


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Posted by Here we go again
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 31, 2008 at 12:00 am

Ada,
The hospital school at Lucille Packard is in the PAUSD school district, as is the Palo Alto Adult School and Preschool Family. They are funded the same way as any of our other schools: property taxes, parcel taxes, state and federal funds and private donations.

Greg,
Los Altos has a parcel tax of almost $600, over $100 more than ours. That could be part of the reason for better facilities.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2008 at 1:04 am

Well, among the biggest benificiaries of Prop. 13 are businesses, so I say we hit 'em up for corporate sponsorships--I mean instead of Hoover, Ohlone and Escondido, we could have H-P, Facebook and Google Elementaries. Or we could cater to billionaires with personal ediface complexes--Ellison Elementary, Jobs Elementary, Brin/Page Middle School.

Hey if what's in a name is several million dollars, I'm willing to forget about Herbert Hoover and swap out old local worthies for the new ones in need of major ego massage.

Stanford does it--and their buildings are in *much* better shape than our schools.






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Posted by Arden Pennell
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jan 31, 2008 at 12:37 pm

Arden Pennell is a registered user.

Hi,

I'd like to learn more about how people feel about the upcoming bond measure, such as the reluctance or distrust some on this thread have described.
I'd also like to hear how folks felt about the last bond measure. Please call me at 650-326-8210 ext. 241 if you'd like to share your thoughts.
Arden


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