Palo Alto school-bond campaign in full swing Palo Alto Issues, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Mar 27, 2008 at 4:33 pm
Long before Palo Alto's school board voted in February to put a $378 million bond measure on the June 3 ballot, a small group of parents was laying groundwork to convince citizens to vote "yes." An even smaller group is pushing for "no."
Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 27, 2008, 2:16 PM
Posted by A Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 5:50 am
Given the appalling way the School District wasted money with the previous bond measure, I have zero confidence that they have any idea how to spend this kind of money prudently. I plan to vote "NO". However with a 55% yes vote to pass, it will probably pass.
Incidentally, the maths doesn't compute when they say they plan to add it on to the previous bond measure and pay it off between the end of Measure B and 2042. They are assuming property values will continue to increase at the same rate as they did during the few years prior to 2006. As we know that may not happen, increases or decreases in property values will fluctuate between now and 2042 even in Palo Alto.
Posted by not voting yes., a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 6:43 am
I will not vote in a new bond this time, because I still don't have trust in this board and this super and won't until the new Strategic Plan is in place and I see what it says, and watch the Board and this Super actually stick to the plan and do goals in the agreed upon order.
I have watched this district careen from one thing to another, reacting to parent group pushes, board member's pet projects,and politically "correct" projects, instead of systematically agreeing on priorities and goals for ALL kids and checking off the list as we plow our way through.
I see signs and have hope that this won't be the case in the future, but who would give a kid a new car who has already wrecked one because he broke the rules without making him earn your trust back first?
Posted by John, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 7:07 am
Between 1996 and 2021 - 25 years, we paid off a $143 bond measure now they say they're going to pay off a $378 bond measure between 2022 - 2042 - 20 years at the same rate. The amount is greater and the number of years is shorter. How do they compute this maths? I suppose they are counting on ever increasing property values, how about a decrease in property values?
They'll have to provide me with a better mathematical formula to convince me that this is not a bait and switch.
Posted by it's prop 13, not pausd!, a resident of Stanford, on Mar 28, 2008 at 9:22 am
okay - I am not an economist or a public policy analyst or politician, but it seems to me that the problem is NOT PAUSD or public schools, in general. It's time to get rid of Prop 13 and come up with something new. I don't propose to know how this can be solved, but it's time to think outside of the box and STOP blaming schools. The article yesterday about Larry Ellison property tax debacle highlights this flawed system. Vote YES, or better yet, let's come up with a new funding plan!
Posted by Bill, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 1:58 pm
I 'might' vote yes IF there is a serious effort to revisit the Tinsley decision - take it to court if necessary. It was passed years ago in a wave of hysterical guilt over so-called segregation, and it was OK'd by a very liberal court that wore its political bent on its black robe sleevee. To be against Tinsley was to be a 'racist' Palo Alto and East Palo Alto are not even in the same county,let alone the same city or school district. Tinsley is being abused by well to do
families who are buying into gated communities in EPA. There reportedly six hundred (600) Tinsley students in Palo Alto Gr. 1-12. That's the equivlent of more than one school.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 2:58 pm
Vote no to send a message? You've got to be kidding me! Our school facilities are more than 50 years old and we haven't passed a school facilities bond in almost 15 years. What's more, enrollment is increasing steadily and most of our existing schools are completely full.
Let me add that while home values decline in surrounding communities and much of the nation, they're holding up just fine in Palo Alto. Why do you think that is? Magic? No, it's because Palo Alto's public schools are among the best in the state (and even the country) and, as a result, every time a house in Palo Alto goes on the market, there is a lot of demand for it from people who want to send their kids to Palo Alto schools. So even if you don't care about providing adequate school facilities for the kids in the community (which I, personally, would hope everyone would care about), any Palo Alto homeowner should be voting yes on the school bond just to protect their personal economic interest.
By the way, the whole Tinsley issue is a red herring. Assuming Bill's figure of 600 kids in total is correct (and I think it is), that means each Palo Alto elementary school gets only four extra kids per grade; each middle school gets only 12 extra kids per grade, and each high school gets only 24 extra kids per grade. That's really a drop in the overall bucket and has nothing to do with the school district's need to invest in its facilities. All the Tinsley kids are bused in from East Palo Alto and are members of minority groups. Our school district can't stop the program, even if it wanted to, because it's a court-ordered program. I suppose the school board could vote to take the case back to court. That would sure be a delightful story -- predominantly white school district goes to court to kick out 600 minority children. It would really bring the community together, wouldn't it?!
Bottom line: any prudent homeowner invests in his or her house over time to maintain its value and ensure it's a nice place in which to live. We need to do the same thing with our public infrastructure and, in particular, the public schools attended by the children of our community.
Posted by Brian, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 3:58 pm
Steve, Thanks for some of the rare words of sanity on this thread. As a parent of a child currently in the Palo Alto school system, it seems pretty obvious that the facilities need to be updated and increased for higher enrollments as Palo Alto adds housing. And personally, I wouldn't mind if we modestly increased the number of kids in the Tinsley program.
Posted by Eric, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 4:04 pm
PA schools could be made much more valuable to homeowners, if they they returned to their neighborhood roots. Tinsley should be challenged in court. The boutique movement, along with Tinsley have diiminished property values, in relative terms.
Vote "no", in order to increase our property values. PAUSD only understands $$, when it comes to the community tax payers. Otherwise, it could care less.
Posted by Retired, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 5:57 pm
Brian is right in saying that Steve has provided some sanity here. All three of my children attended PAUSD schools, received an excellent education and have gone on to good careers due in no small part to the education they received in Palo Alto. I think it's the obligation of everyone in Palo Alto to support strong schools for the kids enrolled now and those to come in the future.
As for the recommendation to "vote no in order to increase our property values", that's like saying "jump in a tub filled with ice to warm up". Why on earth would letting our school buildings become rundown and overcrowded increase property values? In fact, it would do just the opposite. Any responsible citizen in our community would vote in favor of the school bond, which provides funds to maintain and improve school facilities without increasing tax rates.
Posted by Carol, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 6:12 pm
Thanks Steve, Brian, Retired and Sanity Check -- appreciate seeing some rationale thought here!
I do agree with the post that Prop 13 is definitely part of the problem here. But the reality is we're not going to solve the Prop 13 problem any time soon. And until we solve it (if we ever solve it), the only way to provide money for things like school buildings will be these locally approved funding measures.
Posted by Eric, a resident of the Monroe Park neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 6:13 pm
Tinsley has contributed to overcrowding, additional resource requirements (including busing and after-school remedial babysitting). There have been significant discipline issues, usually hidden by PC cover. These are simple facts.
However, Tinsley does not diminish property values to the same extent as the boutiques that have dimnished our neighborhood schools. Property values could easily be 10% higher, if we still had our historical neighborhood schools. "There goes the neighborhood" has a variety of meanings, but bringing the neighbohood schools back would provide a variety of solutions.
Vote "no", and send a message. We could have a much brighter future, with better schools and better property values.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 6:23 pm
Top quality education at a neighborhood school = great idea.
I think that people who move close to a neighborhood elementary school ought to have a reasonable expectation that their children will be able to attend that school! - PAUSD apparently cannot offer that currently, and I think this should be remedied. Also, please do not redraw the borderlines so those of us very close to an elementary school are sent way off in another direction. Boutique elementary programs should be consolidated in a commuter location
Posted by Sanity Check, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 6:32 pm
Folks, our neighborhood schools haven't gone anywhere! Last I checked every child in Palo Alto can attend a neighborhood school. The threat to the abilility of future students to attend their neighborhood schools is not the "boutique" schools (which is a ridiculous name because it implies they are better and/or smaller, when, in fact, they are the same size and quality), but overcrowding caused by increasing enrollment. A key element of the proposed bond measure is building additional classrooms to accommodate the additional kids in their neighborhood schools. And, by the way, if PAUSD abolishes the "boutique" programs (which, by the way, are so popular that they are invariably oversubsribed), all those kids would end up in the neighborhoods schools, creating even more crowding.
Posted by ns, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 7:03 pm
"Last I checked every child in Palo Alto can attend a neighborhood school."
Yes, just not their neighborhood school:
Palo Alto Unified School District generally places students in neighborhood schools closest to their residence based on the pre-assigned District boundary lines. If a neighborhood school is full, the neighborhood school will assign students to nearest school (that has space) within the District. The following year, overflow students may return to their neighborhood school (on a space available basis) or remain in their current school.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 7:28 pm
Escondido used to be a neighbohood school, before it was taken over by the boutique SI invasion. One could argue that it is still a neighborhood school, in that most neighborhood kids can still go there, but it is now a mega-school with SI as first class citizens, and neighborhood kids as second class. Go look at all the portables that were brought in to accomodate the SI invasion.
I agree with the argument that simple neighborhood schools would raise property values. They would also provide better overall education.
Aside from voting "no" on the upcoming bond measure, we can also withdraw from the parcel tax, assuming we have reached the age of 65. I will do both, until we get back to our traditional neighborhood schools. Then I will vote "yes" on bond issues, and rejoin the parcel tax. This is, indeed, a time to shoot one over the bow!
There is no need to whine about Prop. 13, since we have the ability to fix the problem on our own. Neighborhood schools are the answer, not boutique lotteries.
Posted by Sanity Check is Right, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 7:34 pm
The vast, overwhelming majority of students in Palo Alto attend their neighborhood schools. Every year the district struggles mightily to accommodate every child. Only a very few are overflowed. Don't get me wrong: it sucks for any family that IS overflowed and I wish it didn't have to happen at all. But it happens to only a few kids and it only happens at some of the schools.
And if you don't LIKE the overflow, the bond will pay for additional classrooms at many schools. Voting no is only going to potentially make the problem worse.
Posted by terryg, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 7:49 pm
John from College Terrace,
I'm not going to argue with you about the bond. I plan to support it. I will argue with your characterization of Escondido. I have 2 kids there in the traditional program and we don't feel like second class citizens. You sound bitter. I'd say get involved at the school and make it better for all the kids instead of kvetching.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 8:28 pm
What you feel, and what you know are probably two different things. Escondido was, indeed, invaded by SI. SI, previously, was at Fair Meadow, and it got kicked over to Escondido. Fairmeadow hated the program. SI kicked out the regular program kids at Escondido to portables, and it took over the main campus.
Escondido used to be a small neighborhood school. It is now a mega-campus, largely becasue of SI.
I don't need a lecture from you, becasue I know a lot more than you do about the situation.
Voting "no" is a good idea. We may, actually, get back our neighborhood schools. That would be a great thing for PA kids and property owners.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 8:41 pm
In case you haven't noticed, every elementary school in the district has portables. It's not just Escondido! That's a key part of the bond -- build permament classrooms so we don't have to keep sticking kids in portables, whether it's at Escondido or anywhere else.
I mentioned above that the Tinsley issue is a red herring here. Well, so is the issue of the choice programs (referred to above as "boutique" schools). Some people like them, some people don't, but they have nothing to do with the proposed bond. All the kids in those programs are PAUSD students and if you end those programs, you would still have to put them somewhere. Actually, what would happen is they would return to their neighborhood schools, causing major overflow problems, which is exactly what everyone doesn't want.
Bottom line: If you care about eliminating overflows, vote for the bond so the school district can build the additional classrooms needed to accomodate all the kids in the district. Ignore the choice program issue -- it's completely irrelevant to the bond and obviously just used to drum up opposition.
Posted by terryg, a resident of the Evergreen Park neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 8:51 pm
Sorry but I don't need a lecture either. I've been at Escondido for 6 years. I'm perfectly happy with it. Do whatever you want about the bond but work to make whatever situation is bugging you better and stop whining.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 9:23 pm
If every neighborhood school would absorb it own own students, without the boutiques, the overcrowding among schools could be adjusted by relatively minor adjustments in school bounderies. For example, Collge Terrace, Evergreen and Southgate could be assigned to Escondido. That would be a natural neighborhood solution, and it would bring Escondido back into a sane situation. Yes, more classrooms will be necassary, as student populations grow, but there would not be a mega-effect, like at Escondido.
