News

Palo Alto school board backs increased parcel tax

Members debate tax amount, priorities for funding

All of the Palo Alto school board members expressed support Tuesday night for what they said is a much-needed financial injection from an increased parcel tax that will likely appear on the ballot this May, with only one member dissenting on the amount of the tax.

The proposed parcel tax, which would begin on July 1 and last six years with 2-percent annual increases, would raise the $638 per-parcel tax that voters now pay by $120, to $758 per parcel. (Voters approved in 2010 under Measure A a $589 parcel tax, which included automatic annual increases of 2 percent.) The proposed $120-increase would generate an additional $2.3 million in parcel tax revenue, initially providing $14.7 million in total revenue in the 2015-16 year, Chief Business Officer Cathy Mak said.

While Mak painted a dim outlook for the future of the district's finances – warning that while the local and state economies seem to be rebounding, Palo Alto Unified is not getting any new, ongoing, unrestricted funding from the state – board member Terry Godfrey said she was wary to ask voters for a $120 increase.

She cited a poll that a consultant administered for the district in December, which found that 70 percent of the 402 registered Palo Alto voters surveyed supported the $120 increase after hearing both positives and negative arguments for it. (The poll simulated opposition arguments to the increase, and asked what amounts voters would support based on both the positive and negative arguments.)

"I don't actually support the $120 increase not because we don't need it, but because the polling in my mind was not completely solid," she said, comparing it to the 69 percent of original support indicated for a 2004 parcel tax (which would have boosted an existing tax from $293 per parcel to $521) that fell just short of the two-thirds of support needed to pass.

District consultant Charles Heath said in light of the poll as a whole, "I don't think it's a barrier to success," he said. "The rest of the poll is a glowing green light that the community would support a renewal and an increase."

Godfrey said she was more comfortable with a $96 increase, which garnered 73 percent of support after voters heard both positive and negative information.

She also warned that "a 400-person survey isn't representative of the community" and urged her colleagues to align the ambitious wish list of programs and efforts that the new tax could pay for with the district's overarching strategic plan and focused goals.

That wish list, which is divided into three sections – equitable opportunities and access; STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programming and pathways; and student wellness – asks for the community's support in enabling efforts like the expansion of summer school and early literacy intervention, support for Buena Vista Mobile Home Park students who might be displaced, engineering curriculum for middle and high school, family counseling programs, nursing services at the elementary schools and annual bias and harassment training for students and staff.

However, missing from the ballot language itself is the piece on student wellness, said board vice president Heidi Emberling

"Students' social-emotional health should not be an afterthought," she said. "It should be an integral part of any districtwide goal."

Emberling suggested adding a clause to the ballot that reads, "strengthen efforts to promote student health and well-being." The other board members expressed support for doing so.

Board member Camille Townsend said the increased revenue from the renewed parcel tax is "critical."

"If you compare ourselves to equivalent district across the nation, we simply don't have the money," she said. "The demands that this community puts on its administrators, its teachers and its students, frankly, is incredible. How do we do all that the community wants?"

According to the poll, the top three issues that the parcel tax currently supports that voters said are most important are attracting and retaining qualified teachers; supporting advanced programs in science, math and technology; and providing enhanced electives for high school students, including art, music and social sciences.

In descending order, the other important "problems" are keeping elementary school libraries open an fully staffed; maintaining teaching specialists in the areas of reading, math and science; maintaining teacher training and support programs; providing additional school counselors and psychologists for students who need help; and maintaining smaller class sizes.

The most important new use for additional parcel tax money, according to those surveyed, was adding support staff to help at-risk students who are struggling with the basics (78 percent said it is very/somewhat important and 31 percent said it is very important).

Townsend said there are other priorities she felt weren't represented in the survey, such as world language instruction.

Board president Melissa Baten Caswell cautioned that even with a $120 increase, the district will not be able to accomplish all of the items on the community or district's wish list.

"Staff will have to pick from the categories," she said. "They're not going to be able to do the whole ball of wax."

The board will vote on the parcel tax at its next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 27.

Comments

25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2015 at 9:20 am

I feel angry and duped by this.

Who were the 40 people polled? Were they random residents or actual parents of kids in the District? Were they well versed in what is going on in the schools?

I have 18 year olds who have been polled before and they always say yes to any increase in tax for so called improvements because they don't pay it, we do, their parents.

