News


Palo Alto school board approves increased parcel tax

In 5-0 vote, board gives green light to $120 increase in tax

The Palo Alto school board unanimously passed just after midnight on Wednesday a $758, six-year parcel tax that will come before voters on a mail-in ballot this May.

The renewed tax -- which comes with a $120 hike from the current rate of $638, includes annual 2 percent increases and allows for senior exemptions -- will generate an estimated $14.7 million in revenue to pay for district investments in student health and wellness efforts, academic supports for struggling students and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) instruction.

The parcel tax will support family and student counseling services, physical wellness efforts, expanded nursing services at Palo Alto elementary schools, an expansion of summer school, early literacy support, "expert" tutoring, after-school and weekend programming, class size reduction in STEAM electives, support for differentiated instruction at the elementary and middle school level, advanced research in a range of disciplines and computer science curriculum beginning in middle school.

Before the board's 5-0 vote, Superintendent Max McGee described the $120 increase as imperative in light of a $10 million reduction in general operating funds, loss in lease revenue (particularly a $1.86 million annual boost from the Cubberley Community Center lease) and reserve levels that have already been tapped into and must be maintained.

"We cannot innovate and grow in the areas that our community, students, parents and teachers are seeking without making an additional investment," echoed Nana Chancellor, co-chair of the Support Palo Alto Schools 2015 parcel tax campaign.

The increase, she said, "will actually go to new and existing programs, rather than to help fill a financial hole in order to stay at status quo as prior campaigns (did). Basically, with an increase, we get to add a few new much-needed pieces to the puzzle while leaving all the current pieces still in place -- new pieces that I'm hearing our students, faculty and parents are united in asking for and that our superintendent and school board members are wanting to provide. This is not the time to cut resources. It's the time to unite and pitch in a little bit extra."

Before the parcel-tax came before the board, more than 30 Palo Alto high school students, parents and community members spoke in public comment about their desire for immediate, effective change when it comes to student wellness. Suggestions for new efforts were abound, with ideas for peer-to-peer mentor programs, more frequent check-ins with Adolescent Counseling Services representatives, mindfulness seminars and "happiness" classes, among others.

"The number of people that showed up earlier in the evening here and the ideas and enthusiasm around this is really important for us to pay attention to," said board President Melissa Baten Caswell. "If we were to just keep the parcel tax the way it was, or the way it is, we would not be able to invest in any of these new ideas. For me, this is about being able to invest in the programs that our community would like us to invest in."

Voters last approved an increased tax in 2010 under Measure A, which started in July 2010 with a rate of $589 per parcel and also included 2 percent annual increases.

If approved, the new parcel tax will go into effect immediately and replace the current tax, which is set to expire in June 2016. A special mail-in election will be called for May 5.

Palo Alto Council of PTAs President Susan Usman told the board Tuesday that her organization has voted to support the parcel-tax campaign both financially and with volunteers.

Comments

23 people like this
Posted by being the grown up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 2:23 am

I love our schools. I almost never met a tax for a good cause I said no to. But I may say no to this. Until the district gets rid of certain horrible people, I just can't bring myself to vote for more salary money. It's not like they won't ask again, they always do. The only way to send a message is to say no.


27 people like this
Posted by NO
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 6:36 am

I actually don't mind paying various taxes but this parcel tax has facilitated so much mismanagement during the Kevin Skelly years and this school year as well that there is no way I will blindly vote yes. My little vote shouldn't make a difference so I won't need the usual fearmongering responses about hurting children, my home's value, or not keeping up with a school district in another affluent part of the country. There is a years' long emergency at Gunn that is being treated as a minor annoyance. PAUSD doesn't need the increase, and if the voters decide to not renew in 2016, I'd be happy to list the cuts necessary. It's not that difficult.


36 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2015 at 7:08 am

There has to be some end to the constant demands for more money with no responsibility - even if it is for the schools, just say no.


14 people like this
Posted by Standing Together
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:32 am

The Parcel Tax provides vital funding. I am voting "yes" and standing with our students and families to provide much needed additional support in student counseling and wellness.


15 people like this
Posted by Ashamed long-term Palo Alto resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:33 am

Wow, what an emotional and heart-felt school board meeting last night. There is such an incredible need in our community right now. Thank you to Dr. McGee for clarifying questions raised about the district's budget and need for the parcel tax to stay in place. 66 full time teachers!! It is very hard for me to understand how anyone would rather remove 66 teachers from our schools, than pay an extra 10 dollars a month to help students who are struggling in one way or another. I don't see how anyone truly listening last night to all the cries for help from our parents, teachers, and most importantly students could possibly support slashing any current man-power and resources. Please keep in mind everyone, that on May 5 you will not be voting on an increase or no increase. You will be voting on either pitching in $10 extra a month to invest in especially the social-emotional needs of our students or cutting more than 12M from the schools' budget, which would result in devastating cuts in teachers (and our property values!).


12 people like this
Posted by PA rocks
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:34 am

Thank you school board!!!! As a resident of PA I truly believe this is a crucial step in supporting our youth!! Please support this great cause.