Ohlone and Hoover should be disbanded and reassigned to their neighborhoods. It is ironic that Ohlone, a boutique, will now feel the pressure, from MI, another boutique, that Escondido has felt from the boutique SI. What goes around comes around....
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 9:47 pm
That's fine (though I'm sure the many people who like the various choice programs would disagree with you), but it has nothing to do with the bond measure. As you say yourself, more classrooms will be necessary no matter what. You can shuffle the students around as much as you want -- more choice programs, less choice programs, no choice programs -- but you still have to educate the same number of kids (increasing every year) in the same run down facilities. Whether Johnny goes to Escondido and Susie goes to Barron Park or vice versa doesn't change that. So pass the bond and then, if you wish, take your argument about eliminating the choice programs up with the school board.
Posted by Proud Palo Altan, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 10:05 pm
Folks, can we put a hold on the anger, finger-pointing and plain old irrationality? Our schools are old and cramped and rundown. They need to be fixed. It costs money to fix them. Take a look at the kids standing 6-deep at the handful of computers in the cramped Duveneck library. Look at the portables at Fairmeadow crowding out the playground and isolating the kids. Think about the kids getting driven cross-town because they can't fit in their overcrowded neighborhood school. Don't hold kids hostage to your frustration about MI. And, if you want to be selfish about it, think about how YOUR property values go down if the school quality goes down. You may not like parcel taxes and bonds, but so long as California has a taxation and school funding system that puts our state at the bottom of the school funding heap, we have to get the money from somewhere. After some of you get over your immature satisfaction at sticking your thumb in the eyes of the school board members, what good will the "message" you sent do you? We voted in some great school board members and got a terrific new superintendent. After they stand in the corner as punishment for another few years, will you let them fix the schools? Sheesh...
Posted by Joe, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 10:51 pm
Here, here. And PiE from Downtown North, if there weren't so many bitter and distructive people like John from College Terrace and Eric from Monroe Park, there wouldn't be any need to spend money on a campaign. But because some people have nothing better to do than complain and beat up on our schools (with a stunning disregard for the facts), the volunteers running the bond campaign don't really have an alternative. I'm voting yes on the bond and giving my money to PiE, too.
Posted by it's a scam, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Mar 28, 2008 at 11:16 pm
Some people here mention that PA school buildings are "run down"... Would you then explain to us what the point of the last bond measure was? It was voted about 12 years ago or so (give or take a couple of years) and the work is actually only now wrapping up. We were told that the bond money was going to renovate our schools, bring them up to code, revamp the buildings... How come, then, after spending that money we are still with "run down" schools... And, if it is the case that the money voted and spent last time did not make a difference in the shape of our schools, why would we want to vote for yet more bond money for the schools?
Posted by Brendan, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 12:02 am
Education is very important to me and my family. Unless there's something way out of line, I'll be voting YES.
I just filled out the strategy survey. The super, himself, actually left both my wife and I reminder messages to do so. Even be asked to participate is a first (for me) and, hopefully, a harbinger of good things to come!
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 7:10 am
Its a Scam: even the School District has admitted they could not handle the last bond measure for $143M and wasted a lot of money. They spend hundreds of thousands designing a new Middle School which was never built. Then more hundreds of thousands on buildings where the contractor performed so poorly they were pulled off the job. And, of course, Millions subsequently on lawsuits. How do they plan to improve their performance and handle $378M responsibly?
Posted by Former Resident, a member of the Terman Middle School community, on Mar 29, 2008 at 8:01 am
It's certainly disheartening to see Palo Altans ripping into each other over the issue of upgrading very old, very poor and overcrowded physical plant of the schools.
Almost every day the Orange Country Register reports some town or school district is building a new library, sports facility, community center or improvement to a school. All done without a great deal of rancor.
I just hope the bitterness on display on this site doesn't represent the overall community. If it does, maybe time to sell that house. Those values won't be there forever.
Here's a link describing what our little community has been doing with its time, energy and money. Maybe time for Palo Alto to reassess its community spirit.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 9:26 am
"Vote no and send a message." HUH???
Let's for a moment assume that this measure is defeated. What is the message the School Board is getting and how will it affect their behavior and policy decisions?
What will the school board then have to do in order to address the poor physical condition of the school properties, and the lack of capacity to handle projected enrollments?
Is this school board or any other that would actually get elected in this town decide to throw out some long standing and popular programs and policies to mollify a portion of the electorate who have a bone to pick with this initiave or that program? (e.g. Hoover's structued learning approach, or honoring Tinsley). In order to address a physical plant issue that is coming about due to the age of the buildings in question reaching their useful life?
Picture the scenario: "I, P(AUSD Board Member), am voting to discontinue these policies on the chance that some people who voted against the last bond measure consquently will agree to another one, and I am hopeful that everyone that did vote for the last one will do so again next time, even if I have decided to eliminate some popular programs that they support."
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 9:41 am
Just turn your own logic around. Suppose the measure fails, and the PAUSD Board did go back to neighborhood schools, thus upsetting some of the boutique crowd. Would the boutique folks now refuse to pass the next bond issue? If so (as you suggest they might) would you then be castigating them for exercising their right to express their will through the ballot box?
When PAUSD reversed itself on the MI issue, a number of people, including myself, said that the next bond issues would be in danger. The Board ignored such warnings, and caved to the boutique pressures.
I will vote "no". It will probably pass, anyway, but I will feel I have done the right thing. I want great neighborhood schools, period. I believe my views would be better for Palo Alto, as a whole community.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 10:12 am
If you don't like a policy, elect people to the school board who will will develop a policy that is more in keeping with your point of view.
The point I was making is that there is clear distiction between the condition of the buildings and the policies that affect what go inside them.
If this thing does go down, I suspect the policies will not change unless a significantly different set of people is elected to the board. So we will be saddled with poor, dilapidated buidlings that will continue to go into disrepair, and policies that include some things that people such as yourself don't like. Voter wisdom?
I had an opportunity with my daughter (now a PALY senior) to do the SI thing when it got started, and our family passed on the opportunity because we do value the neighborhood school features in PAUSD. So, I think I get that. There is a great deal more to what "neighborhood school" means than I wish to express on this posting, there are some aspects to how it works now that need improvement.
But I would suggest that to apply what you consider to be your particular unpleasant experience around Escondido as reason to hold the entire school district's old and obsolete infrastructure hostage is flawed thinking. There are other, better, ways for you to deal with policies you don't like that don't compromise the multitude of other things that are important to the fabric of this district, which you, among other people, also highly value, and are at risk without these physical plant improvements.
Posted by vote your conscience, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 10:28 am
Your post is simply full of FUD.
For the bond to fail, 46% of the voters would have to be against it. You are very dismissive in describing 46% as simply "a portion".
MI is supposed to be on a 3-year trial. If the bond fails because of MI then they can rectify the situation and launch another bond in 3 years without removing any existing successful program.
The bond measure will not bring in any immediate additional money but extend the current bond period. Voting 'no' to it now does not preclude the ability to propose another bond before the current one runs out. Here's an idea - ask for the money after the board has shown some backbone and re-gained some trust in the district.
Finally, there is no way that the bond will fail requiring only 55% to pass. When was the last time a school bond failed in Palo Alto? So, you can vote 'yes' or 'no' with impunity to send whatever message you wish. You rarely get this opportunity in any vote.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 10:55 am
So we wait 3 more years and then maybe we go through something like this again? Your S&M to my FUD.
I don't know how old your kids are, but I would love to see them, if they attend PALY and participate in Drama, to have a theater other than the existing Haymarket facility. Nice at one time, around the Nixon administration.
The numerous portables found on all our grounds have enroached in an unhealthy way on our primary school students' playing fields, I am sure you have observed how tightly packed the kids are when they have their outdoor activity.
Why are you suggesting we wait any longer to agree to what needs to be done? Are these things I cite as examples worth putting off fixing until you determine if the school board members have "spine" as you choose to define it around certain policies that do not have universal support, but have been a part of the district for many years (MI is not a new policy, the program is an extension of two existing policies. And I admit, has been a very controversial matter.)
It is fine to offer up legitimate concerns that you have with the school district. I am having some difficulty understanding how some of the concerns expressed in this thread are going to be addressed by witholding funds to perform work on buildings and grounds that are in need of such improvements for the next planning horizon. If you can help me understand the connection, I would welcome your doing so.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 11:22 am
Money talks. If enough people are interested in saving the neighborhood schools, and even reversing the prvious blunders,the Board will 'get the meassage'...IF the bond fails. They will be very reluctant to, for example, move MI, in three years, to a school that would otherwise have become a neighborhood school.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 11:33 am
Voting against this measure will not "save" the neighborhood schools, if one accepts (which I do not) that overall they need to be "saved."
Who is advocating abdication of neighborhood schools? I know of noone who is doing so. What is the biggest problem that affects most people relating to neighborhood schools? It is the lack of sufficient capacity at the school closest to where they live, which has mainly to do with demographic patterns and where people are moving to. This bond measure will be a signficant part of dealing with the trends taking place around demographics.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 12:08 pm
Have you read the capital document of what this measure is intended to fund? What is your opinion of the things that are cited which this measure is intended to provide for?
If you don't think it is better to move sooner rather than later on those things, we have a difference of opinion. If you don't think that those things are needed, I would like to know what you think it takes to keep a district at the highest levels of performance, and what role the phsysical plant plays in achieving this.
You own the FUD, by the way. Not my term, how you choose to characterize my observations.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 12:11 pm
Garland (the current Stratford School) is in play. It is either going to become another boutique (MI), or it is going to revert to a traditional neighborhood school. This could be a gain for the neighborhood schools, which have been long-ignored. This one is square in front of us, not just a theoretical construct.
When the MI/Ohlone implosion occurs, the Board, in its current thinking, will want Garland as a safety valve to absolve itself of its reversal (MI). We need to send the message, loud and clear: NO MORE BOUTIQUES! GIVE US BACK OUR NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS!
Once that task is accomplished, we can then decide if we want to build more buildings. The sky is not falling, Paul. The 'Building for Excellence' bond was passed in the early 90s and it refurbished many building, even though it was inefficient. The portables explosion is largely due to a self-inflicted wound: 20 kids/class. If we go back to 28-30, many of those portables will disappear.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 12:13 pm
I'm voting no for many reasons, but most importantly I feel like the district doesn't know how to carefully spend the money. I teach in a poorer district and my students get a quality education (although we could use more resources, don't get me wrong). So, when I look at Palo Alto, all I see is wasteful spending. The whole B4E was a disaster. I think the district needs to look outside of itself and get practical feedback from surrounding districts (that's what my district does) and guess what? it's free. No expensive consultants, just teachers and administrators, talking to teachers and administrators sharing ideas. I know this is not a perfect solution, but Palo Alto needs to start thinking outside the box. For example, I hit all of the language arts and math standards everyday by using interactive bulletin boards. The cost? nothing ...$0.00. We are in the business of creating a quality education, which requires innovative and creative educators. Many very poor districts have high API scores, because they have to think outside the box and come up with a cost effective solution. Money does not = high scores and a better education.
I don't believe my kids are going to miss out on anything if the bond measure doesn't pass, because the teachers will still be teaching and kids will still sit in desks learning. Class size reduction is nice, but bigger classes are not the end of the world either.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 1:04 pm
The Garland matter most definitely will be an important issue. If Garland is indeed "taken back," and becomes either a neighborhood school or a place for some choice programs that are an important part of elementary education for many Palo Alto families, will engender a great deal of discussion in the coming months.
I am perfectly comfortable having exchanges around how neighborhood schools and choice programs work and interact in the District. There are numerous points of view on this, you and I agree on some aspects of it, disagree on others, all fine by me. I doubt that I persuade people to points of view that I have, but I do learn things from time to time as a result of parcipating on this forum.
Maybe I am confused. Maybe I am thinking about this the wrong way. Help me understand how policy questions, such as Garland, largely under the purview of the people we elect to the school board, come into play when we are voting on whether or not to tax ourselves and spend money to improve an aging physical plant that affects all grades, K-12, all schools, primary, intermediate and secondary? This comes across to me as co-mingling issues, making it difficult to get a clear idea just what is relevant or important to either.