The schools are always begging for money, one way or another, and I see them wasting money all the time. Lawyers fees, surveys and specialist administrators at Churchill, etc.

I would be in favor of FLES, getting a vice principal at elementaries and at least 3 additional school nurses (one for each elementary cluster).

Are we unable to keep elementary libraries open full time? What does a full time elementary librarian do that a computer or a volunteer cannot do at least part time?

Specifically what electives are the high schools not getting that they should have?

Are we failing to pay for the best qualified teachers? Are they leaving because of pay or do they leave for other reasons?

This is crazy sounding to me. My property taxes go up every year by a considerable amount. Old homes are being sold all the time which increases the amount of property tax garnered. There are new developments all over town all of which are garnering property taxes that were not there before. The amount of money are schools get thrown at them is increasing all the time. They are just a bottomless pit.


3 people like this
Posted by probably won't vote yes
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 14, 2015 at 10:37 am


Right back at you Resident. I 100% agree.


7 people like this
Posted by Fooled Once
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2015 at 10:50 am

Consider the first two paragraphs of a piece from Monday's Wall Street Journal, entitled "The Pension Sink is Gulping Billions in Tax Raises":

"California Gov. Jerry Brown sold a $6 billion tax increase to voters in 2012 by promising that nearly half of the money would go to bolster public schools. Critics argued that much of the new revenue would wind up in California’s severely underfunded teacher pension system. They were right.

Last June Mr. Brown signed legislation that will require school districts to increase funding for teachers’ pensions from less than $1 billion this year in school year 2014-15, which started in September, to $3.7 billion by 2021, gobbling up much of the new tax money. With the state’s general government pension fund, Calpers, also demanding more money, California taxpayer advocate Joel Fox recently observed that no matter what local politicians tell voters, when you see tax increases, “think pensions.”"


9 people like this
Posted by Honesty
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2015 at 11:09 am

When I hear "and student wellness", I wish I could be confident student wellness would benefit.

I will not support any money that could go to letting our current head of student services and the assistance superintendent in charge of civil rights compliance further entrench and inflict their [deleted what I am really thinking because the honest truth in this situation needs to come from investigative reporting] on our kids a day longer than necessary.

I want to see the district review performance in a way that involves the public who should have been served by said employees. I'll bet if we looked we can find more than $2 million in salary savings that will not only make this increase unnecessary, but will also make our district run better and families/voters happier to support actually needed increases in the future.

I used to never vote no for these things. I used to shill for the increases. No more.


6 people like this
Posted by Andy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 14, 2015 at 11:15 am

OF COURSE I support the increase!!! Talk about a peanuts impact on my finances -- and one which will materially help our children. If the increase is as talked about in the opening of the article, i.e. $49/year, that's one cup of Starbucks a month. Sounds pretty affordable to me. And even if it's a $120 increase, i.e., 10 bucks a month -- OF COURSE I want to make more funding available for our kids and our schools. Even though our kids are all grown up and living their independent lives at this point.

OF COURSE I support the parcel tax and the increase in the parcel tax. It's the best tax I pay!


7 people like this
Posted by Lee
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2015 at 11:26 am

This article is somewhat misleading, unclear and lacking in details. The parcel tax was passed in the amount of $589.00 but included a 2% annual increase which means the current rate is $638.00.

When it states there would be an increase of $120.00 what does that mean; $120.00 over the $589.00, over $638.00, or over what the amount will be when it expires? What is the actual dollar amount of the parcel tax that will be noted in the ballot? And will it again include a 2% annual increase? And will it be evergreen or what will the term be? Too many missing details.

Polling 407 out of approximately 57,000 eligible voters is hardly a representative sample particularly when you need 2/3 to pass the tax. Polling is an art form intended to support the intended goal. Let's see the polling information.

Not opposed to the parcel tax, in fact I think one is necessary. But not in favor of passing this sort of an increase without some due diligence that includes clear and convincing data to support the need for an increase.

Let's begin with transparency - polling information and clear language about what the parcel tax will cover; keeping in mind it must be "staff" not "stuff".

I believe there is a committee that reviews and reports on the expenditures of the existing parcel tax......... can this be made easily accessible?

Why the increase? Why not just extend the current tax?



11 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm

I will vote NO and I encourage you to do so. They do NOT deserve more parcel taxes, especially any with a built-in automatic increase. Our property taxes are outrageously high already.