9 people like this
Posted by In This Together
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:41 am

Totally believe in this tax, especially given its focus for the extra funds on struggling students. Great education does not come free. We are all in this together--and we all benefit from the schools (especially property owners!).


9 people like this
Posted by Crescent park supporter
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:43 am

I am thrilled. The list of ideas for the new money were EXACTLY what I was hoping to see! I believe that adding money for steam and struggling learners will help with some of the real problems we have in Palo Alto.

My elementary school has 4.5 teachers funded through the current parcel tax. Out of over 600 students, we have less than 10 students total below grade reading level ( these kids are identified and getting help to become proficient). Due to small class sizes, the teachers and administration have been able to identify struggling and get the great majority of them on track.

I absolutely believe that being able to read at grade level when entering middle school helps with academic and social stress. Please vote for the parcel tax to keep class sizes small and add new programs to benefit all of our kids.


37 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:44 am

This is beginning to sound like emotional blackmail.

On the backs of another suicide people are using the "wellness" and 66 teachers as an issue on getting the parcel tax extended and increased.

First of all, this was supposed to be a temporary parcel tax. It was agreed as a temporary measure.

We have homes in Palo Alto changing hands all the time for increased amounts of money so that increases property taxes on these homes. We have huge numbers of new developments and that increases the amount of property tax revenue also. The amount of money going into the pool for PAUSD is increasing every year. This is not going to stop anytime soon.

We have PAUSD paying for questionable items every year. From joy trips to Illinois (how much did that cost?) to more and more administrators with fancy titles and job descriptions, to surveys and studies. And of course we must not forget lawyers fees.

Until such time as PAUSD starts being financially responsible in spending our money (yes our money), I don't see any point in throwing more money at them.


11 people like this
Posted by I support this
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:45 am

I fully support this and also feel that in such an innovative community we need to continue to invest money into our schools to create an innovative learning environment.

Our new superintendent is bringing a fresh perspective to our schools and invigorating the kids, their parents, the teachers, the administration, the board and our community.

Let's not look back -- we've got new leadership both on the PAUSD board and within our administration. Things will never be perfect and not everyone is always going to get what they want and there will always be a few sour apples but for the overall good of our students, this parcel tax needs to pass.


11 people like this
Posted by YES! YES! YES!
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:46 am

Of course I will invest an extra $10 a month in our schools, our children & youth, and our property values! Having grandchildren in our schools and owning a home here it is a very easy decision. Fingers crossed.


33 people like this
Posted by twice taxed
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:56 am

"Superintendent Max McGee described the .. increase as imperative in light of a ... loss in lease revenue (particularly a $1.86 million annual boost from the Cubberley Community Center lease)"

So, McGee, who negotiated this loss, believes it's now imperative to increase the parcel tax to cover the loss he negotiated. A loss of funds, by the way, that came from a utilities tax that was passed explicitly to help the schools.

So we're now being asked to tax ourselves again because he gave up a tax we'd previously approved for use by the district.

What is this guy smoking?


7 people like this
Posted by Mother of 4
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 28, 2015 at 9:11 am

Thank you School Board for taking such a courageous step forward! We need to maintain control of our children's schools. The need for Parcel Taxes came forth from the HUGE deficit Proposition 13 created. Communities had to find a way to maintain what financial control they could given the States lack of funds. As a community the Parcel Tax enables us to retain some control over school funding! We cannot count on the state to support the level of education and overall experience we want for our youth. We are united community that is willing to do what is needed for our future!
Thank you Parcel Tax Committee for taking on this huge responsibility!


9 people like this
Posted by Pro parcel tax!
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2015 at 9:17 am

Yes to small class sizes!
Yes to helping struggling students!
Yes to Steam!
Yes to my insanely high property value!
Yes on the parcel tax!


5 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:03 am

@ twice: McGee didn't negotiate anything on Cubberly. The city essentially refused to keep paying a fee that was no longer called for. The contract was up, simple as that. And, frankly, the city was correct in their position - there was no need to keep paying a fee (aka incentive) to keep PAUSD from closing additional schools. If anything, the good news is that fee is now redirected towards site repair/replacement.


8 people like this
Posted by Be Reasonable
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2015 at 11:06 am

The initial property tax may have been proposed as temporary but 15 years later the State and Federal Funding of our schools has precipitously dropped off. If with rosy projections, the District is not awash in money. It has real expense challenges coming our way and to be foolish now threatens the health and wellbeing of our students. $14MM less in our budget means more kids on each campus, less supervision, more risk. Be reasonable Palo Alto. Renewing the property tax is clearly the best path forward for consistent funding for our District.


26 people like this
Posted by parent2
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 28, 2015 at 12:44 pm



What happens if it doesn't pass? Does our property taxes drop by $638? So if it doesn't pass we save $638 and if it does pass then we pay the $638 plus $120 more? That seems more than $10 per month. Sounds like $63 per month.

My problem with this parcel tax is it is never ending.

Does any know how much property tax revenue the city receives? How much has more property tax money is there due to people selling their homes? How much because of the new development?

If we 'desperately' need more money for our children in years where we are thriving, will there ever be a time that we don't 'desperately' need more money. We can ALWAYS say it is for the support and wellness of our children.

