Palo Alto schools brace for state cuts

'Fair share' reduction from Sacramento could be up to 9 percent of operating budget

Palo Alto school officials are battening down the hatches in anticipation of a state funding cut that could be as high as 9 percent of the district's operating budget.

With the breakdown of talks in Sacramento over a June ballot measure to extend nearly $12 billion in taxes, the Board of Education heard Tuesday that Palo Alto schools could be hit with a state reduction of up to $14.7 million.

The district's operating budget this year is $154.5 million, with some additional unrestricted funds held in reserve.

"We're in a state of tremendous flux," Superintendent Kevin Skelly said.

With Gov. Jerry Brown's failure to get the tax extension on the June ballot, "our uncertainty has diminished but our problems have increased.

"It's important for staff to present this information as soon as we have it so the community is aware of what's going on," Skelly said.

Palo Alto is more insulated from state budget swings than most school districts because it is among the roughly 10 percent known as "basic aid" districts, relying heavily on local property tax rather than attendance-based reimbursements from Sacramento.

However, basic aid districts will take what are known as "fair share" reductions which, for Palo Alto, could be a maximum of $14.7 million, Mak told the board Tuesday.

That scenario would "wipe out our unrestricted investment and fund balance," she said.

The school district went through an exhaustive budget-cutting process 18 months ago, consulting teachers, students, staff and parents before approving $3.8 million in cuts -- about 2.5 percent of the operating budget -- in February 2010.

The largest single chunk of those cuts -- $600,000 -- came from raising the maximum class size in K-3 to 22 children and, in grades 4 and 5, to 24 children. The second-largest chunk came from reducing principals' discretionary funds from $105 per student to $70 per student, a cut that was mitigated by contributions from the independent parent-run educational foundation Palo Alto Partners in Education.

Mak said she expects no further budget information until May and, in the meantime, will begin consulting various groups for budget-cutting ideas.

"It's important that we get this out there for the community for folks to mull over," Skelly told the board. "Staff will work over the next three weeks, and we'll keep you abreast."

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Like this comment
Posted by toughen up
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2011 at 10:16 am

City employees have to toughen up and work through the budget cuts. Students have to do the same. Tea Party says no new taxes, no matter how worthy the cause.

Like this comment
Posted by Stuart Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2011 at 10:36 am

I find it a terrible shame to see one of the country's great school districts at risk of going down the drain. I hope that in the wake of this fiasco the people of California will find a way to take back local control of their school districts. I believe that people will still pay for areas where they can see the personal benefit.

What is dead is this country's sense of doing things for the larger social good. The Tea Party exhibits that deterioration quite clearly.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 7, 2011 at 10:50 am

Keeping the discussion local...
- there are no Tea Party folks in Sacto. Stubborn Republicans, yes.
- we do have local control of our school district - the benefit of being a basic aid district.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

What would be interesting to discover is that since we are basic aid and get a percentage of property taxes to pay for schools, is where the difference is going to go? I know for a fact that my property taxes are going up and if the percentage of them going to schools is going down, then what is the difference in that percentage going towards?

Telling us that we have to expect our fair share of cuts is one thing. But, if we are using that money to pay for more political shenanigans somewhere, then at the very least, we ought to know.

Like this comment
Posted by Parcel Tax Increase
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:06 am

This is article is a warning to us Palo Alto residents that the school district is going to increase the parcel tax. Be ready for that. Our school need more tax in order to pay the superintendent and all their assistants their salary, which are the highest in the district. This cuts will not affect our schools because we the parents will pay for the difference through the parcel tax. Wait and see.

Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:25 am

How many are getting increases in salaries, how much more is being paid in benefits? Are any administrators taking cuts, like those in the private sector?

And are teachers in salary increases because of "more experience", or completing training coursework?

Lastly, I question the need to revise cirriculum to Everyday Math at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially since there is no noticable improvement in scores.