5 people like this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2015 at 1:54 pm

A nonsense wish list. We don't need students' social-emotional health, that's not part of school and should be done by PARENTS.
[Portion removed.]
Not a dime should be spent support for Buena Vista Mobile Home Park students who might be displaced, they will be gone and other school systems will teach them as well as the Palo Alto school system. What arrogance to think that PA is the only place to teach students well.
And family counseling programs are not part of the school system.
The Palo Alto School Board is like every other school board. The economy is good so give us more money and more money- just an endless refrain.
I and I hope most of the residents of Palo Alto will vote against this. Let parents start to pay per-child fees if they want these activities.


2 people like this
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 14, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Here's the simple equation that will ensure that the parcel tax passes: $750/year maintains the edge that PAUSD schools have over other local schools. That edge translates into perhaps $300-$500k in additional home value. Paying $750/year to maintain half a million dollars in home value seems like a no-brainer, which is why the parcel tax will easily get 70% of the vote -- the Mr. Wilsons on this forum notwithstanding.


7 people like this
Posted by Honesty
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Dennis,
And you think if the parcel tax doesn't pass, that somehow we will no longer have that edge? Personally, I see a lot of ways that actually caring about being excellent and doing the right thing would do far more for our kids than using taxes as a proxy for it.


8 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2015 at 3:51 pm

> That edge translates into perhaps $300-$500k in additional home value.

Prove it!

There is no evidence that people are moving to Palo Alto in order to pay higher, and unnecessary, school taxes.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 14, 2015 at 4:35 pm

When the parcel tax was initially created and passed, I heard teachers brag about how flush PA Unified System was with money. From others in the district in news articles, it sounded like there was so much money that the district did not really know how to spend it all. From a homeowner perspective, I did not hear gratefulness, but arrogance and greed. The subsequent 2% increase per year was claimed to be justified, as usual, by indicating that good schools benefited property values. I do not have children and am not a wealthy techie. I do have peers with children who have inherited their parent's property or have been put onto the deed, and pay less property taxes than I do. Therefore, I will not be voting for the increase. I would like to see how wisely PA Unified spent money from the existing parcel tax, and to have them reiterate why their 2010 budgeting was so far off to justify another increase.


6 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 14, 2015 at 4:51 pm


Dear Fellow P.A. Onliners,

"Save the 2,008"—an initiative for Gunn that was founded by sophomore Martha Cabot and myself—is very, very glad that Board vice-president Ms. Emberling is keepoing the community in mind of student well-being.

But we'd like to see any funds not go toward a "wellness center" at Gunn, but toward the whole school being made into a center of wellness.

To do so, "Save the 2,008" makes the following six proposals:

One: Shrink classes to a friendlier size. Healthier, more vibrant student-teacher connections will spring from individual kids receiving more attention, help, and recognition from their teachers.

Two: A confidential website, built by our own Gunn whiz kids—designed to moderate homework loads by opening up a dialogue between students and teachers about “minutes assigned” and “minutes worked.” This is a sensible, no-cost, data-rich way to ease our kids’ stress and send them to their teachers more rested and more prepared.

Three: When parents and students are steering into the fast lane of Advanced Placement, as part of registration for multiple AP’s they should have to pause at a “flashing yellow light,” to talk with a counselor about the likely losses in family time, social life, cultural or religious life, extra-curriculars, and sleep. Once this is understood—only then, the green light.

Four: Student cell-use at Gunn should be as it is in our middle schools: firmly, politely, quietly banned.

Five: Curb the flood of grade-reports streaming home online—because it is most demoralizing to Gunn’s most vulnerable kids, who—perhaps feeling discouraged by a death or a divorce in the family, or by a rejection in romance or friendship—are kept under a G.P.A. gun when they most need time to heal and rebound.

Six: Because Gunn’s kids are thrust nightly into moral quicksand—whether to give out homework answers or lose friends, cheat on tomorrow’s exam or accept a competitive disadvantage, plagiarize a website or have faith in oneself—they twist and turn in mutual distrust, a sense of being unprotected by their teachers, and diminishing self-esteem. So let’s at last get real about cheating and say, “Not in our school.”

Nothing about this plan has to be in just our school, of course. We love Paly too! We just didn’t want to prescribe to our Viking compatriots, who have their own culture and expertise.