I just don't know if this makes sense.


9 people like this
Posted by JLS mom of two
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jan 28, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Anyone who watched the school board meeting last night realizes that the students have spoken – they need us to support them. They need effective counseling, and engaging classes, and opportunities to create and realize their dreams. That costs money, folks, and without adequate funding from the state, we need to pay for it ourselves. (Palo Alto gets almost nothing from Sacramento, and just gets more and more costs passed on from the state each year.) I am proud and happy to support our excellent schools and the students they serve. It’s an investment in our children, our community, and it sure helps our property values. VOTE YES on the parcel tax!


15 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2015 at 1:30 pm

This is a horrible regressive tax. It is the way the one percent folks sticks it to the rest of us. Why does Mr Zuckerberg pay the same as some one bedroom condo owner? He has much more to gain as compared to the condo owner in increased property value. Why are the 65 plus folks let off the hock? On average I would guess the plus 65 folks have more wealth. It is a no brainer for folks over 65 to vote for this. Let your neighbors pay for increasing your property values. This is cleverly designed to gain support from folks who are unlikely to have kids in the local schools. It is kind of like buying votes. So I am over 65, should I vote for this turkey?


6 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 28, 2015 at 1:35 pm

A "No" vote this May does not mean zeroing the parcel tax. It means we pay the escalated rate we actually voted for in 2010. And it would mean we take another parcel-tax vote in May 2016 with updated knowledge of the PAUSD financial outlook, and perhaps an increase different than $120 or an annual escalator different than 2%. Am I not clearly informed on this?

However, I did hear very convincing arguments for passing this extension a year early. Primarily that it would eliminate the stress of a last-minute campaign and reduce the uncertainty which 66 teachers might face next year about continued employment. Sounds like provisional pink-slips would go out in March 2016 if the crucial vote is put off until May 2016, because there is some lead-time required if firm funding is not in place. Also the extra $120 a year early is an extra $2.7M which we're told would be used to fund new much-needed initiatives above the baseline of the 2010 parcel tax rate.

I'm looking forward to an informative campaign.


31 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Gee, the school board wants (endlessly) more tax money? What a surprise.
Vote NO on this mail-in ballot.


44 people like this
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 28, 2015 at 2:51 pm

Good year, bad year, the school district always cries misery.
I've been here for over twenty years, have watched this for over twenty years. It does not matter what the actual situation is, even when the coffers are flush with record property taxes it is never enough. So, we vote to tax ourselves some more, only to find out a few months later that the actual financial situation of the school district was in fact much better than what was depicted during the election campaign. It's happened over and over again.

PAUSD is not going to fool me one more time. It is NO, NO, NO.

I hope others will not be fooled either.

Enough!


13 people like this
Posted by Also a resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 28, 2015 at 3:31 pm

Send this mail-in election to home owner less than 65-year old residents ONLY. Exclude those who are NOT actually responsible to pay a penny. We, the real voters, can decide on our own, don't need unrelated people to decide what we should do. I don't believe PAUSD is that out of money. I remember that not long ago, they increased salary for everyone including administrators because there was extra money due to high than expected property tax. So, after they get raise, now they cry for poor??? I bet in a year or so, they would say we have extra money, so add more salary to everyone, then they will cry for another parcel tax increase. I have been in PA for a long time, this is a endless cycle to me. Also, why a special election in May? How much does this cost? Why not just wait until general election?? Is this a game again?? Usually, not many people vote in May but much more senior citizens vote in May statistically.


9 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 28, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Up until now, I never met a school tax, bond, or raffle that I didn't automatically support. I just believe in public education as fundamental to equalization and opportunity which benefits individual and society alike. Heck, you can call me a socialist, but I'd love to see free community college.

Of course, nothing is really free, someone has to pay and that someone is us. By now, it is clear that PAUSD is going to request supplementary funding from the community on an on-going basis. There will always be more that the schools can do for the students.

It's way too soon for me to decide how to vote. I haven't researched the issues yet. But one thing I can say is that I am no longer comfortable with the flat parcel tax (+ senior exemptions) as a way to finance the system. It is simply unfair.

We have a tradition in this country of placing a greater burden on those who can most painlessly afford to pay. Assuming that the additional costs are justified, a tax based on income or property value would be far more palatable to me.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 4:54 pm

For those calling foul on the way a parcel tax is unfair, I ask how you would like to come up with a "fair" system?

My elderly neighbor lives alone in a larger home than mine and she has been there for several decades, she raised her children there. Her husband at one time worked for PAUSD. She is over 65 and can probably ask for an exemption. Her home at the time of purchase was probably in the $50k range and would now sell for a couple of million. Her property tax is probably peanuts. How would you value her home for tax purposes other than what it last changed hands for?

Another neighbor has a small home purchased a few years ago. Their property tax is probably already very high. They have done very little work on their home and both drive modest cars. They already pay a lot more in property taxes than our elderly neighbor and also more than us. We have lived in our home over 10 years and have improved it but it is still probably worth less than our elderly neighbor although we pay more property tax than she does.