I find it even more confusing if the contention is unless and until certain policies are enacted or changed, we are not going to take responsibility for revitalizing our physical plant. Policies and board members can come and go much more easily than where the teachng and learning take place. Not liking a policy or a board member seems to be a very questionable reason to vote down a capital program.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 1:25 pm
I believe I already answered your question ("money talks"). From my point of view, the Board will continue to ignore the neighborhood schools, and continue to displace them with boutiques, until it understands that enough of us are fed up with it. This means, to put it bluntly, that we will no longer support PAUSD with our money.
Paul, if this was not about money, you would probably not bother to engage me in this 'debate', in a serious way. Since it is about money, you are paying attention. I would hope that the Board is also paying attention. This will be the first time that I have voted against a PAUSD bond measure or parcel tax. I am only one person, and it will probably pass, anyway. However, I feel stongly that boutiques are bad for this district (and for our property values, btw).
If the Board wants to do a preemptive strike, and commit itself to turning Garland into a neighborhood, non-boutique school, I would probably reconsider. Not until then, though.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 1:57 pm
Thank you for clarifying your position. My take on it is that you perceive the nieghborhood school framework at the elementary school level is in jeopardy, to the point where you will vote against a capital expenditure measure to make your point.
My reaction to this, if I understand your position accurately, is that your concerns about the neighborhood schools is out of alignment with the reality of things for most people in Palo Alto, largely due to what you have perceived the SI program at Escondido and previously at Fair Meadow did to those neighborhood schools. I also think that your suggesting that there is a pernicious trend to more "boutique" schools, as you characterize them, and there are more to come is possible conceptually, but highly unlikely beyond what currently is in place.
I do not discount your personal experience, I do think that there are aspects to the neighborhood schools matter that need further review and decisions, but I have to part company with you on the extent of the problem as you see it. It is there, it is thorny, it has affected some families in various ways, but I am not sure the matter as your characterize it is pervasive. Nor does it require opposing a bond measure to make the point, nor is that the most effective way to change neighborhood school policy and practices.
Every vote does count, I don't think this should be viewed as a slam dunk. If it goes down because some people wanted to send a "I'm mad as hell" message, I hope they don't regret the consequences the next day. And I also hope that they direct their anger and desire to see things change to the policy makers, not the taxpayers, where there is some potential to influence neighborhood school policy.
Posted by vote your conscience, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 2:07 pm
Paul, you don't even know which way I'm voting. All I've said is that the vote will pass anyway and people should vote how they feel for once. If you want to send a message, you can. The only reason the posts were addressed to you is your attitude of YOU HAVE TO VOTE YES OR WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! (Well, not in so many words, but you get the gist - you know FUD).
It's like Steve's response to Tinsley - "it's only 24 kids per grade...a drop in the bucket". However it is 600 kids x $10,000 pausd spends per child, that's $6,000,000 a year that Tinsley is costing PAUSD (less whatever PAUSD is given for doing it).
The corresponding arguments from the anti-Tinsley camp are equally absurd: "it is abused by the well to do". Have they not seen/read the interviews with the Tinsley kids? What are they on?
This bond doesn't need a serious YES campaign so PiE from DTN has the best response so far. PiE donated $2.3m last Tuesday, another $100k would definitely be noticed.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 2:10 pm
Paul, thanks very much for your words of wisdom here. You are, of course, correct that voting no on the bond measure in order to express opposition to choice programs makes absolutely no sense. The neighborhood school is just another red herring here. My guess is the vast majority of Palo Alto voters will realize that making sensible investments in our school facilities to improve what we have now and to accomodate increased enrollment makes good sense. So even people who disagree on other issues (such as supporting or opposing choice programs)will come together to support the bond.
Let me correct a couple of errors in what Vote Your Conscience wrote above.
Correction 1: All funds from the 1995 bond have been spent (and have been for some time). As with any construction bond, the money is used for improvements over several years and then paid back over a longer period of time. That's the whole point of a bond.
Correction 2: Funds from the new bond would begin to be used immediately. The school district has said, for example, that work on the new Gunn acquatics center would begin this summer, if the bond is passed. No bond, no acquatics center (and no to many other projects). It's as simple as that.
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 2:14 pm
I think we both understand each other's position. You have been, presumably still are, a supporter of language boutiques. I am not. The Board initially opposed MI boutique, then reversed itself when the heat in the kitchen got too hot to stand up and be counted. I am simply taking my stand, in my own way, and I will be counted, even if not successful. I hope others will join me.
If this bond, by some miracle, is defeated, Paul, we can all go back to the drawing board and develope some truly wonderful neighborhood solutions for our schools. At that point, I think you would see that most future school bond issues are a slam dunk.
Posted by Catherine Crystal Foster, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 2:24 pm
I find it fascinating, and telling, that Paul Losch is one of the only people on this string willing to list his full name and show some courage along with his convictions. If the people lobbing insults and off-the-wall asertions about "getting back neighborhood schools" and race-baiting on Tinsley would actually spend some time looking at our overcrowded and decaying schools, get some facts straight, and think about the greater good of the community and our children, I wonder if they would keep posting all these negative comments under aliases. John, Vote Your Conscience, and the rest of you out there (if, in fact you really are all different people), stand behind what you say and use your full, real names.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 2:46 pm
VYC--I think you distort what I say, which largely has been calling into question why people should vote one way or another on a bond measure based on what they feel about certain policy and legal matters which are not coupled to making physical improvements to school land and structures. I thank Steve for adding a couple substantive points on the nature of bond financing. You are welcome to call it FUD or anything you like, but as I told someone else in a posting on this forum some time ago, please do not put words in my mouth.
John, I am a long standing supporter of foreign language instruction at the elementary level, and I have been an advocate for FLES for a number of years. I helped get SI introduced into PAUSD a dozen or so years ago, and while I was not involved officially in the MI proposal, I supported its introduction.
I think for you to say that I therefore support "language boutiques" (with the implication that I do so at the expense of neighborhood schools) starts drifting into policy wonk territory.
I will say I think one of this district's strengths is its combination of neighborhood schools coupled with choice programs for some of those who prefer that model. Achieving a healthy balance around such a complex model is a daunting challenge for those who run this district.
You appear to prefer a model that strictly ahderes to the nieghborhood school concept exclusively, which is far simpler conceptually, but also poses problems for certain people, including kids who have special needs, people who live in a part of town that has more kids than the school can accomodate, and people who value public education, and prefer a learning environment different from the common approach found in most of our elementary classrooms.
That's fine, and has nothing to do with buildings.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm
You're right -- the current bond won't cover all the identified needs of the district. It will cover about half of them. Of course, if the bond doesn't pass, then none of the needs will be addressed. The only source of funding for the Gunn acquatics center is the bond. So say what you like, but no bond means no acquatics center and that's all there is to it.
Are you suggesting you would only support the bond if it was for the full $772M of identified needs? I don't think so. So this is one more red herring argument.
Posted by Sanity Check, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 3:04 pm
Steve is right -- the funds from the 1995 bond have been fully used. So the situation is very simple. If the proposed bond passes, work begins on the identified school facility needs. If the bond fails, then that work doesn't begin.
People should vote for or against the bond based on whether they think it is a wise decision to invest in our school district's infrastructure. There is no other source of funding for that infrastructure, so it's this or nothing. Voting one way or the other on the bond because one does or does not like neighborhood schools, choice programs, the Tinsley program, or any other program makes no sense at all.
Posted by another view, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 3:36 pm
The people who do not fear saying their name are in the "politically correct" crowd which does not fear name calling etc.
That is why they give their full name. Those of us who used to give our name were raked over coals and mischaracterized, and so we have stopped.
This is not a tolerant community when it comes to having diversity of thought from "feel good" solution, versus the solution that would really work...one great example is stopping Tinsley, which is a racist policy ( if you are white and live in EPA, you are not eligible, for example)..but if you say this, you are a "heartless racist who doesn't care for the poor"..another is wanting to focus energies on foreign language for all, not on boutique programs for a few..but if you say this then you are a "flat earther monolingual American who can't see the future" ..oh yes, and a racist, since that is always an easy name to call. Or, in this case, if you are against voting in the bond THIS YEAR until you know which way this District is going to go, then obviously you are against quality buildings and education.
This kind of short-sighted mischaracterization has led to people no longer using their names. This town is not safe for those of us who don't "go along with the crowd". Too bad, for such a liberal town, to have squashed the ability to own the free expression of ideas by signing your own name.
But, I am thankful to the Palo Alto Online for allowing this forum to exist. At least there is ONE way to get "unsafe" ideas out into the world, and still be safe.
So, to those who wonder why only the pro-Bond folks will say their name, it is because it takes little courage to do so.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 29, 2008 at 6:34 pm
VYC writes that I have not "responded to how this bond will fill the $772m hole that actually exists." Well, let's see. The proposed bond is for $378M. If the voters approve the bond, about half the hole will be filled. If the voters don't approve the bond, then none of the whole will be filled. Is there something unclear about that?!
Paul, Catherine, Joe, Sanity Check, terryg, and the other folks who have all posted logical messages, thanks for weighing in. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 1:02 am
I am happy to vote against the bond. The sky will not fall, property values won't fall, and kids will continue to be educated. Other districts have facilities older than ours and do just fine (take a swing back east some time if you want to see some old school buildings). And if portables are so bad, we're already in a world of hurt.
BTW - Aquatics center? You're kidding right? If that's what the money is going for, and people are crying distress, then our sense of entitlement is truly gone too far. My high school did not have an "aquatics center" (or a pool of any kind); we did fine.
Let's keep PAUSD (and its historically weak board and management) on tight rations. If they show they are doing a better job managing (as Skelly may be doing), they can come back again.
Posted by two can play, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 7:02 am
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The reality is that, though I have great hope in this new Board and Super, I don't know them well enough yet to trust them with the first 1/2 of over $700,000,000. It can wait one year, to give them time to put forth the new Strategic Plan ( we are going to vote in more money without even a Strategic Plan in place that we have all read??).
I would rather vote in double this money next year with a good plan in place and a proven Board and Super than vote in anything this year.
Posted by Decision-making by gossip, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 7:43 am
I think more helpful than people identifying themselves by name would be them tagging themselves by self-interest:
- do you own a home or rent?
- do you have kids in Palo Alto schools now or not?
- do you donate to/volunteer at the schools?
- do you generally support/vote down tax measures?
People on both sides can always find reasons to support their bias. Only a few have enough information to form truly informed opinions, even here in Palo Alto I'm afraid.
So I read the online forum mostly for entertainment value, but don't for a second think that anything that is posted, save something that cites authority/gives a link, is fact-based. Our community would be best served by doing the same.
So what are we to do? As one poster above suggested, vote in people who speak for you and trust democracy. It isn't perfect, but it is far closer to it than posters on forums who try to influence others' decisions by gossip.
Posted by What's-The-Problem-Here?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 9:42 am
> Quite a few people in Palo Alto are against this new bond measure.
> It seems that we are milking cows for the school district and the
> contractors involved...
The school district has not made a case for many of these projects--like a big new swimming pool for Gunn High School. Because Paly got one for free--the PAUSD now says the taxpayers have to pony up 12-16M for a similar pool for Gunn. (Sadly, both of the pools at the high schools and middle schools sit idle most of the time.)
This is all about wealth-redistribution, and conspicuous spending to make parents more interested in their careers than their kids feel good!
Posted by Pretty Underwhelming, a resident of the Charleston Gardens neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 12:45 pm
Reading the PAUSD bond "pitch" from their web site (link above) is pretty underwhelming. Quoting:
"New proposed facilities include a new pool and gym at Gunn High School, a new theater at Palo Alto High School, as well as new classrooms at all levels. It would bring significant upgrades to our existing facilities and more permanent structures rather than portables."
So almost $400 million for gym and theater, plus not adding space but merely "upgrading" to permanent structures? So how is educational mission furthered by this vast expenditure? Nothing about falling down buildings or adding capacity to support growing enrollment - just discretionary, "nice to have" items.