Sincerely,
Marc Vincenti

www.savethe2008.com
savethe2008@gmail


1 person likes this
Posted by Invasion
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2015 at 6:12 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by Smartest last to know
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2015 at 7:07 pm

So easy to fool Palo Altans because they reference themselves as successful and intelligent. The PAUSD parcel tax is used like the tech tax. Principals and Site Councils spend freely for the sake of spending freely. The tech tax paid for SMART boards in every classroom, but those things are comically difficult for teachers to use and have wasted so much instructional time. Don't believe me? Then do your homework and search the released emails on the PAUSD site in which Ann Dunkin (she's on the Obama administration, I know that because she could not stop telling people that repeatedly) had to admit that most of the new Gunn ones had to be replaced. They were costing around $10,000 each after the sound system and add-ons were figured in. Getting back to the parcel tax, it is said that it pays for enrichment such as music, science, etc., but the district is so disjointed on how it uses it. There is no strategy in place at any school. It is free money. Doesn't make a difference for kids.


7 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 14, 2015 at 7:29 pm

The pension issue strikes a nerve with me. I don't have a pension from my employer. Yes, I am sure the PAUSD pension plan is underfunded, but why have this plan? PAUSD should do what most every employer has done: shift the burden to the employee through 401K.
I will vote for increased funding after this has been done. And the next time we see a sunset career person promoted to Principal for a couple of years, I hope the community cries FOUL very loud. The pension system appears to be a "who cares" in the financial planning!

Let's insist on hearing how the District is cutting the pension liability, without increasing my exorbitant and ridiculous property tax. Non-California school districts are often superior, with much less burden on home-owners...


3 people like this
Posted by Pockets
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 14, 2015 at 9:11 pm

Smartest

"Getting back to the parcel tax, it is said that it pays for enrichment such as music, science, etc., but the district is so disjointed on how it uses it. "

Enrichment is what we are told PIE pays for.


3 people like this
Posted by paloaltoparent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 15, 2015 at 12:13 am

paloaltoparent is a registered user.

I will support the parcel tax increase at the $96 or $120 per year level. I moved to Palo Alto for the schools, and given the investment in our home, I'm sticking with our public schools, I follow Board policies closely. I also compare my kids' education to that of my nieces and nephews in comparable and less well off communities in Union and Holmdel, NJ and Bethesda and Potomac, MD. Palo Alto's educational standard may exceed much of our area, but set beside several of these other school districts, PAUSD would seem at par. Current parcel tax pays for some 66 full time teachers district-wide, 46 of them at our elementary schools. The loss of these teachers would decimate the quality of instruction. State funding, rightly so, focuses on school districts that simply do not have means to fund themselves. The result is that once state funding dropped off in the 2009 time frame, it never recovered, and never will. And the state is requiring us to increase pension contributions to underfunded teacher pension funds. Meanwhile, our enrollment grew over 800 students, and will grow by another 700 students in the next 5 years. Yes, property tax has bounced back in the last few years, but again, it hasn't kept pace with enrollment growth. Our 2008 per pupil funding is just about what it is today adjusted for inflation. Even with our property tax increases.
Web Link

Bottom line, enrollment will definitely keep growing. We hope that property tax will continue to increase at this pace, but I wouldn't put money down on that prediction for the next 6 years. Would you? An increase in the parcel tax finally gives us guaranteed funding to finally begin to address some issues that we've only been able to tackle ad hoc. I for one, am thrilled to see survey support and concurrence by Dr. McGee for intensive support for struggling students starting in the earliest grades, bringing in subject area experts to make sure all students benefit from the wide range of course offerings and programs. Summer school needs to be more than bare bones. As he said, we need our curriculum to better integrate STEM, coding and technology in curriculum and pathways at the secondary school level. Considering where we are, our offerings are by no means comprehensive. Shockingly, we still do not offer Chinese in our middle schools for beginners or for our graduating Mandarin immersion elementary students. Dr. McGee's aim to tackle sleep deprivation, stress, physical and nutritional wellbeing, mental health assessments as proposed by Terry Godfrey on Tuesday, individualized independent study options, nurses at our elementary school are critical. Heidi Emberling was spot on stating the need for our students to be as balanced and developed socially as they are academically when they graduate from PAUSD.