So how would you find a fair system of allotting a tax to these three homes when the biggest which would fetch the most money is paying least in property tax and the smallest is paying the most?

As for income, since when do we have to declare our incomes to assess property taxes?

I don't approve of the school district asking for extending and increasing the parcel tax. But at least these 3 homes would be paying the same.


7 people like this
Posted by For Our Kid's Futures
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 28, 2015 at 7:04 pm

I am voting YES! I want to continue to Palo Alto's tradition of excellent schools, I want to keep our class sizes from rising, and I would also like to see additional supports for struggling students. I want PAUSD to invest in programs to help support students who struggle academically AND those who need social emotional help. I also want to make sure that PAUSD provides academic programs and electives that engage and positively challenge our students.

This will help our students...and uphold the value of our community.

Sadly, this district will not be getting meaningful additional revenue from the State in the foreseeable future, so if we want PAUSD to invest in additional programs, we need to step up and provide additional local revenue. I am proud that our community cares enough to provide local revenue to our schools that cannot be taken away by the State. $10 more a month seems like a bargain.


12 people like this
Posted by Ben
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 28, 2015 at 8:46 pm

Of course the school board voted for a higher parcel tax, I can't imagine any other income. Now that they have spent some time playing the 'we're so poor' card, just wait, if this passes, then next message from PAUSD will be that with real estate taxes coming in a record rates, we simply must also agree to significant raises for everyone! The cycle continues.


9 people like this
Posted by Megan Fogarty
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 28, 2015 at 9:22 pm

I have served on The PAUSD parcel tax oversight committee for three years and have been impressed with the audit and detailed response to our questions. The parcel tax has been well managed and I can say is an excellent source of locally controlled funding. I will continue to support the parcel tax even as my kids will soon be done with PAUSD. My kids and all kids have benefitted from class size, reading support, libraries, and more.


3 people like this
Posted by Dad of 2
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 28, 2015 at 10:04 pm


So what is our current PAUSD reserve? I heard Dr. McGee mention in Tuesday night's board meeting that by law we need to have a 10% reserve and that we are over this amount. But the presentation didn't mention what our current reserve is. Does anybody know? Without this knowledge I won't have enough information to make an informed decision. And by saying we are over 10% but not explicitly stating what the reserve amount is, is worrisome to me.


8 people like this
Posted by Budget maven
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 28, 2015 at 10:17 pm

The district reserves are now about 14%.


18 people like this
Posted by OPM
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 29, 2015 at 10:50 am

How easy it is to spend other people's money. Enough already.


1 person likes this
Posted by paloaltoparent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

paloaltoparent is a registered user.

From last Tuesday's Board meeting, the district is in contract negotiations with faculty and staff, and they will use the reserves to pay these singular, non-operating expenses (i.e. pay raises). This is reasonable, and ensures a stable operating budget for running our classrooms. In 2012-13, the compensation package amounted to around $5M, which will greatly reduce the excess reserves. It has been hovering around 14% of budget for the last few years. Pay raises will be more this time around with more students and more teachers/staff. One other thing to note is that because of our reserves, we have avoided (unlike many other school districts) pink-slipping teachers in the Spring en masse as we await the uncertain direction from Sacramento about our state funded budget for the upcoming school year, then rehiring what we can based on that allocation.


Parcel tax is operating budget funding of $12M+ every year. It has taken many years to build up the reserves (this too was discussed on Tuesday), and the excess will be cut down to size very quickly. Current parcel tax is largely used to keep class sizes lower than neighboring districts. I've volunteered in the classroom for years, and have wondered how teachers would manage with larger classes or less volunteers to help. I support Superintendent McGee's and the Board's plan for this $10 increase above current parcel tax levels. It is time to invest in a more comprehensive way in our struggling students and create programs that individualize the learning of our children better than we have been able to do so far.


18 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 29, 2015 at 11:32 am

These taxes have been imposed without accountability. I don't want general statements about how it helps our schools; I want specific accounts of how our dollars are being spent and how they have SPECIFICALLY made a difference. Without that accountability my vote is a resounding NO.


23 people like this
Posted by crescent park
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 29, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Voting NO, NO, NO, NO. Oversight is a joke, pet whims are the project du jour, and more money is NOT going to cure teenage depression and its tragic outcomes.

Property taxes are not the school board's ATM!


19 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 29, 2015 at 12:24 pm

So the tax will be collected over a six year period of time. Let's demand that there be no administrative or teacher raises for the same period of time. The schools will then have a lot more to work with. Yeah, right.......another money grab attempt by school board with no accountability.


23 people like this
Posted by Old but wise
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 29, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Am I the only one out there that wonders why the students mental and physical health has become the responsibility of the school district????. From my view this is a parent deal, I am so tired of hearing about the pressures kids are under... so lets ease up on the education a bit and put it in reach of average children instead of only the geniuses, ask parents to step up to the plate and spend more time observing their kids and getting them the help they need. I had the usual ups and downs with my children , and as a widow, no one to share the work it took to get them the help they needed. But I WAS their mom, and they are healthy, and working and wonderful now. I do think its time for parents to realize how vital they are and how responsible, money is NOT a factor. Rich in dollars does not = happy, you cannot just pass on the responsibility of child raising because you are too busy working!.