Presumably there is another very large bond coming for 13th elementary school and possible new high school or high school expansion. It seems like we are being "sold" to do the "optionals" now, so they can then slam us with the "essentials" in a year or two.
I am hard pressed to vote yes for this - especially with the hyperbole by the supporters about how critical this is, not backed up by the facts of what will actually be done. Let's get all the facts/dollars on the table and then decide what to fund.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 1:09 pm
Have you been in the Haymarket Theater? It is a joke. The drama program at PALY will benefit tremendously from a new auditorium that has black box, proscenium and other spaces, a place to store props and equipment and which is better designed for the audience to enjoy. The music department also will be able to use it for programs that it now does at other venues, and things like student assemblies, lectures, inter alia are a possibility again.
My youngest graduates this June, so I support this because I know what she experienced as an active part of the performing arts at PALY, and limitations were to her time there which is commonly found in drama departments that are serious about that part of kids education. Our for the kids who are coming along in the next several years and beyond.
Posted by Take a Fresh Look, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 3:27 pm
Where is the money for this $378M (double when interest is added) coming from? It is taking 25 years to pay off the $147M bond of 1996 at a rate of $44.50/$100,000 of assessed valuation for each property. It is proposed to take 20 years (4/5 as long) to pay off more than double the first bond measure.
To get enough money do make this payout, either the tax rate must be raised (it won't be according to the proponents), or property values must rise. By the time the bond measure is paid off in 2042, the average home must be valued up to $10M to get the money to pay off the bond.
Today a home assessed at $600,000 pays $267 per year for school bonds. Assess a home at $6,000,000 and the rate goes to $2,670 per year.
Posted by k, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 4:10 pm
I strongly agree with Mr. Losch - Haymarket at Paly is outmoded, undersized, and appalling. This is one project crying out for a major remedy. I am happy to put money in this even though our family will be gone from the school - it will benefit the school and the district immensely. We are way overdue for a new theatre. Paly needs a decent space of a decent size for a suburban high school with modern features consistent with 2008 standards and modern utilities, safety etc for our multiple music performances, theatre, even for the administration when parent meetings are held for each grade level, etc. A new theatre would be utilized constantly, we need to get up to par with local high schools that have modern funcational theatres like Los Altos, Mountain View, Saratoga; and M-A (lovely theatre under construction soon)Spangenberg has certainly been constantly used over its lifetime; it is showing its age but nothing like Haymarket!
Posted by peer review, a resident of the Old Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 9:10 pm
We've waited 10 years for Peers Park to be fixed. The problems were identified back in 1998. For 8 of these years we have been living with children's play equipment taped off. Older children ignored the tape after the first 6 months.
The Palo Alto parks/recreation division is a joke. Don't let the same thing happen to PA schools, vote yes on this measure.
Posted by What's the cause, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 10:03 pm
The reason classrooms and schools are overcrowded and becoming more so, is that the city has been approving more and more new housing developments for years. They just approved another one last week.
The additional millions of dollars for bigger and more schools, and bigger libraries for children, are in effect a subsidy to the developers who don't have to pay for the infrastructure problems created by bringing in thousands of new people.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2008 at 11:10 pm
What's the cause, Infrastructure decay has nothing to do with increase of student population. btw, we should be considering be reconsidering developer impact fees in light of the fact that new residents do impose infrastructure needs. We can have our cake, and eat it too.
Posted by What's the cause, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Mar 31, 2008 at 11:01 am
Infrastructure decay is often a result of neglected maintenance. Our city seems to specialize in low maintenance. I do not agree that the Mitchell Park library is in bad shape. The real push is for more space for the increased number of children.
Maintenance like improved lighting and air conditioning would go a long way to making the place more attractive. Maybe some new furniture. The building itself is nice, in my opinion.
Posted by Pretty Underwhelming, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Mar 31, 2008 at 2:59 pm
Thank you VYC. Between those 2 docs, there is a list of items (bond proposal) and one slide (I am not kidding) in a 54 page Master Facilities Plan presentation (I hope this is the actual "plan") that is whimsically entitled "Ok, How Much?" The only other page with any numbers on it is the one on what % vote is needed to fund the plan.
Am I alone in thinking that our money may not be being spent as carefully as it can and should be? Some fiscal honesty and transparency would be welcome.
Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Mar 31, 2008 at 4:34 pm
There are a number of reasons to support this bond (Measure A):
Renewing our investment
We've gotten a great return on the funding we put into our schools, especially when you compare our spending to what our benchmark schools across the country are spending per-student. It is time to renew that investment. The last bond did not cover everything that needed to be done then, and more needs have arisen since. Delayed maintenance and replacement only means greater expense down the line.
Addressing the present and the future
We need to deal with enrollment growth today while preparing for the learning needs of tomorrow. Some of our facilities are deteriorating and need to be replaced with new learning environments. We also need to accommodate advances in technology and sustainability.
Accountability and Flexibility
There is a planning period built into the process that will be used to determine the most cost effective ways of sequencing projects and will provide opportunities for input by the public and the board. So things are not planned out to the nth degree because bond funds are required to hire architects and others who can help the district plan efficiently. But Measure A gives enough specifics to address current problems while providing the flexibility to respond to emerging priorities.
Benefiting our children and the community
The bond campaignís tag line Strong Schools for a Strong Community addresses this point directly. We all benefit from the high property values, generation of knowledge and new generation of community leaders our schools provide. Letting our schools facilities deteriorate means that the community as a whole suffers.
For more information about the bond see www.strongpausd.org. The site will be updated to respond to questions and concerns that arise, and campaign volunteers will try to address them in this space as well. You can also view the board meetings online, including those that have already discussed the bond, which should answer some of the questions raised here.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 31, 2008 at 4:51 pm
I think the links are provided by others, and you also can look on the PAUSD web site.
What we want and what we are willing to pay for are valid questions to be asking. What we need in some cases also should be added, as I believe some of the expenditures are to meet code requirements, not really a want or something that is discretionary spending.
I took issue with your assertions around the theater at PALY as a basis for generalizing about this matter. There is a clear need and want there, as any person who has spent time on the campus will attest. I actually am surprised there has not been more of a groundswell of concern about the lack of a bona fide theater/auditorium in the community up until now. The building is in deplorable condition, has an awful layout, and does not serve the purposes a high school auditorium is expected to. It is quaint, has roots to the original construction of the school. (Remember the Alamo.)
There is a challenge for those of us who vote and pay for these things around how much we rely on our own instincts and perceptions and to what extent people who are paid to think about these things (our educators and administration) and work in these environments should be relied upon to provide the leadership of what is needed, what is wanted, and what is affordable. I am afraid everyone comes to a different point on that, with neither blind faith nor knee jerk rejection of what is proposed being particularly helpful.
There are plenty of capital expenditure albatrosses hovering around Palo Alto these days. I have expressed misgivings around high speed rail between LA and the Bay Area, Fiber to the Home, our taking over the PA airport, how we are dealing with the sky high increase in costs for the storm drain upgrades, among others. So I don't think I can be portrayed as a cheerleader for any capital program that comes over the transom.
I also will allow that there likely are things in this one that would not pass muster with me, and some that I would like to be included (e.g. double the gym sizes at Jordan and JLS--not included, despreately needed in community, if not the school).
I believe that the physical plants in the Palo Alto schools still require much more work than the last bond measure was able to accomplish, and I start with that bias. I believe that the learning experience for the children will be improved, and this district's ability to provide the type of education, in all its various aspects, and that helps it have a national reputation, will be compromised without bringing buildings with 35 to 75 years of age up to more current standards.
I must admit that I get puzzled by voices in the community that "demand" excellence on various measures, but on the other hand seem willing to do with obsolete and worn out buildings. Are willing to pay for many things in town, like $4.00/gallon gas, but are not prepared to spend $1.50/day to assure the excellence that is demanded on other measures.
I am off to Peet's to get a latte. I use my own cup, so I save a dime.
Posted by jury's out, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Mar 31, 2008 at 4:51 pm
Thank you, VYC. These plans are an improvement over what we were handed with that last B4E fiasco. At least there's a specific proposal for each site ahead of time. A few finer points from page 13: 1. Greendell is listed as having a new MP room; don't see it on the architectural plan. 2. District Office & Corporate Yard are listed as getting renovation or replacement of building and grounds; don't see those architectural plans.
This is a step in the right direction, but I still need further convincing that this won't be a repeat of that last fiscal waste of a bond.
Posted by Pretty Underwhelming, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 12:04 am
Here's a link to the "Draft Project List for a Facilities Bond" from Oct 23, 2007 - a few months ago. This was presented at the Board meeting - the memo starts on page 33 Web Link
A few highlights:
- Gunn "acquatics center" = $4.8M
- Paly theater = $5.4M
- All HS athletic & theater (including above) = $42M
- Pool, gym, fields, hardscape at middle schools = $26M (!?)
- ALL gyms & theater & outside = $70M
- Paly Admin building renovation = $13M
- "Thermal Comfort Upgrades" (no kidding) = $17M
- New windows (middle & elem) = $18M
- Convert portables to permanent = $62M
- ALL upgrading, etc. = $110M
- NEW classrooms (true capacity expansion) = $25M
- Gunn RC conversion (might be add'l classroms) = $15M
- New modulars at elementary = $9M
- New Flex rooms = $8M
- All technology (combined, all schools plus Central Office) = $14M
- ALL New + IT = $71
- Total of above $250
- Other stuff (moved into the bond at some point) = $90
- Growth since October = $30-40M
So if you have been hearing that we need this bond for capacity expansion and IT, that's not right. That would be about a $100M bond. This is about improving gym & theater space ($70M+) and windows/ac and conversion of portables ($110M+).
So does the "gym, theater and window" bond keep Palo Alto schools strong? Is this really what we need to maintain educational excellence? Will there be need for additional expansion (a 3rd high school) in the next few years? What will THAT cost?
Personally, I do not feel like this facilities wish list is essential to what we want to accomplish. Maybe half would be ok. Let's focus on outcomes and teachers, not new windows and gyms.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 6:48 am
Underwhelming is helpful in posting the items mentioned, and people need to make their own judgments about them.
I would like to point out that on the City of Palo Alto side of things, we have some infrastructure challenges of the same or greater magnitude. One line of argument is that we have over the years spent too much time on "services" that should have gone into maintaining our streets and city buildings. The argument goes on to suggest that the services portion of the City budget be significantly restructured in order to fund the infrastructure back log.
Posted by Disappointed Grandma, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 8:08 am
That wish list is terrible. I had hoped to read that they will be completely demolishing many of the old 1950s classrooms and replacing them with modern (well insulated) two story classrooms. Instead, they are wasting more money on attempting to refurbish what is already there. What a waste of money!!!
What is the point of new windows (I presume double glazed) if the walls and ceilings are not insulated and leak heat like a sieve. Some window manufacturer obviously got to them.
Also, Admin Offices before classrooms - that's not what I'd hoped to vote for. Wow, I'm really going to have to rethink my vote now I've read their list of wrongly prioritized projects.
Posted by Pretty Underwhelming, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 9:25 am
Paul makes a fair point - maintenance isn't free. But it is not clear that the balance has been well struck and we don't have the whole picture.
And, as Grandma points out, this is not AT ALL what people think they are getting for $400M. My dear friend, a PIE board member, told me confidently that the bond was for "adding classrooms and IT" - she was as shocked as Grandma at the real list.
This isn't about platitudes and "keeping our schools strong" - it's about construction projects and priorities. I think Wynn and other "boosters" (Paul, not you in my opinion) do themselves and us a disservice by serving up pablum when this is really about specific projects and priorities.
I am most concerned that this is just the beginning, not the end. We are a growing enrollment district - 13th elementary and 3rd high school are in the wings. Is that all on top of this? I believe it is - if so, we should all know how much THAT will cost BEFORE deciding whether to vote on "athletics, theaters, and windows." When they come to us for new school financing, we'll be told we have no choice. On these items, we largely do. In addition, there are the 2 major city bond/COPS proposals, and more to come. It is perhaps savvy for Skelly and the board to get the "optional" budget up front, before all the others hit - but it is definitely NOT the way we as taxpayers should approach it.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:02 am
The list posted by Pretty Underwhelming is actually overwhelming Ė LOTS of money on nonessentials. This is the kind of detailed information we need to decide how to vote.