Like this comment
Posted by Carlito waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2011 at 11:35 am

Do I hear another round of Parcel Taxes coming up ?

Give it up for our senile governor. This is what he intended to do when he decided to run for office again. I remember reading an interview with the Mercury News right before the debates with Meg took place, the question was about what he intended to do with the big problem that the State Employees Pension System represent to the State, couties, cities budgets; his answer basically was that he did not see any problem with it, and that the State had the obligation to fulfill whatever benefits the Public employees got through their contract negotiations.

After Gov Brown shown us a couple days ago the "reforms " he wants to implement to the employees Public Pension, just confirms one more time and is letting us now loud and clear, on what side his allegiance is; and is not with the California Taxpayers. No wonder the State Republicans would not compromise with him in order to put Mr. Brown ideas on how to "balance " the budget on the up coming election

The Public Employees Unions directives to Gov brown is to keep the status quo, so Gov Brown is not hesitating in placing the future of this State in further peril by making education a luxury item for a huge number of californians, whether by suggesting to increase tuition to obscene levels and cutting funding to schools one more time.

When you are asking the taxpayers for more taxes, cut in services, cut in education,etc, and leave the big reason of the budget quagmire untouched, then you know that you got the wrong guy at the helm.

I am a Democrat, didn't vote for Brown, and he is proving me right.
His unwillingness to do the hard work is not there, hopefully the Republicans stick to their guns and force the Gov to agree to make Pension Reform an integral part of the Budget.

Like this comment
Posted by Been here a long time
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Same old, same old.

PAUSD loves to cry wolf.

Year in year out, we hear there is going to be a budget shortfall, that Palo Alto residents and parents need to shell out more taxes and gifts to the school.

Then a few months later we learn that the situation was not this bad after all.

Please, don't allow yourselves to be taken in by the doomsday announcements made by PAUSD when it comes to its finances.

Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 7, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Time to repeal Prop 13.

Like this comment
Posted by Support our Public Schools
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Apr 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm

How can the Tea Party be so short sighted?

Sure, if we gut public education our country won't feel the effect of America's poorly educated workers for a few years, but we can't import all of our engineers from overseas!

Support Measure E, the LASD parcel tax.

Strong schools benefit us all. And they raise our property values as well (ask the Realtors).

Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

How can our Governor be so short-sighted?

Sure, if we fail to adjust public employee pension and health benefits, those retirees are certain to enjoy recession-proof payouts; but, we can't simply turn away from such significant expenses.

Support reasonable pension and health benefit reform.

Like this comment
Posted by What?
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Apr 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm

What does the Tea Party have to do with this? It's not a partisan issue. Too many bills - not enough income - something has to give. Simple! Throwing more money at education has never seemed to work. Some discipline and stricter standards would.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm


Government of the 1%, by the 1% for the 1% ... Joseph Stiglitz: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Dem Palo Alto Voters, You Deserve This
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Your hard-earned tax dollars, most of which are already being appropriated elsewhere outside of Palo Alto and/or wasted on gold-plated pensions for state workers are now being even further raided in the name of "social justice" and given to school districts where that money will be frittered away on bureaucrats and performance won't go up a bit.

Those sitting here blaming things on the Tea Party or Republicans are laughably clueless. It's not the Republicans who want to take money from districts that work and throw it down the hole of corrupt money pits where teachers can't teach and students don't care about learning. But hey guys, 80% or so of you voted for the Democrats, so you can't say you weren't warned. What a joke.

Like this comment
Posted by Jon
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 8, 2011 at 12:07 am

Senator Simitian and Representative Gordon should be hollering at the top of their lungs in any forum they can find. That's why we elected them. It wouldn't hurt if everybody around here gave them a call and told them to be a lot more public about supporting Governor Brown. They should be earning their money. Maybe they could put the squeeze on the big money boys in the neighborhood (HP, Facebook, Stanford, et al.) to pressure Republican representatives to turn a little towards the middle.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2011 at 8:34 am

My property tax is not going down. There are more properties in Palo Alto each year due to new housing. If the property tax money isn't going to schools then where is it going?