25 people like this
Posted by jerrry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 29, 2015 at 12:43 pm

No more taxes. Just another way to waste money on new programs which don't help the education of the students.


18 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jan 29, 2015 at 2:07 pm

The higher the parcel tax is raised, the more seniors will exempt out.
At some point, it becomes self-defeating, particularly as the number of seniors in Palo Alto grows. The baby boom generation just started turning 65 a few years ago.


8 people like this
Posted by Dad of 2
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 29, 2015 at 3:11 pm

I hate being duped by the numbers. So let's see if I have this correct.

2014 $638
2015 $758 $120 increase 18.8% increase over 2014 $63.16/month
2016 $773 $135 increase 21.2% increase over 2014 $64.42/month
2017 $788 $150 increase 23.5% increase over 2014 $65.66/month
2018 $804 $166 increase 26.0% increase over 2014 $67.00/month
2019 $820 $182 increase 28.5% increase over 2014 $68.33/month
2020 $836 $198 increase 31.0% increase over 2014 $69.66/month

Now we have 14% in our reserves, only need %10 by law, but 14% isn't too high.

Just finished with our bond measures that have beautiful new building/structures for each of our 17 schools. THAT'S COOL.

Both High Schools ranked top in the nation. THAT'S COOL ( and we did this by spending 51% less than the average per capital according to the Parcel Tax presenters at Tuesday's night meeting, I may have heard this wrong.). THAT'S COOL

If this doesn't pass, we have the potential of losing teachers. All teachers ( no mention of losing any administrators ). WHY IS THIS? Let me know what educational programs we will lose. How much reduction in administration fees, how about reduction in legal fees?

Here's words that drive me crazy.

"Although property taxes have risen in recent years, we have faced more than a $10 million reduction in our general operating funds as the result of reductions in funding from the state, a reduction in our lease revenues, and a substantial increase in annual pension costs mandated by state law," the staff report reads. "Expiration of the parcel tax would result in deep cuts to educational programs that are important to students and valued by the community."

So how much has property taxes revenues increased? We are building a lot in Palo Alto. You know because you made the statement but what's the number. Also show us the reductions in funding from the state, by year. What is the amount of lease revenues lost? The amount of the increase in annual pension costs? And always be sure to mention DEEP CUTS.



So I'm not a definite NO yet but just want some honest answers (pros and cons) so I feel good about my YES and not duped. When you only supply a one-sided picture, I don't trust.

If this ISN'T the time to give a break to our homeowners, there will never will be a good time. We'll just keep on paying.




10 people like this
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 29, 2015 at 4:04 pm

This is becoming absurd. NO!


9 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2015 at 5:41 pm

I have been trying for years to find out where the money from the sale of a number of elementary school sites went. I am still waiting for an answer.


7 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 29, 2015 at 5:55 pm

The case for this increase has not been presented well. PAUSD parcel taxes have increased ahead of inflation since first being introduced. The 2% annual increase may well be above inflation.

I am guessing that the PAUSD is asking for this a year early as a bargaining maneuver. They ask a high price now, knowing that their fallback position is to try again next year.

I am considering letting this ride until next year by voting no this year. Perhaps the board will sharpen their pencils and ask for what they really need instead of imagining how much they can get.


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 29, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Here is an article from the Paly Voice about collection of fees for AP tests being much higher than the actual costs. Web Link

This is a perfect example of how PAUSD has no financial acumen and should not be trusted with more money until such time as they prove to be more accountable with the money they are already getting.


10 people like this
Posted by Harvard or Bust
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 29, 2015 at 6:56 pm

Palo Alto schools don't need wellness centers. Our schools are not the reason that Palo Alto school children are committing suicide or are depressed. Kids are committing suicide because too many parents are living through their children. The parents are demanding that their children excel in order to get into top notch colleges. [Portion removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 29, 2015 at 9:55 pm

I don't understand. I thought they had to put this stuff on the ballot. I don't vote for parcel taxes. They are not fair. Just like the fee for sewage in Palo Alto -- 10,000 sq foot homes with 10 people living there pay the same as some pensioner in a two bedroom, one bath cottage. It's really, really not fair.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 29, 2015 at 10:28 pm

@ ChrisC: read it again...they are voting to put the parcel tax on the ballot.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 30, 2015 at 3:51 am

The headline is misleading,
if that's where we stop reading.


6 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 30, 2015 at 12:34 pm

Vote no no no. Enough is enough! In bad times they ask for money. In good times they ask for money. It's never ending. Do we ever get the money back if there is a surplus? Of course not!


3 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 30, 2015 at 12:48 pm

What seniors add to this subject is past experience and history.

Palo Alto used to have three high schools and more elementary schools. Some of the schools were sold and replaced with two story homes. Some - like Cubberley were turned in a community center that does not get a fair share of upkeep and is subject to the whims of the non-profits. So that tells you that the number of buildings managed by the school system has decreased. The property taxes for those replacement homes is going into the general fund.
So now we are adding more buildings to existing sites because we have a new generation of children.
Time to lock in Cubberley as a middle or high school. If we can reduce the transitional traffic across Alma and ease the burden on the existing schools then we are ahead of the game. If we are just at the status quo for facilities but increasing the number of students then we are in big trouble. And that is called very poor management.