Sure, itís nice for our kids to have outstanding facilities, but how much can we afford? Letís be reasonable about what kids really NEED to get a good education. And lets first put our money into facilities and services that benefit ALL the kids. How many actually use a theater or aquatics center?
Has anyone taken a look at the economy? The downturn affects everyone, even well-off communities. Do we really think our home values are going to keep rising as they have in the past?
I also wonder how will PAUSD pay off a $378M bond in only 20 years? Someone has previously posted that this is a shorter payoff time for a bond thatís about 2.5 times bigger than the last one.
Thereís no doubt that our city needs lots of work, but can we afford to do it all? And is all of it absolutely necessary? Maybe weíre going to have to give up some nonessentials to live within our means.
Posted by vote your conscience, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:07 am
Wynn, you say "But Measure A gives enough specifics to address current problems while providing the flexibility to respond to emerging priorities."
The whole point of prop 39 bonds is that the list produced as part of the bond proposal is 'locked in'. ie: You can't use this bond money for anything not on this list. What do you mean by "flexibility to respond to emerging priorities"?
Posted by more details, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:17 am
Grandma, my read on the architecture plans Web Link is that the new admin offices are a result of building larger multipurpose rooms. Ideally, admin and MP rooms are placed in a central location near the school entrance, so they're competing with each other for the same space. All 13 elementary schools will get a significantly larger MP Room. The grounds layouts at El Carmelo and Briones pose a greater challenge, so those two schools will get completely new admin buildings. The current ones will be displaced by the new MP rooms. From that above Facility Master Plan document, it's not clear why the admin building at Briones is not in the footprint as the existing MP Room. (Pages 18-19).
New classrooms: Paly, Gunn, JLS, Jordan, Terman (2), Hays (1).
Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 5:20 pm
VYC - The list you reference is not prioritized. As I understand it, you can't use bond money for things not on the list, but that doesn't mean that everything on the list will be done or sequenced in a particular order. The actual projects will be undertaken based on an analysis of the efficiency of projects proceeding in a certain order, and the priority the board places on certain projects.
PU - Certainly this is about specific projects and priorities but it is also about vision. I am as concerned as you are about the details, but as people nit-pick they seem to lose sight of the big picture, so that's what I was trying to provide. I think Paul and others make many excellent detailed points.
I hope you and others keep in mind that our schools are workplaces as well as classrooms. Attracting and retaining the highest quality teachers and administrators depends at least in part on the quality of facilities. Also, the educational experience is not limited to what happens in the classroom.
The district could have gone out for less but they also could have gone out for more. Those who heard me speak over the course of the fall school board campaign know that I was initially skeptical about the bond, not pollyannish. As a converted skeptic, I think this bond is a very good faith effort to provide the district what it needs without looking for a gold-plated solutions.
Finally, a vote for the bond is not carte blanche for the district to do whatever it wants but the beginning of a process that will lead to more detailed discussion about needs and priorities and how to get the most bang for the buck, which is one reason I'm supporting it.
Posted by Pretty Underwhelming, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 9:41 pm
First, I'm not sure why you think "the vote for the bond is ... the beginning of a process that will lead to a more detailed discussion." My understanding is that in we approve, PAUSD will, without fail, issue the bond and we will pay for it. And that, as a Prop 39 bond, the list is locked in (here the link to details on 2000's Prop 39 - Web Link). So I'm not sure how the "discussion" part works - we, as taxpayers, have no leverage to withholds funds and the money will be spent on the named projects. Do you have a different understanding?
Second, the "this is a workplace too" line, which I have also heard from Skelly, does not ring true with me. Can you (or PAUSD) tell us about strong teachers we have lost due to working conditions? Will we be able to negotiate lower pay raises because of new windows and "thermal comfort upgrades?" Sure, if we have really terrible facilities (and there may be some) then we should address. But the idea that, across all our schools, that our facilities aren't good enough for our teachers - I just don't get that at all.
Let's stop the "keep us strong" rhetoric and focus on whether we need what is being proposed. Our ONLY options, at this point, is to vote YES or NO. If we think we need a better proposal, either less money or focus on more important projects - OR if we need more info about future needs and costs (like 3rd HS and 13th elementary) then our ONLY option is to vote NO, and send them back to the drawing board.
Posted by Pretty Underwhelming, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:12 pm
Pat - Hmm, interesting! I have a hard copy of the memo and project list. But on the PAUSD web site, while the memo is there in the Board packet, THERE IS NO COPY OF THE PROJECT LIST (in the Board packet or anywhere else I can find). Ditto for the "Strong Schools" site - no details.
I've put a call in to PAUSD requesting the latest project list. While I don't think it is a secret (there were site hearings on it I believe), it is not being publicized to anything like the extent it should be. Perhaps because they would rather spin than tell the details.
If I get (or they tell me where it is), I will post a link.
Posted by vote your conscience, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:29 pm
"As I understand it, you can't use bond money for things not on the list, but that doesn't mean that everything on the list will be done or sequenced in a particular order."
Oh, I love this! I never thought you'd be able to manipulate prop 39 in this manner. You just put everything on the list and decide afterwards what you want to spend the money on. The oversight committee can't even object. Brilliant!
Posted by Pretty Underwhelming, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:36 pm
VYC - though the problem of course is who decides. If approved, PAUSD can draw down the whole $400M and spend on the projects; taxpayers get no say. I'm not sure I trust them enough to let them hold my money that way.
Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 12:18 am
Pretty Underwhelming - I will double check, but my understanding is that the requirement is that the funds must be spent on the activities listed in the bond measure. The specific projects list is not actually a part of the measure, which means the district has some flexibility. You are right that once the measure passes, the bonds will be issued and the funding spent, but the individual projects will be brought to the board for approval. This was discussed in detail at the board meetings I attended.
Regarding the working conditions, they are uneven across the district. The issue is not so much whether we have lost teachers but whether we will be able to attract the best ones in the future. Palo Alto no longer pays at the top of the scale for teachers and given the cost of living here we want to be attractive as possible. And frankly, our facilities pale in comparison to most of the comparable districts in this area, let alone the rest of the country. This is not the only reason to upgrade facilities, just one of them.
I don't think "keep us strong" is just rhetoric. I believe that Palo Altans spend too much time patting themselves on the back for how wonderful we are while the city's infrastructure crumbles around us. Many of our public facilities are an embarrassment, to say nothing of our streets and sidewalks. I don't want that to happen to our schools as well.
VYC - at least I'm willing to say who I am and work hard to stay civil in these discussions.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 5:54 am
I have said it before and I will say it again. If your home had drafty, out dated windows, leaking roofs, bathrooms that were germ ridden and unpleasant to use, etc. etc., you would take out a loan or do what you could to get the money to replace them with the idea that your family deserved, not necessarily top of the line facilities, but at least modern up to date, pleasant amenities to use every day. So, I ask you, do our kids deserve better than they presently have when they go to school. They have to live a large part of their lives in these schools and why should they hate being cold, using the bathrooms or getting their stuff wet from puddles inside the school on wet days? It says something when the best classrooms at the elementary schools are the portables because these are the ones with the best facilities!!
Posted by Pretty Underwhelming, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 7:12 am
Well Parent, maybe times change but up till now these changes have not been considered worth the investment. Maybe not as dire as you make it sound.
In addition, to use your homeowner analogy, if you knew your family might be expanding and soon (say relatives coming to live with you) and you might need a big addition, wouldn't you budget that first before the extensive window, bathroom and landscaping renovations? Because if they come, you know for sure you need to add the space, but if you've spent your money on replacement windows and landscaping, there's no money for it. Oh, and would the fact that the economy is going down and you might lose your job (or at least no bonus) figure into the timing of your decision?
The timing of the bond, and the likelihood and size of future requests, is critical.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 7:32 am
Unfortunately, I do not agree with your homework analogy of my priorities.
If I was expecting an addition to my family, say on the birth of a baby, I would wonder if my home was big enough before considering whether to expand my family. Window and bathroom replacements may actually be more crucial in a bigger family as I know they would be in more use. I am not sure about landscaping as that is something I have not mentioned as being crucial. If the expansion of my family was due to anything other than a new baby, by as you suggest relatives coming to live with me, I would expect them to be able to pay for any work that needed to be done to my home in order to accommodate them. In other words, my parents coming may mean that they should pay for the inlaw quarters or granny flat that I may consider adding to my home.
This means that all those new developments being built in Palo Alto should be paying more than presently in the school impact fees that they pay. In other words, if a development is being built in say the Palo Verde neighborhood, the school impact fees should cover the cost of new classrooms, more teachers and if there is no room at the school, then they should be made to provide land to build a new school. Now I know that these two things are not feasible in Palo Alto, but it would make sense that the cost of increasing the school size should be up to the developers rather than the school district. But, the principle still exists. More new housing should not be built unless there is plenty of room to school the children living in this new development.
Therefore, this bond should pay for the upgrade and upkeep of existing facilities to the standards decreed as adequate by the neighborhood and any money needed for increased enrollment should come from the new housing developments.
I have no idea if bookkeeping of the school impact fees is put into a pot to provide new classrooms, but if it is just going into the general fund, then this is indeed a big problem and one that should be stopped.
Posted by Pretty Underwhelming, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 8:04 am
Well, Parent, unfortunately how things "should be" is not how they are. So you can try to change development fees, which may be a good idea.
But until that happens, it sounds like our bank account is what it is, and we should budget our own money for needed expansion. Which probably means saying NO to an upgrade bond until we know what expansion money will be needed.
From the language found in the bond measure that was adopted by the board:
BOND PROJECT LIST
The Bond Project List attached to this resolution as Exhibit A describes the specific projects the Palo Alto Unified School District proposes to finance with proceeds of the bonds. Listed projects will be completed as needed at a particular school site according to Board-established priorities. The final cost of each project will be determined as plans are finalized, construction bids are awarded, and projects are completed. Certain construction funds expected from non-bond sources, including State grant funds for eligible projects, have not yet been secured. Until all project costs and funding sources are known, the Board of Education cannot determine the amount of bond proceeds available to be spent on each project, nor guarantee that the bonds will provide sufficient funds to allow completion of all listed projects. Completion of some projects may be subject to further government approvals by State officials and boards, to local environmental review and to input from the public. For these reasons, inclusion of a project on the Bond Project List is not a guarantee that the project will be funded or completed. The Board of Education may make changes to the Bond Project List in the future consistent with the projects specified in the proposition.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 11:35 am
I usually vote yes on all school bonds, but after reading this blog and doing some homework, hereís why Iíll vote NO on this one:
- The economy is in a bad state and projected to remain so for the next couple of years. This is a time to tighten our belts.
- We need to focus on the essentials, not theaters and swimming pools, which serve only a fraction of the student body.
- I donít see how PAUSD can possibly pay off this bond in 20 years. Itís 2.5 times the amount of the last school bond, which was projected to be paid off in 25 years. Home values cannot possibly keep rising at a 15% annual increase.
- Just being a "senior" will not be a basis for an exemption from this tax. Seniors cannot just opt out, but would have to apply to the county assessorís office to see if they qualify for an exemption. Thereís no guarantee that they would get it.
- ďThe specific projects list is not actually a part of the measure, which means the district has some flexibility. You are right that once the measure passes, the bonds will be issued and the funding spent, but the individual projects will be brought to the board for approval.Ē
Thereís just too much iffiness in the list of projects. A bond should not be ďthe beginning of a process that will lead to more detailed discussion about needs and priorities and how to get the most bang for the buck.Ē I want to vote for (or against) something that has already been worked out in detail, so I know what Iím paying for.
Will this be like the storm drain bond where we vote money to fix a problem and come up short? Thereís just too much uncertainty in what will actually get done, and will it be the high priorities or the low priorities? And will there be another bond in 5 years to make up the difference?
- Measure A wonít raise our current taxes, but it won't give us relief from the last school bond tax, which we're still paying. And taxes will still go up because of Prop 13's 2% annual increase on the assessment on our homes.
Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 11:51 am
I want to make sure my comments aren't misinterpreted to suggest that no planning has taken place or there is no detail. But the money to do the detailed planning is part of the bond. Without this funding, the planning can't happen, especially given current budget constraints. But note: this is no different than in any other bond - there is always this type of flexibility included. Why would you want to be locked in to a specific list today when during the life of the bond needs may change? This kind of flexibility is prudent, especially since there is time for input when they specific projects need to be brought to the board for approval.
I don't know where the idea comes from that gyms, swimming pools and theatres aren't used by the entire student body. This is false. Some may use the facilities more than others, but they are school-wide (and community) resources. Especially given the obesity epidemic among children, physical education is essential.
The money raised for this bond is planned to be phased in as the previous bond phases out. So while there is no relief, it does not add to the burden, beyond the 2% increase.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 12:13 pm
On a more self-interested note: Voting against this bond will lead to a diminution of housing price increases in Palo Alto, relative to increases in selected communities in Silicon Valley.
THere has begun a slow migration away from Palo Alto, because the marginal increase in the quality difference of education is no longer outweighed by what someone can get from some other public school systems (e.g. Cupertino). That, and the fact that many who are beginning to opt out of buying here can afford first rate private schooling elsewhere.
This is a beginning trend - one that will begin to weigh heavilt if we don't bring all of our infrastructure up to par.
The fact that our economy is going into recession is *exactly* one reason why we need to enhance educational infrastructure, as quality of education is the foundation of intellectual capital necessary to fuel future growth.
Posted by vote your conscience, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 12:57 pm
You can make that argument about any school bond. Does that mean that every school bond will/must pass?
You also have to go a long way to drop from the current 80% approval to the 55% required to pass.
You're arguing too hard trying to include the bond allows PAUSD to "respond to emerging priorities". Sure you can order the projects but that's it. I'd be surprised if prop 39 allowed you to put $771m worth of projects into a $378m bond request (but I've seen these sorts of loopholes before).
The current bond is fairly well defined with projects and budgets that add up to the requested amount. Under prop 39 there is no wiggle room to adjust to emerging priorities. You get what you asked for and that's it.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 1:13 pm
VYC, The argument that property values will be hurt is a more trenchant argument here, than in most other places. I'm arguing from the particular; you appear to want to argue from generality.
There's no way to cogently argue against this bond once the benefits are made known. I see so many people coming into these threads complaining about cost of public service without even an iota of evidence about offsetting benefit.
Seriously, any argument made the way that you are making yours, re: fiscal expenditures, is a bogus argument, because you are arguing the on the merits of only one side of the equation. Yours is a biased argument to begin with.
The really stunning thing in these forums is that not ONCE have I seen someone who came out against an expenditure include a metric rendering of benefits That's no way to judge a budget, expenditures, etc. etc. in the private OR the public sector.
In fairness, it's *incumbent* on current and future policy makers to *show* benefit metrics. The tools are there. Better to take this task on, because it will make funding policy a lot easier, as well as provide a new set of metrics that city personnel can use to maintain the sustainability of positive metrics, or at least let them (and our citizens) know if benefits are in real decline, which *does* have impact on fiscal policy.
Until we take this on, both sides are talking across one another.
All that said, not passing this bond would be a real blow to property values here (that's a metric that should be measured), and we'd be shortchanging the future of our kids.
Posted by Wynn Hausser, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 1:13 pm
VYC - I never suggested "responding to emerging priorities" meant putting "$771m worth of projects into a $378m." That is ridiculous. What I meant is what I quoted above from the language contained in the actual measure.
Bottom line, the Draft Project List was used for planning purposes by the district. But it is not, and cannot be, the final and definitive list of how the funds will be spent. That list will not begin to be finalized until after the bond is passed. At that point, the district will hire construction and architecture experts, obtain additional community input, and, over time, develop the final project list. The final list may not be determined for some time given that the bond funds will be spent over 12-15 years. As a result, the district will take enrollment increases and other needs into account as it finalizes the project list. To me, that is responding to emerging priorities.
Posted by vote your conscience, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 1:30 pm
I think it's more that you argue in absolutes:
"There's no way to cogently argue against this bond once the benefits are made known."
"not passing this bond would be a real blow to property values here"
"Voting "yes" on the PAUSD bond is a no-brainer."
With what has actually been measured (the current level of support) my argument has and continues to be that this is one election where people can vote their conscience. The bond will pass anyway.
I was giving an example, based on PAUSD's numbers. I wasn't saying that is what you said.
I was implying that your original posts suggested the bond had been padded with projects to meet emerging priorities rather than being a definitive list. That concerned me since we should know what we are voting for.
Posted by vote your conscience, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 2, 2008 at 5:20 pm
Mike, you see I can. I haven't argued for or against the bond. I have argued for the right of each person to vote as they wish, without fear, because it ain't going to make a scrape of difference*.
Opponents may vote against this measure for a plethora of reasons. The board has been building up a bit of baggage since the last bond measure:
- Poor B4E execution
- MI fiasco
- Trust issue
- Choice program transparency (or subsequent transparency of selection from waitlist)
- Neighborhood vs. Choice
- Undeclared conflict of interest
- On-going Tinsley cost
- Incomplete strategy/strategic plan (eg: what about new High School, Garland, MI in 3 years, the rest of the $393m in projects unaccounted for, ...)
- And all the other reasons raised on this thread and elsewhere
I noted how Wednesday's Weekly editorial tried to direct what they considered "single-issue critics" to perhaps find other venues for "sending a message" to district officials.
What they, and you, could possibly do is to identify what other venue would be as effective as a "no" vote in a bond measure. That may make the biggest difference in reducing the people voting against the bond.
* If, by some miracle, 46% of the voters want to "send a message" to the board, there are some serious trust issues that the board needs to address before going to the public.
Posted by Mike, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 1:00 am
" If, by some miracle, 46% of the voters want to "send a message" to the board, there are some serious trust issues that the board needs to address before going to the public. "
Here, you're talking out both sides of your mouth. What if the bond did fail? One wonders how hypercriticism of needed requests for funds will translate at the polls? Do you think for a minute that most people follow these issues as closely as you or I do?
This is an important bond; it has to pass. If you have issues with BOE, go address them at their meetings, instead of trying to "send a message" that doesn't do anything but potentially cause a lot of pain and MORE expense down the road.
Posted by Karen White, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 9:53 am
The Duveneck/St. Francis Neighborhood Association will host an informational session on the bond initiative in early May. Residents are encouraged to attend - and to bring their questions! Please stay tuned for confirmation of date and location.
Posted by Dean, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 10:11 am
I think we should consider repealing Prop 13 for commercial real estate, since commercial property owners in general charge what the market will bear, yet get to keep the benefits of lower taxes. Prop 13 makes sense for homeowners but not as much for commercial buildings and rental units.
And our school facilities are getting old, and I am voting for the bond issue! Our kids deserve it!
Posted by vote your conscience, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 10:37 am
"Here, you're talking out both sides of your mouth. What if the bond did fail?"
You're asking people to ignore their concerns about the board on the basis of the possibility of a miracle occurring.
"If you have issues with BOE, go address them at their meetings"
You're joking, right? That has never made a difference. Unless you're suggesting coming in again month after month.
The issue is less of whether there is a plan for a 3rd high school and more what is the plan to deal with the overcrowding in the high schools as they reach capacity. They are very close to capacity now.
Since, as you mention, this isn't part of the bond the question becomes how will this be funded? How much more money is the board looking for in the next few years?
Posted by vote your conscience, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 11:55 am
You seem intent on trying to illicit a reaction.
I think I've addressed your comments in my previous posts but, if you need me to repeat it, I haven't argued for or against the bond. I have argued for the right of each person to vote as they wish, without fear, because it ain't going to make a scrape of difference.
"and maybe that's why you're voting "no"."
Oh, you know which way I'm voting?
If you can put forward a better suggestion than speaking at board meetings, that might be more useful. Perhaps even something that doesn't yet exist such as a moderated on-line forum in which all members of the board participate. That could even be setup within the next two months to answer residents concerns.
Posted by Chris, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 12:53 pm
The BoE is controlled by the special interest groups that organize to elect it. That is how democracy works. However, individual voters still have the 'final' vote, when the BoE is asking for money.
The BoE needs to make its case, and it needs to understand that there is a price to be paid for ignoring the wishes of many (probably majority) of taxpayers on controversial issues (e.g. boutiques, like MI, SI).
The idea of a moderated online forum, with all BoE members responding independently, is a good one. The Weekly could probably set this up. Any interest, Weekly?
Posted by agree with VYC, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 2:11 pm
Yes, I was pretty irritated by the dismissive way in which opponents were brushed off as "single issue critics" in Wednesday's article.
Nice way to diminish the rest of the story by the paper, but well done rounding out the rest of the story, VYC. I agree with you completely. I want to have the trust in our District that it is run well, on task, priority by priority, with a measurable plan/road map in front of it that we follow, and does not allow any special interest group to distract it from its goals.
That is the rest of the story. The "single issue" stuff was hogwash, and shows a lack of understanding that the multitudes of "single issues" are different facets of the same big issue..trust in the management of this district.
Posted by What's the cause, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 4:59 pm
>On a more self-interested note: Voting against this bond will lead to a diminution >of housing price increases in Palo Alto, relative to increases in selected communities in Silicon Valley.
Exactly. The bond issues for the schools and libraries are mostly about real estate, and just a little about education. Real estate people need fancy buildings to entice new buyers to overpay for housing. Anyone who already owns here has experienced enough appreciation. Those who want more should pay for their new toys.
Want a new theater at Paly? The parents who can afford it should chip in and remodel it. No shortage of people with money to burn, just look at the new construction on every street.
>THere has begun a slow migration away from Palo Alto,
>because the marginal increase in the quality difference of education
That's ok with me. Palo Alto has grown too much, too fast. We aren't able to take care of so many new people and their sense of entitlement. Let the people who developed the new housing and the people who supported them pay for the new facilities. People who have lived here for a while have already paid, many times over.
Posted by Voting Yes, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 9:27 pm
What's the cause -
A better pseudonym would be "I got mine, screw you." The people with a sense of entitlement seem much more to be the people protected by Prop 13. If you have owned your home for a long time, then I probably pay more in property taxes in one year than you have in a lifetime. I don't mind paying my fair share, but I do object to those who are taking advantage of the same city services I do, don't pay their fair share because anti-tax extremists have locked in their will over the will of a simple majority, then want to deprive my children of the educational facilities they deserve.
People who really care about this community will vote yes.
Posted by Pretty Underwhelming, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 9:48 pm
Can anyone tell me if they know if a 3rd high school will be needed? Based on whatever forecast we may have or conservatively use?
My recollection is that the task force to study this was disbanded; so we don't know or at least don't have an official view. So we might or might not.
If we DO need it, it will be quite costly. Any estimates? A new high school in Newton Mass (on an existing site) is running $200M. Presumable ours would be more expensive- does anyone know?
If in fact we may need that, doesn't it make sense to factor that into our thinking - BEFORE committing $400M to the projects here? How can we commit to new windows and pools before knowing if in fact we need new high schools?
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 3, 2008 at 10:11 pm
I believe I have it correct that the working group that completed its efforts in 2007 concluded that a 3rd high school was not indicated, but herein lies a problem with this forum.
This is a pretty straightforward question to ask and which has been answered. I follow this stuff probably more than most people in town and the best I can state is what I believe, what I recall, was the conclusion drawn by a large committee representing the various stakeholders in the school district.
I think it is advisable to excercise some caution on expressing opinions if the factual foundation is available but not has not been clealy stated. We could go on and on about this particular question insofar as the bond measure is concerned, but I think it is a settled matter, so it really should not come into play when considering how to vote on this measure. It could engender a great deal of discussion around a trade-off that is not really on the table.
I am not being critical of anyone around this, since I am a married man, I have very few if any memory cells avaialable, according to my wife. It is easy to forget just what has or has not been decided, but when it is possible to get the basic information around where something stands, it does all of us a service for those posing the line of questioning to provide the facts that can be brought to bear, as has been done above with some preliminary itemization of things this proposed measure would fund.
