Error on tax bills costs Palo Alto schools

Recently mailed property tax bills failed to assess $12 parcel tax escalator

A mistake on the recently mailed Santa Clara County property tax bills comes at the expense of the Palo Alto Unified School District.

The tax bills failed to include a $12-per-parcel charge to property owners in the school district, which represents the escalator clause of a parcel tax approved by voters in 2010.

The error -- which will reduce receipts to the district by an estimated $200,000 to $250,000 -- will be discussed at tonight's meeting of the Board of Education.

"Staff is seeking advice from the county tax collector and our legal counsel regarding the best option to levy this escalation and will provide a plan at the meeting," the district's Chief Business Officer Cathy Mak said in a staff report.

"Factors that staff are considering include minimizing the confusion to the property owners, financial impact and costs to the district and implications to the county tax collectors office."

The parcel tax in question is Measure A, passed by 79 percent of voters in May 2010. It called for a $589-per-parcel tax extending for six years with a 2 percent annual escalation adjustment. The tax carries an optional exemption for property owners over 65.

Proceeds of the tax contributed $11.6 million toward the current year's operating budget of $162.4 million.

Property owners paid $589 per parcel for the tax last year, and should have been assessed $601 per parcel this year.

In other business tonight, the board is expected to authorize an $8.5 million deal to purchase 2.6 acres at 525 San Antonio Road, the site of the Peninsula Day Care Center, which closed in June.

The property backs up to Greendell School, used by the school district for preschool and adult education activities. Greendell is contiguous with the Cubberley Community Center.

School officials have yet to articulate their plans for the day care or Cubberley properties, but have agreed to enter into discussions with the City Council this fall about the future of Cubberley.

Fast-rising enrollment, particularly in the younger grades in the southern part of town, has officials scrambling for classroom space and worrying about long-term planning should the trend continue.

Following a 5:30 p.m. executive session, the board's public meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the board room of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

Chris Kenrick

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Like this comment
Posted by Kenny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2011 at 10:58 am

So the person(s) who made the error pay the difference, right?

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 11, 2011 at 11:56 am

" The tax carries an option exemption for property owners over 65."

Does this applies to those who are over 65 but rent out their houses? Remember many of the renters have school age kids.

Like this comment
Posted by IGotMine
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Anyone else tired of the "I've got mine" exclusions made in every parcel tax for expediency? Let's see, over 65s are more likely to have deeply discounted prop 13 limited property tax in the first place. And they have no interest in a functioning society. I guess we should just stop educating other kids and let them run feral. Grrr. Makes me irritated.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 11, 2011 at 12:56 pm

@ IGotMine - do realize that the likelihood of passing the PAUSD bond measures (67% required) would drop like a stone if you didn't have the 65 age option?

Let it go and be happy that we have the cash flow...

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I studied my tax bill and found it very confusing. Not sure what the percentages mean, but I couldn't find any mention of the library bond either.

Like this comment
Posted by Debbie Mytels
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm

It's likely that the cost of remedying the mistake via sending out new property tax bills would cost as much as the $12/parcel proceeds. Why not ask the PA Education Foundation to put some volunteer hands to work, sending out a letter to all property owners, asking them for a donation of $12 to $25 -- this would bring in enough to cover the cost of the mailing and make up (hopefully) for the lost revenue. The foundation could then hand over the net proceeds to the PAUSD to fill in the budgeted hole.

I for one would make such a contribution.

Like this comment
Posted by Barron Parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Simple solution is to make it up next year. The school district shouldn't be impacted by a $250K shortfall in collection this year,
which amounts to slightly over 0.1% of the $162M budget.

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 11, 2011 at 2:47 pm

@neighbor Fairmeadows -- if you rent, you are not charged this assessment.

Like this comment
Posted by escalation
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Presumably, the 2% increase was intended to mimic the 2% limit on increases in property valuation.

But property values did not increase over the last year; perhaps there was no mistake in not increasing the tax?

An allowance of an increase is not a requirement for an increase.

Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Oct 11, 2011 at 9:28 pm

I Got Mine,

And there are people over 65 who are living in small condos who are paying much more property tax than people who are living in large houses bought 30 years ago.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2011 at 6:46 pm

We got a postcard today saying there was an error and everyone will be charged an extra $12 next year.

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

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