Property taxes are paid to the County of Santa Clara who presumably reallocates those funds to the individual cities. Where can we find out how much is taxed and how much do we get reimbursed? My sense is that there is a major problem in how those funds are reallocated back to individual cities. There has to be some administrative cost at the county level for collecting, accounting, and reimbursing these funds. Are we being charged more at the county level and that is why the cost is going up?


7 people like this
Posted by Gus L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 30, 2015 at 1:31 pm

I think everyone who has kids should be taxed, I dont have kids..
Should I Have to pay a tax? Do I get an exemption?


6 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 30, 2015 at 5:53 pm

@ Gus: I disagree. For the record, our kids have gone through PAUSD and have graduated. We will still gladly pay our property taxes, school bonds and/or parcel taxes.

The success of our society, our economy, our country depends upon educating *all* of our children. Everyone who lives in Palo Alto profits from a thriving and successful school district (and so does your property values by the way).


5 people like this
Posted by NO
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 31, 2015 at 9:07 am

Did you notice how a bunch of posters materialized at the same time at the beginning of this thread? Expect more coordinated attacks like that. Also expect this increase and extension of the parcel tax to pass. If it doesn't in May, then these folks will use the predictable Cathy Mak report of threats of layoffs and larger class sizes to get it passed next year. Right now, the strategy is to rush it through while enough folks are sleeping, depending on the senior vote, they've got an exemption! This is not about kids, that's for sure.


5 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2015 at 11:12 am

@NO, Thank you for your input. You sure know the score. Everyone, be sure to be informed about when this vote will occur, and vote NO. They are counting on our inattention. It may be nothing to Zuck to vote for this, but it is for a lot of us, but beyond that, I honestly do not believe it is necessary. I urge a NO vote.


7 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2015 at 11:13 am

[Portion removed.] So listening to ABAG at this time is not a done deal - we can challenge their ability to manage themselves over fiscal matters. They have lost their negotiating position.

There is a lesson there - any time people ask for more money challenge what it is for, how it is going to be spent, who is the receiver of the funds, and what audit procedures are present to evaluate the status of the budget.

The burden is on the school system management to provide that data. We all know that during major elections at the state level - like for governor - the teacher's union comes in very hard to provide funding to the campaigns.

This topic is bigger than it appears on the surface - don't gloss over the subject and wave the flag - ask for facts and data.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 31, 2015 at 1:11 pm

The election in 2016 is already gearing up with the candidates getting their funding in place. We already know that the teacher's union is a heavy contributor to the Democratic candidates. Since we have some individuals in this city / county who want to run for an office then assume that they are already maneuvering through the various organizations to get commitments on funding.
We need to make sure that our property taxes / parcel taxes are not being used to support one party or another. I do not get a warm and fuzzy feeling about the increase in the parcel tax at this particular time. The timing is too coincidental. PAUSD - provide that data as to how you are budgeting the money so that we are clear on how it is being allocated.


5 people like this
Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 2, 2015 at 10:53 am

Help is on the way. SF Chronicle 02/-2/15 - "Entrepreneur lets taxpayers see where their cash goes" - Visionary of the Year Nominee Zac Bookman - and his company based in Mountain View - OpenGov.com. Where is your money going - noted is Palo Alto residents who want to know how much the city is spending on retiree benefits for police officers. Some venture capital funding is being provided by Formation 8 (Palantir Technologies). 250 government organizations are now using the service, including the city of Los Angeles. High marks from Stanford Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.
Yes - we want to know where the money is going for the city of Palo Alto, the County of Santa Clara, and the Unified School System for Palo Alto and the Teacher's Union at the state level.


2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 2, 2015 at 12:16 pm

[Post removed.


2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 2, 2015 at 2:26 pm

[Post removed.]


11 people like this
Posted by J. Woo
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Mar 8, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Definitely voting NO.

Palo Alto schools are already exceptional and very well funded, property taxes at 1% on the median Palo Alto home value of $2,203,900 is $22,000 per home.

I agree with the emotional blackmail comment. Palo Alto is already one of the wealthiest school systems in the state, getting most of its funding from the existing property taxes listed above, and spending twice as much per student as the state average.

Throwing money at an already wealthy school system in the form of an increased parcel tax is not going to fix the systemic problem of teen suicides. The wealth is the problem. Kids grow up in this competitive and materialistic pressure cooker of a culture bubble think that it's normal.

(For more info: Web Link)


9 people like this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2015 at 12:49 pm

While I would vote for keeping the existing Parcel Tax amount, in light of our booming real estate market, I have no desire to vote for an increase.


3 people like this
Posted by palo alto resident too
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 8, 2015 at 1:40 pm


same here....


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 9, 2015 at 12:23 am

I'm already seeing Yes on A campaign signs cropping up in various yards.
Ballots will be arriving a month from now, due May 5 (postmarked by May 5).