Like this comment
Posted by PA MOM
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2011 at 11:47 am

Read Warren Buffett on Prop 13 here
Web Link

One of the most brilliant analysts of financial markets of our time recogizes that Prop 13 is BAD policy.

Prop 13 has devastated California public school education and unfairly shifted tax burden to the youngest and newest residents. It is time to change this regressive policy. The roll back will have to be gradual so that change doesn't adversely impact the economy or real estate markets, but it CAN be done. It can also be done without adversely affecting seniors who have NEED for tax relief.

Sacramento, get off your chicken butts and GET to WORK! Citizens, push your representatives to do the right thing. Democracy is not a spectator sport. You get what you actively advocate for.

Like this comment
Posted by anon.
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 8, 2011 at 4:35 pm


The problem is not residential properties. It's commercial properties. That's where prop 13 needs to be rolled back. We should leave residential owners alone. Or else, all seniors will sell and move and what will you get? More young families and even more children crowding the schools...

Like this comment
Posted by Dem Palo Alto Voters, You Deserve This
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2011 at 9:14 am

It's incredibly depressing to read the comments here from commenters who seem ignorant at the most basic levels of how government in CA works and what is going on and how school finance in CA works. It's very simple-- right now, we are likely going to lose a bunch of money because it is going to be transferred away from our district and to other districts with lousy performance but lots of political clout. That is why the article refers to "fair share" reductions in quotes. "fair share" means your hard-earned money is being redistributed to the politically connected. We're also in a hole statewide because Gov. Brown refuses to do anything serious (as opposed to cosmetic) about CA's unsustainable employee benefits.

We pay tons of property taxes already here-- far more than enough to sustain our schools and social services even with the current inflated salaries and benefits-- if we were allowed to keep our local tax dollars here. Instead, they are transferred through CA's tax system in the name of "Social Justice." This has nothing to do with the Tea Party. It has nothing to do with Prop 13 (which I'd be happy to amend, incidentally)-- we have plenty of local funding for our schools even with Prop. 13-- it has everything to do with an arrogant, out of control Democratic party in CA that believes in taking money away from successful districts like ours to reward their union cronies and failing school districts.

Most people who live in Palo Alto are relatively high-income taxpayers. High-income taxpayers in CA literally have the largest tax burden of any major income group anywhere in the country, possibly excepting high-income NYC residents. The problem with CA isn't that we're not being taxed. And the problem with our schools isn't that we aren't generating enough tax revenue to support them. It's that the Dems are stealing that tax money to fund their own agenda.

Like this comment
Posted by Response to Toughen Up
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

The arcticle is referring to "California State Funds," and these funds are managed by the democrats; no tea partiers involved in the California State Funds. Please read the article before placing blame on the wrong party.

Like this comment
Posted by Sanity
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Apr 9, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Not only is "decrease taxes, decrease spending" the Tea Party mantra, it is the only proven way historically to actually increase tax revenue from increasing the numbers of employed folks paying taxes.

Spread the work, and we get more tax revenue.

Simple, really. Cut taxes and regulations, get more jobs, get more tax payers, get more tax revenue, have more money for the govt to launder through their sticky fingers and distribute to those who didn't pay any.

So, we should all be on the same side, but somehow we fall apart. Everyone should want better employment, better economy. Everyone wins on that formula, leftists and rightists...but, leftists just want to double down on the same policies that have been proven wrong many times, the most recently in the last 3 years. What is the definition of insanity? Keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

I suspect poor education is the reason we have so many insane.

Like this comment
Posted by Sanity
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Apr 9, 2011 at 12:21 pm

To put a finer point on 2006 we had the most tax revenue into the State and Feds govt coffers ever..and I mean ever in real dollars.