I wish I could get all of this without paying more but as I weigh the costs and the benefits, this makes sense. Private school isn't an option for my family, my home is an investment to protect, and my kids deserve the educational bump $10/month could kickstart. I'll vote for the parcel tax increase.


Like this comment
Posted by Tax-slave
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 15, 2015 at 7:29 am

[Post removed.]


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 15, 2015 at 11:46 am

Seems every time I see this article or an article on this subject, it's a whole new article, with all new comments.

Is that because after one gets posted so many people respond that they do not want to continue paying this regressive school tax that was supposed to be temporary?

No ... no more parcel taxes! Let it go and manage your money just like everyone else PAUSD!


2 people like this
Posted by xPA
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2015 at 5:51 pm

I will be very surprised if this parcel tax does not pass. Self-interest is a powerful motivator. People who move to PA for the schools will vote for it. Seniors will vote for it because it won't cost them anything and it will protect the value of their homes for their children, who can profitably rent it out later. Renters will vote for it because it doesn't hit them directly.
It never fails to impress me just how low the per pupil school funding can be in city where a sub-$2 million home barely exists. Every school dollar come grudgingly. The Palo Alto schools perform amazingly well given their funding. I find the complaints about the lack of budgeting ability ridiculous, given that predicting student enrollment is difficult and maintaining a large buffer would involve major cuts. Many affluent school districts pass a budget each year, and then tax the residents so as to match the budget. I'm sorry that can't be done in California. So I will sit back and watch the grovelling for a few hundred dollars per student. I'm happy I'm out of here.



4 people like this
Posted by probably won't vote yes
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 15, 2015 at 7:02 pm


I'm not sure why anyone thinks it is a $10 per month increase. When I do the math ($638/12 months), I come up with $53 per month. Remember we voted to have the parcel tax for six years only. So when I was counting on the parcel tax ending, lo and behold they want to keep it going AND increase it. That means $53/month not just ten.

I also feel PAUSD has more money now than in previous years as well as all the new improvements they just finished. Just watch the school board proceedings where they are talking about just how to dupe us successfully.

Do you ever really think the School Board will ever say 'Well we have enough right now, we don't need anything more'. I think not.

AND to top it off we are classified as one of the best school districts in the nation.

I would like to keep some money to put something nice into my small falling apart two bedroom shack.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 15, 2015 at 7:03 pm

It's like the old "The Price is Right" show. We need to calculate the highest increase that 67% of the voters will okay. If we bid too high, we lose. If we bid too low, we've left money on the table. In 2010 the YES side got 79%, so we probably could have gone a fair amount higher than $589. Expect a lot more polling to determine the magic number this time.


Like this comment
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 15, 2015 at 9:02 pm

While I strongly support our schools, I think a parcel tax is the wrong way to go. A parcel tax is the most unfair way to raise mooney for anything.
After all the hew and cry from the Palo Alto city council about helping lower income residents and local employees by building housing for them, one would think there would be some consideration for homeowners who have lower incomes.
A parcel tax is the most unfair way to raise money. The new tax is the same for all homeowners--whether your home is one bedroom, 600 sq ft or a seven bedroom, eight bathroom 10,000 sq ft mansion.
This is an unfair tax. It should be based on the value of the property.


5 people like this
Posted by Mel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 15, 2015 at 9:46 pm

Of course the school board wants a new parcel tax, have they ever turned one down before? Polling a whopping 40 people? How many thousands $$ per poll did that 'study' cost? Another sad example of a school district throwing funds all around, except back into the classroom.

I suspect that PAUSD, like many other school districts, is ever so slooooowly coming to the realization that unless they make significant pension reform, in not too many years, the PAUSD budget will be what's left after making all the contributions to the various aspects of the PAUSD employee retirement system. Of course, no one wants to turn off the gravy train until they get their golden egg. The school board must assume leadership with that project because surely no one inside PAUSD wants anything to change. Unfortunately, the defined benefit retirement system is largely an artifact of another era, and is economically unsustainable. I have no interest supporting another tax to fund a overly generous PAUSD pension program.