4 people like this
Posted by Account and Accountability
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2015 at 12:38 am

Resident 1,
We already voted a $375 million bond to create new schools. If you read the bond language, it clearly gave the board the authority to renovate and reopen Cubberly. But Skelly came in with a bias not to do that, he stated clearly in the address to the LWV that he didn't want to argue over boundaries so that was that. The money was spent in less effective ways.

Some parents did complain, but too few others bothered to pay attention. So now we all just pay...


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 9, 2015 at 9:17 pm

The counter argument to your position is that a majority of parents/families were fine with putting money into the existing campuses and not into Cubberly.


1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 10, 2015 at 1:33 am

Couldn't help but be a majority. Existing campuses outnumber Cubberley two to one.


6 people like this
Posted by NO!
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 15, 2015 at 9:20 am

NO way!! There is no accountability and transparency in how they spent the money. Our budget is already on the high end! Too many administrators and too much politics in our district already. If you have time, take a look at how much overhead we have in our churchill office vs Mountain view school district, Los Altos school district and Cupertino school district. Be informed!! Make your own opinion. Would you write a blank check to someone without asking the right questions? Keep your money - donate it or spend it wisely. Thanks.


Like this comment
Posted by Account and Accountability
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2015 at 12:48 pm

@Crescent Park Dad,
"The counter argument to your position is that a majority of parents/families were fine with putting money into the existing campuses and not into Cubberly."

Of course, the counter argument to that is that the circumstance in which everyone was paying attention - voting - involved a written ballot that indicated we were going to get an overhaul and new schools, and especially language that made it seem like reopening Cubberly was a strong possibility. Actually, when surveyed even without Cubberly being renovated or involving a desirable choice program, a significant enough portion of students indicated they would want to go to Cubberley that it should have been considered just on that.

The bond project promised us redone schools for the next century. Go get someone from somewhere else who has never seen our schools and give them a tour. Then ask if they got the impression everything was new or equivalent to new (as we were promised).


6 people like this
Posted by Account and Accountability
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2015 at 12:52 pm

@NO!

That's a really good point about overhead. We seem to have no mechanisms at all to reduce it. And every time there is an ask for more taxes, they always get it.

Even the governor of the state of California has a citizens commission that meets to review the salary. They have on occasion reduced it as the economy warranted. Small wonder our school district superintendent makes more money than the Governor of the entire state of California. Taken along with the salaries of all the underlings who also make as much or more than the Governor -- I'd like to see a reorg and review before I want to rubber stamp another tax.

I'm voting no on this one. (They will ask again.)


3 people like this
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2015 at 1:34 pm

I am skeptical of any 'facts' presented by the parcel tax supporters. Like anybody debating a point, they will cherry pick 'facts' which make their case and not mention anything which might cast doubt on the benefits of the tax.

When people question the school spending, I heard we are spending very little compared to Scottsdale, AZ and someplace in New York. Why don't we compare ourselves to someplace like Cupertino? Probably because we will not look good.

When this parcel was originally sold as a 'temporary' tax, I knew it was a lie. A 'temporary' tax to pay for higher salaries... it doesn't take a genius to see what will happen when it expires.

The thing that gets me is that not only are they extending it, but they have the gall to actually increase it. I guess if you are going the emotional blackmail route, you might as well make it worth your time.

The turnover in real estate with the rapidly escalating valuations must be having a positive effect on revenues. What happens to all the school impact fees that people pay when they build a house with an extra bedroom in it? We also paid for a bond which enlarged and enhanced the campuses. Isn't a lot of that what the impact fees are for?

I just feel the district is having money coming in from all directions and I do not believe they are being good stewards of all that largess.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 16, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Still trying to sort this out.
PAUSD is a Community Funded school district, not Basic Aid.
So we get to keep all our property tax revenue?
Except for $7.4 million that PAUSD pays to subsidize the Basic Aid districts?

71 percent of the PAUSD budget comes from property tax.
That's $131M out of $184M total budget (2014-15).

PAUSD revenue assumptions are based on an increase of 3.0% in property taxes.

City of Palo Alto revenue assumptions are based on an increase of 5.5% in property taxes.

The Palo Alto city budget expects 5.5 to 5.7% annual increases in property tax revene going forward at least five years.

Is the school district low-balling their projections, or just more realistic?

Does higher tax revenue come with higher cost, like more students?


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 16, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Ok, I obviously don't have the terminology sorted out. We are a "Basic Aid" district.
The whole Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is confusing to me. Oh well.


5 people like this
Posted by Zero for zero
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 16, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Vote for zero dollars until zero period is gone. Suicide prevention is job one. If you can't do job one you can't have more money. Vote zero for zero.


Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 16, 2015 at 7:58 pm

@ zero...

Please provide proven data that 0 period was the cause or was contributing cause to any of the recent suicides.


Like this comment
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 16, 2015 at 9:20 pm

@Account and Accountability - here's the bond ballot language. Not sure what parts you thought implied a new Cubberly or "redone schools for the next century." We primarily got expanded capacity on existing campuses, including some nice new buildings, and fewer portables.