Posted by 14k/yr, a member of the Jordan Middle School community, on Apr 3, 2008 at 11:03 pm
ďWhat's the causeĒ evinces the absolute worst aspects of this community. I hope those remarks represent the views of an extreme minority of this community. No city can function with that kind of attitude, I guess I should just adopt that logic and actively oppose the use of public funds for resurfacing roads I donít use, senior services, repairs to schoolís my children donít attend, flood prevention (Iím out of the plane), large print books in the library, and those womenís restrooms Iím never going set foot in.
Posted by 3rd high school article, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 4, 2008 at 2:30 am
From Paly Voice:
School board postpones opening of third high school
Posted Thu Sept. 13, 17:11:30 PDT 2007
By Grace LaPier of The Paly Voice
The possibility of Palo Alto opening a third high school looks a lot less likely after Tuesday night's school board meeting, during which school board members spoke out in support of implementing more specialized programs within the existing high schools.
The High School Task Force, led by former Palo Alto High School principal Scott Laurence, asked the school board to consider removing the possibility of opening a third high school from the task force's agenda, and the board unanimously agreed to do so.
The task force was created to help the district accommodate the 4,600 students that are expected to be enrolled at Gunn and Paly by 2018. The three options that the task force was originally designed to consider were growing the high schools to hold 2,300 or more students each; opening a third comprehensive high school; or creating a smaller, more specialized school or schools.
Laurence told that board that the scope of the task force was too large and that the task force needed to focus on the needs of the students that were not being adequately served by the existing high school system, an estimated 10 to 30% of the student body.
"We [the high school task force] really believe that this gives us a good opportunity to talk about high school students and programs," Laurence said. "There's no doubt that we have two great comprehensive high schools. But we don't suit every student's need. Students learn differently, and we need to present alternatives to students who learn in a different way."
New superintendent Kevin Skelly defended the idea of expanding the existing two high schools, but not creating a third high school, because of the difficulty in creating another high school that could provide opportunities matching those at Paly and Gunn.
Posted by sigh, here we go again, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 5, 2008 at 10:09 am
Must respond to the opinion that some of us have the opposing attitude by "what's the cause" is one of of "I got mine, now screw you".
No, when I read that post, I read frustration with poor planning..overgrowth, much increase in people, and so asking older folks on fixed income to pay yet more. I can respect that, actually.
Must respond to the same old post about "Prop 13 making paying taxes unfair"..I cannot let this canard pass anytime I see it come up. It
IS fair since you bought into it, literally, by buying a home. And guess what? In 30 years you will still be able to afford to live in your home because your taxes won't outstrip you income! Geez, what is wrong with the new homebuyers now, that they can't understand the fundamental economics that drove the tax revolution ( oh yes, by the "tax extremists") into Prop 13? I guess they are about 30, buying into PA, and so have no sense of history. Once again, for the 10th time, by the time you are done paying the taxes on your home in your lifetime, you will have paid much, much more than the money used to educate the generation of your chidren ( or the generation of the children you would have had if you had kids). In other words, it IS fair to pay for your generation, and then some. That is the way it should work, and I completely support it. Certainly a lot better plan than social security and medicare, where we expect our kids to pay for us when we are old! ( not gonna happen for anyone owning a home here in PA)
And now for the other canard, that Prop 13 has gutted expenditure. Our per student expenditure, in real dollars, is 30% more than when Prop 13 went in. So why have we dropped from first to last in educational output? Different thread, obvious reasons.
And, last canard, the idea that Ca is cheap on spending on its kids because we are in the middle, 25th or so...also remember that we have more kids per TAX PAYING adult than any other state in this nation, so our PER TAX PAYING ADULT responsiblity for kids is much more. So, a better question would be, what is the average TAX PAYING ADULT paying for education in this state versus other states?
Posted by Sigh here too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 5, 2008 at 10:20 am
Prop 13 is an idiot's delight - rent control for home owners, pure and simple. Plus you can pass on to your kids. Plus it applies to business. Find another place, anywhere, that has implemented that model? Good luck, there aren't any.
It is just more "got mine" politics, a hang-over from the "me-decade." Let's just go to "vacancy de-control" and phase it out over 10-15 years (much like rent control as in New York City). Easy enough. And the "got mine" generation gets their adult-life tax break plus breathtaking home appreciation. The "greatest generation" - yeah right, just ask them.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 5, 2008 at 10:41 am
I am not a fan of Prop 13, although I do benefit as "sigh" describes from properties I own here and elsewhere that I have owned for some time. I get that part.
There are pleny of statistics and metrics that one can invoke to make a point in support of Prop 13 or against it. I will toss out a couple as they relate to local taxes and our schools, but make a more fundamental observation after that:
1. Home owners "churn" more than do owners of business properties, be they apartment houses like Mr. Jarvis infamously owned, or industrial/commercial as we have at Stanford Industrial Park. As a whole the property taxes paid by these real estate owners have changed realitively less since Prop 13. They have clever tax attorneys make sure that if the property changes hands, the value of the transaction does not reflect fair market value, and in many cases, the same entity owns the property that did in 1978. The proportion of property taxes paid by residential real estate holders vs. commerical/industrial has skewed a great deal toward home owners as a consequence. I happen to think this stinks, others may feel otherwise, but that is a factual statement about the mix of who pays property taxes. "Older folks" are not working in those buildings on incomes that haven't changed since 1978.
2. I will assert that Palo Altans should be using a metric of how our district compares in spending per pupil -vs- peer districts around the country in comparable suburban environments. Using state comparisons in meaningless in this town since A) we are a basic aid district, and B) it does not account for the cost of living in California compared to elsewhere. On most factual measures I have seen, PAUSD spends per pupil thousands of dollars less than do those districts with which we like to compare ourselves, even without indexing of cost of living differences--it is worse if that is factored in.
My general observation: The problem I have with Prop 13 is that it has over the course of time led to poor tax structures in California that at first were not pernicious, but have become so after 30 years. Voters and politicians have been constrained on how they tax, not just what levels the tax rate should be. It has become a Rube Goldberg machine of taxation which I find those who defending it overlooking the absurdity of the construct, instead largely commenting merely on the level of taxation and the need to fetter spending by our public institutions.
Ironically, some of the bone headed spending people like to criticize oftentimes occur because there was money avaiable due to some Congressional earmark, money that could have been better spent on something else, but was constrained on that front. (Think Homer Tunnel.) Proposition 13 had its place, but it has so boxed in the electorate and public officials on how they can fairly and apprpropriately tax and agree to be taxed that its original intents are lost. I wonder if "the framers" would advocate the exact same design for Prop 13 today knowing where things are at this point. I for one, doubt it.
Posted by R Wray, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Apr 5, 2008 at 11:10 am
Many are focusing on real estate values rather than on education. That's too "materialistic".
Better to be concerned with education and look at the lousy job the government schools are doing. Get rid of them, starve them out. Encourage private schools. (And, BTW, a good selection of nearby private schools would probably increase real estate values.)
Posted by R Wray, a resident of the Palo Verde neighborhood, on Apr 5, 2008 at 4:26 pm
There are plenty of data out there and on this forum that illustrate the problems with government schools. (I don't mean to imply that all private schools are good, but at least there are choices.)
The basic function of schools is to train the mind, i.e., to develop cognitive ability. Government schools have generally abandoned this mission and have adopted the philosophy of Progressive Education (John Dewey). This problem with content is tied up with the nature of government priorities.
The basic problem, however, is that it is not moral to use government force against those who have not initiated force--parents and students. If you are really interested in this subject, go to the Ayn Rand site Web Link . If you register (free) you will have access to the ARI Lecture Series Video Collection and can watch the 2007 "Separation of School and State:.." by C. Bradley Thompson.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 5, 2008 at 10:07 pm
Paul's arguements against prop 13 present an incomplete picture:
1) Businesses aren't paying as much as they are in the past
Actually, property taxes are only one type of tax that a business needs to pay: what about state income tax, worker comp, etc. And who patronizes all the restaurants, hotels in town that provide sales tax and occupancy taxes?
2) Paul should compare the spending per pupil of Palo Alto against Cupertino or Saratoga, districts that test as well as PAUSD, but face the same economic factors (cost of living, etc). Spending per pupil may be less of a factor than what he is implying.
Prop 13 addressed the out of control spending by government entities by limiting their ability to raise taxes...
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 6, 2008 at 8:03 am
Your "counters" to my point amply demonstrate how difficult it is to have a meaningful discussion around the positives and negatives of Prop 13.
I agree with you that one of the main intents of Prop 13 was to put some constraints on how taxes could be generated and at what level. That original intent is perfectly fine, but the model voted in way back when is seriously broken after 30 years
My main point, which you did not speak to, is that Prop 13, over time, has led to a very unwieldy and at this point unfair tax structure in California. I stand by that point.
I find your business tax comment disingenuous. Regular people also pay income tax, sales taxes, excise taxes, in addition to property taxes. It is a smoke screen to say that businesses have other taxes that they pay, and therefore it is OK if the way they are taxed on property is out of alignment.
Prop 13 has skewed property taxes out of balance, with commercial and business interests paying relatively less of the total property taxes, since they have gotten around the property valuation changes that occur when ownership of real estate changes hands. This is a factual observation, numerous objective studies can be cited to back up this point.
I will take your suggestion, and lump Cupertino, Saratoga and Palo Alto together, and make the same assertion--these districts spend relatively less per pupil compared to other districts around the country that we consider to be our "peers." This is not something that manifests itself as a problem until after many years of such disparities, and I am the first to acknowledge that PAUSD has many things going for it, such as largely well educated families that reside here, which are independent of per pupil spending. But, I am a great believer in the axiom "you get what you pay for." As time goes on, if our community chooses to pay less per pupil than the districts it currently considers it peers, we will have a new peer group with which to compare ourselves, a lower performing set of school districts that are not prepared to invest in schools and kids to achieve the excellence we supposedly seeks.
For me, ponying up $1.50/day to help assure that we are investing to keep this school district in the top tier of excellence is a pretty cheap insurance policy and provides a great ROI. You may well be right that we can get by with less, I am not prepared to take that chance, and I happen to think you are just plain wrong.
Posted by PA Dad, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Apr 6, 2008 at 8:57 am
Paul and Common Sense -- one other thing you need to figure in when comparing per pupil expenditure is what parents are contributing in addition over and above the 'official' funding stream. In Palo Alto the 'ask' is $500 per child. Not everyone gives that but many give more.
Bullis Charter School in Los Altos has a well-deserved reputation as an excellent school with amazing curricular offerings. Could one reason for that be that the 'ask' of parents is $3,000 per pupil!!
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 6, 2008 at 9:46 am
My point is to look at the total tax burden paid by businesses over time and see how it varies.
You speak of "fair"; who is to judge what is "fair". Is it "fair" that businesses pay taxes into the local school system which doesn't benefit any of their employees? Is it "fair" that businesses pay taxes, yet their employees aren't allowed into Foothill Park? The list can go on & on.
Cupertino is a "revenue limited" district, and they get their funding based on students/day attendence, which amounts to around $7,000+ dollars/year/student. PAUSD is around $12,000 dollars/year/student. So the point is why are Cupertino schools doing as well as Palo Alto schools with less money per student? Funding to measure the quality of the education isn't necessarily a good criteria.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 6, 2008 at 11:26 am
I went back and looked for where I used the word "fair," which is a word I find rife with problems. The only place I found myself using it is "fair market value" of property, which is an appropriate application of the word. I may not have looked carefully enough at what else I have said in prior postings, but I don't see where I made a comment about "fairness" as you describe it. If I did and missed it when I looked back for it, please indicate where I said something along those lines. Otherwise, I request, as I do of others, to please not put words in my mouth.
Go ahead and use Cupertino funding as your benchmark for where spending per pupil can possibly reside, and offer up the rest of your recipe for what it takes to have a world class public school district. I have opted to look at more than just one nearby city to account for "best practices," and funding in both Cupertino and PA districts are toward to bottom of their peer districts around the country. At this point, I would be more interested in what the rest of your recipe looks like to assure excellence, since apparently spending per pupil is not a key ingredient in your estimation.