5 people like this
Posted by PAUSD Elementary School Teacher Librarian
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 15, 2015 at 10:56 pm

Dear Resident,

An elementary school teacher-librarian in Palo Alto has myriad professional responsibilities. Our primary role is teacher, which is why we are required to hold a teaching credential in addition to a library services credential. As teachers have the great pleasure of working with all the children at the school, from Kindergarten through fifth grade. We are responsible for two main bodies of curriculum: Model School Library Standards and a district-developed curriculum that meets the requirements of the federal Broadband Data Improvement Act. This act mandates that school districts that receive federal e-rate funding for technology infrastructure, which PAUSD does, must educate children in issues of digital safety. In addition, we enrich the students’ skills in the standards laid out in the Common Core. We do this both directly through our regular contact with each classroom, and indirectly by supporting the teachers’ needs for current and relevant resources. We develop lesson plans, assess the students in various, non-standardized ways, and are evaluated by our principals, just as classroom teachers are.

Of course, we run our libraries, too. These are facilities that house anywhere from twelve to twenty-two thousand print volumes; collections that must constantly be circulated, shelved, repaired, updated, refreshed, aligned with Common Core goals and, most importantly, made relevant for the reading and interest levels of the students we serve. Finally, we fulfill all the other responsibilities of faculty and staff on elementary school campuses: promote healthy social, emotional, and academic behaviors; serve on site councils, school leadership committees, advise student councils, work as tech leads, host authors, and run clubs, among other duties.

Your point about volunteers and computers taking up some of our load is well taken. The nature of the work in many ways does require a professionally trained teacher and librarian to work with the students and run the small business that a library truly is. However, we do rely on volunteers and computers. We are fortunate to have an excellent automated library system that streamlines our job of circulating, cataloging and inventorying our collections. We are equally fortunate to have an expert cataloger who serves our district tirelessly. Elementary school libraries are supported, depending on the school’s size, by anywhere from 25 - 50 or more caring and hugely helpful adult volunteers. We value the parent volunteers immensely. Additionally, in most or all the schools, we are fortunate to have eager and highly competent student volunteers help out at recess and lunch. Even at that we could all use many more volunteers.

I appreciate your concern for your tax dollars and thank you for your interest in what we do at elementary school. Please let me know if you are interested in helping at my school and we can be in touch.

Kind regards,

Busy-but-happy teacher librarian


Like this comment
Posted by Read the article
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2015 at 10:56 am

"Polling a whopping 40 people?"

For what it's worth, it was 402 (according to the article), not 40.


1 person likes this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2015 at 1:24 pm

I already posted a strong "No" vote on this tax, for the reasons that it is outrageously high and my property taxes are unaffordable. The concern is not that elementary school librarians are to blame or overpaid - that is switching the focus from the general padded budget of the district. The problems are on a scale far removed from the pay of librarians!


3 people like this
Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jan 16, 2015 at 7:31 pm

I wonder how much the District is paying as a result of overbearing parents demanding more for their individual students than they really deserve. At some point the District needs to fight back instead of just giving in to unreasonable demands. I want to see the District counter sue when bogus parent claims waste District resources.


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2015 at 7:46 pm

>> I want to see the District counter sue when bogus parent claims waste District resources.

Then we can all see our taxes raised to pay for lawyers - not even education. Argh!

This is a rip off. Taxes are high and they don't want to offend the very rich who can afford
it, so they push this regressive parcel tax on us that affects the middle class our of proportion.

If they must do this it should be in proportion to what people pay already in their taxes,
and even that is too much, but at least they would be pissing off the people who could
do something about it and not the regular folk who have no say anyway.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 16, 2015 at 9:11 pm

>> regular folk who have no say anyway.

Last I heard, everyone over 18 gets exactly one vote regardless of wealth.


Like this comment
Posted by confused
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 16, 2015 at 9:55 pm

Why are parcel taxes such as the one being proposed not proportional to the value of the property? Although I believe in supporting our schools, such a tax does seem regressive.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 16, 2015 at 11:30 pm

I would guess the theory is that everyone receives equal benefits from the school district...and that a percentage of appraised value would: 1) probably fail at the ballot box and; 2) the PIE donors would not be happy and would express their unhappiness via the closed checkbook.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2015 at 7:10 am

Such proportionality is called "ad velorem". A quote from the California constitution:

"Cities, Counties and special districts, by a two-thirds vote of the qualified electors of such district, may impose special taxes on such district, except ad valorem taxes on real property or a transaction tax or sales tax on the sale of real property within such City, County or special district."


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2015 at 7:15 am

Ack. Spelling "ad valorem". (I should have taken Latin at Wilbur Junior High.)