This following on the heels of a 2 wars and a tax cut ( now famously referred to as "'the Bush tax cuts for the rich" which we just learned in fact were for EVERY tax payer)
What happened? Instead of paying down our debt, the Repubs went along with the Dems, who took over the Congress, and spent it all, plus some.

Borrow, spend, borrow, spend. We couldn't tell the difference in Parties any more.

Thank goodness the Tea Party is pulling the Repubs back to their roots.

Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm

The district office poor mouths and begs poverty so that they can negotiate in bad faith with the "slaves" on the PAUSD "plantation." There is plenty of money in the reserve. There is enough to fully support staff benefits at the current level and not nickel & dime staff on this matter. If you are not going to give people a raise, don't take money away through the back door.

Like this comment
Posted by Robin
a resident of another community
on May 15, 2011 at 2:43 am

Down goes the real estate prices in basic aide school districts like PA, MP, PV, Woodside, ETC. All the people that herded to their cracker jack homes on postage stamp lots will be taxed more parcel taxes for poorly funded so called "great" public schools that rank almost last in the US in funding per child.

Message to the new people looking at homes: don't get caught up with the "great" public schools marketing pitch by real estate agents and clueless moms. Do your research and you'll learn that the relative API scores is a sham. Pump it up.

Like this comment
Posted by J
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 15, 2011 at 3:17 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Like this comment
Posted by Not too worried
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on May 15, 2011 at 5:41 am

If I recall,the operating budget 4 years ago was something like 126 million..and now it is about 30 million more?

Not bad for a recession!

If we lose 1/2 of the 30 million, we are still way ahead of 5 years ago. Wish we were all as well off!

Besides, I tend to agree with the concept of crying wolf. I have heard that the sky is falling so many times, I have learned to find the truth on my own. (

Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of Atherton
on May 29, 2011 at 1:13 am

Too bad for the newbies moving into PA for their great schools. You pay the blunt of the taxes while getting deteriating schools for many years to come. That has to suck, same goes for las lomitas and these other inflated pockets due to "good schools".

Like this comment
Posted by Yogi
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2011 at 2:27 am

Renting is the way to go. You don't deal w/ the high taxes and if your landlord is milking prop 13, your rent is quite reasonable. You can pump 3 kids through the schools and pay E. Palo Alto rates. Neat thing is that my kids have dual citizenship so they can get all the is good in this Democratic State of CA!

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 30, 2011 at 10:02 am

Read the entire story:"The Governor won't say whether he has an alternate plan if republican lawmakers block his call for extending taxes."

Like this comment
Posted by Not too worried
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 30, 2011 at 10:09 am

Peter: I am betting that, one or the other, education cuts won't happen. Even Brown is smart enough to know that the cuts have to come from parasites...and not education or the disabled.

The left just likes to use that old saw to scare folks into voting for more paying more in taxes, but we are onto that old scam now. We know there are lots of cuts that can be made and we would all be happier, save money, preserve education, disabled services and protection by fire and police officers.

I remain, still, not too worried, and at the same time delighted that the credit card is getting cut up.

Like this comment
Posted by Private
a resident of another community
on Jul 10, 2011 at 8:06 pm

CA public schools sucks, the days of a decent public education in CA are gone. Too many leeches and dirty politicians/administrators eating up resources; once you understand the education "game" in CA you realize that your kids deserve better than that. I would never send my kids to a public school in CA, well unless I had to compromise their education.

The resentment is real and the people will speak on election day. More parcel tax proposals will only get people more pissed off.

Like this comment
Posted by truth
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 10, 2011 at 10:38 pm

PAUSD just spent about 100K on sending our over-priced administrators to a conference at Harvand, Skelly's old stomping grounds.


Budget crisis? Sorry... be prudent with your money, PAUSD, and I'll support you. Right now, you're wasting my tax dollars.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive

on Jun 4, 2017 at 11:15 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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