My daughter is about to make her choice for college, and her competition for admissions comes from all over the country, not just Cupertino. I want future admissions officers to view PAUSD years from now, as they do today, that PAUSD creates excellent students who do well at the college level. I am prepared to have continue the $1.50/day tax on my property to assure that is the case. You must like to gamble, and want to take your chances that spending at below par levels will not undermine PAUSD's mission of excellence. Not a bet I am prepared to make.
Posted by pat, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 6, 2008 at 11:46 am
I previously posted my concern about Measure A being paid off in only 20 years. Turns out THAT INFORMATION IS INCORRECT! I sent an email to the Strong Schools (YES on A) group and received this response:
But you are not correct when you say the Measure A bond will be paid off in 20 years. The district has published two different payment scenarios, one of which calls for payments between 2009 and 2040, and the other of which calls for payments between 2009 and 2042. The difference in the two scenarios is the assumed rate of growth in assessed valuation in the years ahead. But in either case the Measure A bond will not be paid off in 20 years -- in the first scenario, the pay off period is 31 years and in the second one the pay off period is 33 years.
You may want to know why the pay off period for the Measure A bond isn't 2.5 times as long as the last bond, given the amount of the Measure A bond is 2.5 times as much as the last bond. The reason is that the total assessed valuation in our school district is much higher now than it was when the prior bond was passed in 1995. As a result, the tax rate per $100,000 of assessed valuation generates substantially more revenue than the equivalent rate did in 1995.
On the issue of what assumptions the school district made about property values and property taxes in determining the pay off period, the district assumed, in the first scenario I described above (in which the bonds are fully paid off by 2040), that assessed valuation would increase by 8.28% from 2009 through 2040. This matches the actual average rate of increase over the last 10 years. In this scenario, not only would the bonds be fully paid off by 2040, but the tax rate per $100,000 of assessed valuation would start declining in 2026.
In the second scenario (in which the bonds are fully paid off by 2042), the district assumed a slower rate of growth of assessed valuation. They assumed a 6.5% growth rate declining over time to 5%. In this scenario, the tax rate would remain at $44.50 per $100,000 of assessed valuation until the bond was fully paid off in 2042.
An important fact to keep in mind is that the rate of increase of assessed valuation does not necessarily match, or even correlate with, the rate of increase (or decrease) in market values. The reason behind this is that the assessed value of most properties in our district is substantially lower than the market value. A drop in market value, for example, would not affect assessed value (except for the few properties, mostly those that had recently been sold, where assessed value did equal market value). In fact, assessed value would probably continue to rise because when properties were sold, their assessed values would increase, even if market values were declining.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 6, 2008 at 12:02 pm
Sorry Paul, you used the word "unfair", not "fair"; this is what you wrote:
"My main point, which you did not speak to, is that Prop 13, over time, has led to a very unwieldy and at this point unfair tax structure in California. I stand by that point."
So let me change my question to who decides what is "unfair"? Is it "unfair" that employees of businesses who pay taxes to support the schools that they can't send their kids to? is it "unfair" that they pay taxes to support Foothill Park, but can't use it?
In my posts, I haven't stated a position for or against the bond issue, so it's perhaps you who are putting words in other posters mouths; but you can probably tell what my views are on prop 13.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 6, 2008 at 12:32 pm
We are in violent agreement. There are things about the current tax structure that are unfair. Thank you for suggesting some specific examples of what could be considered unfair. I consider it unfair that a landlord that charges "fair market value" to rent a property in town and can pay 1978 level property taxes on same. I suspect there are other examples that people can offer up.
I attribute much of it to where we are today, not 30 years ago, with Propostion 13.
I was asked when I re-upped for Parks and Rec Commission if the current restrictions on its use should be reviewed. I said I thought they did. Talk about touching a 3rd rail in Palo Alto. I may be an appointed public official, but I don't think I will win a prize for being "politically correct" after making such a statement on the record.
It is common for businesses that pay taxes in a town to not have certain rights that residents of the town have. You may have a philosphical problem with that, but as questions of fairness go, that is entirely different matter for discussion -vs- whether the tax structure under which property taxes are paid is working appropriately or unfairly. Proposition 13 did nothing one way or the other around that paricular issue that you cite, so to me is a bit of distraction to the notion that in today's world, the Prop 13 model is badly broken and causing wacky policy and tax decisions to occur.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2008 at 6:06 am
Hmmm, it's unfair for a landlord to charge "fair market value" because of what they pay for property taxes? Fair market value is just that - fair; it's based on demand, and I thank everyday that I live in a free, capitalist society. Prop 13 gives the landlord a basis for planning their investment; I would also guess that if the property taxes were to increase significantly, landlords would pass on those costs in the form of rent increases.
Prop 13 provides a framework for property owners to plan with a high degree of certainty their future costs - just like having a 30 year fixed mortgage; it provides a framework for government entities to plan their budgets.
The problem isn't Prop 13; it's when government entities doesn't budget well. Instead of looking at businesses and landlords as sources of cash to solve those problems, government entities should plan better in their budgeting process.
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2008 at 11:50 am
Of course a property owner shuld charge fair market value for a rental property! That's just common sense, isn't it? You misunderstood or choose to distort what I stated to be unfair--it is the paltry sum of money these folks pay in property taxes (1978 value) while they charge fair market value that reflects today's prices.
And of course we all benefit from having an understanding of what sorts of financial obligations we will have around various aspects of our business in order to plan effectively. That does not have any bearing on whether the current tax structure required by Prop 13 is appropriate or not. Another smoke screen to justify what is today a broken model.
Have you looked at the capital improvement plans for PAUSD and for the City? They are long term in their view, and as planning documents go, pretty decent. It is not a matter of budgeting well, it is a matter than some physical properties are coming due for major rehabilitation, and the budgets have to be adjusted accordingly. That's what this bond is doing. What part of budgeting and planning is not working well?
Your assertion that these folks in the City and District are not planning well suggests to me you have more of a philosophical understanding of how these things work than a genuine grasp of the amount of work that goes into capital project planning and budgeting in both entities. As one who has sat in on some meetings around these things, I can tell you they are very dry and boring, which typifies what happens when there is a great deal of detail that is getting scrutiny from different parties that have responsibility to review these things.
As I suggested earlier, this amply demonstrates how difficult it is to have a meaningful analysis and dialog of just what the consequences of Prop 13 are in today's environment.
Posted by common sense, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2008 at 3:25 pm
It's no more "unfair" that one landlord pays less in property tax than another, just as it's no more unfair that one landlord has a higher interest rate on a loan, or one property costs more to maintain than another - that's business that the landlord is in.
I don't find it useful to demonize businesses, landlords or anyone else who is playing by the rules.
You keep saying that Prop 13 is a broken model, but I don't see anything broken about it.
Any capital improvement starts depreciating when it get's put into service, be it a car or a building. Governments budget for future retirement costs very well, but not for renovation. It's a question of allocating funds each year from the budget to cover the "depreciation", just like they do to cover retirement of the workers. It's not a suprise that quite a few of the buildings need renovation - this has been known for years, yet how much of the budgets have been allocated to cover these costs over the years? Budgets have increased over the years but how much has been set aside for improvements?
Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2008 at 4:28 pm
It is not a matter of playing or not by the rules, no one is being accused of doing otherwise. One problem is that their are some well heeled entities that know how to get around the rules in order to avoid their properties get re-valued when ownership changes. That is less the local apartment house landlords than it is corporate entities that know how to do this when mergers, acquistions, etc. occur. It does lead to what could be viewed as an "unfair" competitive advantage if similar property owners have disparate costs in taxation merely due to Prop 13--but that gets too wonky to discuss here. Markets are not perfect, but this is an artificial construct imposed on the market by an electorate that had other things in mind when they passed this beast.
We can go on and on about this, but I will cycle back to my original premise, and leave it at that. (As I said, this topic ranks right up there with abortion, gay marriage, and Foothills Park as being highly charged issues that make it difficult to stay focused on what it being said.)
So here is what I said: the original intent of Propostion 13 had a great deal of validity. Namely, as I see it, not allowing our public insitutions to spend in an unfettered way and be able to tax at will to do it. It's other intent was to keep tax levels as low as possible and being allowed to change only with the consent of those being taxed (shades of the Boston Tea Party.)
The structure introduced at the time to meet that intent is Prop 13 as we know it today. And I believe that structure is seriously broken, leading to stupid policy decisions, odd spending behavior, and getting in the way of dealing with matters that we face now that we did not face 30 years ago, most prominently that a great deal of the things built in this state starting when Pat Brown and Ronald Reagan were the governors are in need of major work.
I will again submit that if the same intent were agreed to today, the structure by which it is achieved would be very different than what we have with Prop 13. I will take it a step further, and say that as it exists today, Prop 13 is in some cases running counter to its original intent, and has led, inter alia, to the State funding most local school districts instead of that being a local matter, as we are lucky for it to be in Palo Alto.
I think many that defend Prop 13 really are defending its original intent. And many that speak out against it do not like it because of the original intent. I come from a different vantage point: There is a better way to tax ourselves and decide at what levels we should tax ourselves. The "rules" by which we must currently play the game do not make for very good sport.
Posted by Me Too, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Apr 7, 2008 at 4:44 pm
In my experience most who defend Prop 13 are defending their own tax break - nothing more than that. You don't see anyone, anywhere, adopting this approach - "hey, let's make newcomers pay a lot more tax than us old-timers!"
Here's a test - if "planning" is really the benefit - how do you feel about changing Prop 13 so that we pay on our original basis, but defer the difference between that and the "market rate." Then, when we sell, move out, or pass on, the accumulated deferred amount comes out of the equity in the house. The local tax authority essentially has a first lien on the house for deferred taxes.
No takers? Didn't think so. I guess it isn't just certainty that people are looking for - it is the free ride. Can't blame them for trying, but let's not dress it up for anything other than what it is - rent control for homeowners.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 8, 2008 at 6:05 pm
I don't think you can undo the home-owner's chunk of Prop. 13, but I suspect there is some possibility of rectifying the commercial real-estate break--if you can charge market rate, then it ought to be possible to adjust the tax burden accordingly.
I have to say when Mike said people were drifting away from Palo Alto because of the education issues, it kind of struck me as an argument for voting *against* the bond. I mean, the bulk of our problems right now come from overcrowding.
I tend to vote for bonds, but I can't say I quite get the compelling need for this one. Mostly, though I'm not sure I can trust the school board to do the right thing. I mean is the flip side of kids being able to go to their neighborhood schools, a creation of mega-schools of 500 kids are more?
I think I need to see that strategic plan--none of this half-assed bowing to the strongest wind.
Posted by Dave's fan, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 17, 2008 at 10:34 am
Do the right thing, like Dave Packard did.
This is a nice post from Chuck House on his blog Web Link.
The Ethics of Silicon Valley Leaders
Larry Ellison managed to reduce his tax bill by $3 Million last month,
arguing with the County Assessor that his $170 Million (cost) Japanese
replica home wouldn't be worth more than $70 Million in resale value.
Woodside schools and fire/police protection services are the losers,
although in this rarefied community, the tax base is sufficiently high, and the student population for the gentry who inhabit the community low enough that one suspects that somehow things will work out even with this penurious attitude by the tenth richest American, reputedly worth $14 Billion.
Meanwhile, over at the Los Altos Museum, Lucile Packard's scrapbook is
on display, with a remarkable sequence of three letters from November
and December 1963. The first, from HP's attorney, said that the assessor had advised that they could probably qualify for a very large tax reduction with the Williamson Act agricultural exemption for their new 33 acre Los Altos Hills property. The second, from Dave Packard, said "we won't file for that, since most of the taxes go to local schools, and we want to carry our fair share of the load". The third, from the attorney, reported that when he talked to the county assessor, the response was "well, THAT makes my day!" thus beating Clint Eastwood to the words.
Packard, like Ellison, made the Top Ten list for richest Americans. But they differed greatly in their view of who helped them get there, and what they owe their fellow citizens, employees, and community. Silicon Valley is fortunate for the David Packard example. No community can take much pride in the other approach.