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2015 at 7:59 am

I am against this parcel tax.

However, if it were to be a tax based on the value of each home (which I am still against) how would that value be based? On the number of bedrooms? On the value when it last changed ownership? That gives Prop 13 homes another additional benefit. As it is, the large home next door to mine is already paying a lot less in Property Tax than I pay since they have lived there a lot longer than me.

Nobody likes taxation. And nobody really knows how to tax equitably anyway.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2015 at 8:19 am

All homes are Prop 13 homes. I don't think anybody can opt out.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2015 at 9:34 am

Musical you are right of course, but you get my drift. I just phrased it poorly.


2 people like this
Posted by Surly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 17, 2015 at 11:39 am

Anyone over 65 can opt out of the parcel tax.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 17, 2015 at 3:01 pm

musical - the quote you provided said 'except ad valorem taxes on real property'. What does 'except' mean?


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2015 at 3:34 pm

Resident, sorry, so many people do believe only older properties are covered, that I feel compelled to correct any misstatements.

Also, I think I just discovered something bizarre -- parcel taxes are not deductible???
Yikes. Learn something new every day... They get you coming and going.
Any tax experts out there?


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm

I did some quick research about the deductibility of parcel taxes, and found that there was some confusion about this in the 2011-2012 time period, but that both the IRS and FTB have since agreed that they ARE deductible.
I agree the "ad valorem" phrase in the regulations seems to exclude them, but both agencies apparently found a way around it.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Resident -- caught me in the middle of research -- I interpret the verbiage to say that taxes of a set dollar amount can be charged, but not taxes as a percent of property value (ad valorem). However, there is plenty of fine print about property taxes for repayment of bonds versus taxes for salaries or unrestricted needs. I'm in over my head, but apparently taxpayers will revolt when government regards everybody to be rich enough to afford more taxes than two-thirds are willing to pay.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 17, 2015 at 4:08 pm

@Brian, thanks, I see now the conflicting information and dates attached. Looked like FTB overreach, and the IRS trumped them. So if most $638-parcel-tax payers are in the 28% Fed, 9.3% state brackets, something like $221 actually comes out of government pockets. If only we could figure a way to further leverage that aspect.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 18, 2015 at 12:56 am

Musical - or does the quote say that cities and counties and special districts are simply not authorized to pass ad valorem taxes?

Also, fyi, you seemed to be confused by this - but these school district parcel taxes are indeed written so that seniors starting at age 65 can opt out. These are not the county/state normal real estate taxes, these are special district assessments.

What's confusing to me is that wording that makes it sound like they don't have the authority to pass these special assessments 'ad valorem' or based on a % of property value, but I believe that's how the current exiting PAUSD special assessment is structured (as a % of property value) So... what the heck.

By the way, for those who opposed - be very aware that the district is very practiced at putting these taxes on the off cycle elections, with the lowest possible voter turnout. Therefore ensuring that their PTA/PIE minion turnout has the maximum possible effect at the ballot. IF folks are damn tired of the major rip off by the PAUSD, better figure out a way to turn out the vote by the opposition.

I am SO sick of watching PAUSD lavish every single campus with luxury remodels, lapping up our dollars in special assessment, and turning around now and claiming they have a problem, they need more. No More. So tired of their irresponsible insatiable spending of other people's paychecks.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 18, 2015 at 1:08 am

Correction to my prior post, it does appear that the current existing PAUSD special district parcel tax is a fixed amount per parcel with 2% increase per year. Its not based on % of value - so that must be what is not legal, setting it as a % of value.

By the way, with all the building in Palo Alto, how much has the district seen in annual tax increases related to all the new residential in the past X number of years (1 year, 2 years 5 years, 10 years..) Its very curious that they site growing enrollment, but curiously the strong property values, the strong real estate markets, and the huge swell in building in Palo Alto over the recent past - mysterious - non of that helps, and they need more money. And yet, off they go happily planning the remodel grand entrance at Gunn - surely a desperate necessity. They need need need to spend every dime of my money on this, then come back to the well for the same amount for their ACTUAL necessities next? I'm sorry, but no. Just no. Just so tired of their hubris.


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Posted by Honesty
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2015 at 9:17 am

>> I want to see the District counter sue when bogus parent claims waste District resources.

I want to see the district fire people when parents can't get legitimate claims dealt with far short of having to escalate them, such as when the district isn't following its own procedures and illegally telling parents it doesnt have them, and hurting vulnerable kids because of it (as in both OCR settlement agreements). It is stressful and wastes parents time to have to keep trying to make the schools do the right thing when they use resources protecting a few poorly performing and badly behaving administrators who know mostly how to suck up to their superior and intimidate parents they have power to hurt.

Parents, why do you put up with paying lavish salaries for d-players who blame you for everything even when you are willing to go to bat for the kids in the face of their incompetence? McGee is a great administrator, but he's already drinking the koolaid and we will not get the benefit if he doesnt get a better team.


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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2015 at 4:58 pm

What percentage of homes in Palo Alto are owned by folks over 65 years old? It is real easy to vote for a tax to increase your home's value if you don't have to actually pay for it. Herein lies the problem, heaping more tax on the poor middle age owners that are trying to pay for schools, college, aging parents and taxes that cost a fortune since they bought their house after it got kind of expensive as opposed to outrageous.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 18, 2015 at 5:19 pm

I do not know anyone who voted for the tax and then opted out.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2015 at 6:24 pm

What is interesting with people delaying having children until their 40s, IVF, adoption, blended families, older men marrying younger women, etc., is that people over 65 still often have kids in high school.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 18, 2015 at 6:36 pm

I think you'll find that most over 65 homeowners pay the school taxes.


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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 19, 2015 at 11:21 am

Interestingly it is an opt out as opposed to an opt in and they do not exactly advertise how to opt out. Hint, one goes down to the school administration building and fills out a form and bring a copy of your tax bill.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jan 19, 2015 at 11:30 am

Actually quite a few seniors have opted out in the past.

Web Link

and you can apply for the exemption by mail .. no need to go into the office.

Web Link


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Posted by Surly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 19, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Friends who work for county government are the ones who first told me about the exemption because they're the ones taking it!

I would never have thought of taking it until I got totally disgusted with Palo Alto's spending spree, inefficiency, cost-over-runs, legal battles and inability to synchronize one lousy traffic light which has cost me way more in unnecessary gas bills because I'm forced to go miles out of my way for each shopping trip.

Yes, I know the PAUSD is not the same as city government.

I also doubt our property values will continue to soar due to the increasing gridlock, over-building under-parked buildings and the city's inaction on matters of concern to the residents.


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Posted by xPA
a resident of another community
on Jan 19, 2015 at 5:52 pm


Looks like about 50% opt out of the parcel tax.

Web Link

I don't begrudge anyone who opts out and can't afford the tax.
I'm also sure there are few +65's who bought their home less than 15 years ago.

What I find troublesome are the owner's of rental properties that rent to families with kids at market rate, but pay very low property taxes into the school system. This is free-riding at its worst.

FYI the property paid on a parcel are a matter of public record, see www.scctax.org




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Posted by I wonder
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 21, 2015 at 5:28 pm

I wonder....Historically the pro parcel tax people have counted on high yes votes from Stanford homeowners - partly because faculty generally support education and partly because in previous years the number of older residents who remember PAUSD circa 25 years ago get all warm and fuzzy and vote yes. There's been a lot of turnover in housing to younger faculty over the past few years. I wonder if that, coupled with the increase in Stanford families opting for private schools, will create more "no" votes on campus than in the past.

...should be interesting.





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Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 21, 2015 at 6:23 pm

I was one of the 402 voter polled for this. What I have to say is that I answered the phone early in the evening on a weekend, and simply answered all the questions. Easy enough to do. Just pick up the phone when a pollster calls, and answer the questions.


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Posted by no thanks
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 22, 2015 at 8:59 pm

PAUSD does not need the money. They have tons. There is so much wasteful spending in PAUSD. I'm voting no.


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Posted by Question???
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 23, 2015 at 9:03 pm



So if this doesn't pass, will our property taxes drop off by $648? The school district better pick an amount they are sure will pass so as not to lose the current amount. Or am I reading this wrong?


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 24, 2015 at 2:43 am

@Question -- I think no, because the last measure in 2010 was for 6 years. A 2015 parcel tax of $650 is baked-in ($638 plus 2%). So there is plenty of time to try again with additional campaign effort or a tax amount adjusted to guarantee a pass. Looks like we can vote to change taxes whenever we want, not needing to wait for the existing tax to expire.


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