“To provide safe and modern schools; accommodate enrollment growth; upgrade aging classrooms, libraries, computer and science labs; repair or replace roofs, plumbing, heating, ventilation and electrical systems; improve fire alarms and school security; meet current earthquake standards; provide current technology; and replace old portables with permanent classrooms, shall Palo Alto Unified School District issue $378 million in bonds at legal interest rates, with mandatory audits, independent oversight and bond tax rates estimated not to exceed the current rate?”


Like this comment
Posted by Account and Accountability
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2015 at 10:23 pm

Fred,
The ballot question is only part of the bond language. Go read the whole thing. The purpose is to remake our school facilities for the next century. It promises even renovations will be equivalent to new construction. If you read the list of specific projects, it clearly could have been used to reopen Cubberly at the discretion of the board.


6 people like this
Posted by NO
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2015 at 10:35 pm

Your NO vote sends the message that all is not well in PAUSD, losing one student to suicide was too much, but a dozen or so in the last six years is a horror. The only way that PAUSD administration, the board, and PAEA leadership will get the message is this NO vote. My home value will do fine, class sizes will have no reason to explode, there won't be any noticeable decline in services unless Max McGee and the long-serving Cathy Mak give us one of those so-called sky-is-falling conservative projections. If you do not vote NO, you can be sure the board will spin this as a vote of confidence in their anti-OCR fight and other drivel that does nothing for our kids. Even if they don't get the two-thirds they need now, one or two well-placed scare tactics will ensure an easy victory in the next election. I'm voting NO. If you worry about class size, just post me after the elections and I'll write you up a plan to ensure everything stays the same.


Like this comment
Posted by Senior citizen
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:03 am

I have supported every school bond and tax for over 40 years. However, if this one passes, I am seriously considering applying for a senior exemption. I am not impressed with the actions of the board in recent years. Are there restrictions or a means test for such an exemption? Thanks


Like this comment
Posted by ballot?
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:22 am

I have not received a ballot in the mail. When should I expect it to arrive?


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Mar 17, 2015 at 11:58 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Remember that parcel taxes pass not because of the people who vote for them but because of the people who do not vote.


Like this comment
Posted by Fred
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2015 at 1:03 pm

@Account and Accountability - I agree, the bond language does permit the district to do almost anything, including reclaim old schools (like Garland) or build new ones (possibly at 525 San Antonio). But not sure why you thought "opening Cubberly was a strong possibility." That wasn't my impression at the time, or now upon re-reading the Bond Resolution.

Here's the link to the Bond Resolution - Exhibit A is the Bond Project list. Web Link

It's fine if you think other projects would have been better; I'm sure others agree. But it seems wrong to imply there was some kind of bait and switch. Plus, since the bond passed with 78% voting in favor (vs. 55% required), not sure how much difference it would have made.


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Posted by Account and Accountability
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2015 at 6:20 pm

@Fred,

I didn't say anything about a bait and switch, as you call it. I was replying to "resident 1" initially, because he said, "So now we are adding more buildings to existing sites because we have a new generation of children. Time to lock in Cubberley as a middle or high school. "

To which I responded (because this isn't a new issue):
"We already voted a $375 million bond to create new schools. If you read the bond language, it clearly gave the board the authority to renovate and reopen Cubberly. But Skelly came in with a bias not to do that, he stated clearly in the address to the LWV that he didn't want to argue over boundaries so that was that. The money was spent in less effective ways."

To which Crescent Park Dad said:
"The counter argument to your position is that a majority of parents/families were fine with putting money into the existing campuses and not into Cubberly."

To which I wrote:
"Of course, the counter argument to that is that the circumstance in which everyone was paying attention - voting - involved a written ballot that indicated we were going to get an overhaul and new schools, and especially language that made it seem like reopening Cubberly was a strong possibility."


The bond project and interpretations of it in campaign literature, board meetings, etc., promised us this was the big redo of our schools, not some spruce up with a few new things here and there. Cubberley was a huge issue on the table at the time.

The campaign site promised:
"The PAUSD bond measure appearing on the June 3, 2008 ballot will raise $378 million to expand, upgrade and improve all 17 of the K-12 campuses in the district, extending the useful life of these facilities and accommodating enrollment growth"

The bond itself allowed:
"... acquisition of land and other interests in real property for future school buildings and other District facilities, and construction of such facilities, and rehabilitation/renovation of District-owned buildings and sites not otherwise listed."

Not to rehash all the many meetings and discussions around reopening Cubberly, but at the time of the bond, there was a lot of discussion around the need to reclaim and open schools, as you pointed out, like Garland, and Cubberly. The bond very clearly gave the board the authority to renovate and reopen Cubberly.

The biggest issue with Cubberley was the 8 acres of land owned by the City (and for which PAUSD was getting mucho rent money, but is no longer the case and the handwriting was kind of on the wall then). For the longest time, detractors to reopening Cubberley used those 8 acres as the excuse for not reopening it.

The bond suddenly allowed it. The City was approaching the school district about purchasing the 8 acres because the City didn't want to be there forever in those aging facilities, and during that lull in the economy, it was a good time for the district to acquire the acreage cheap. (The district later rebuffed Foothill from putting a new $40 million campus on the 8 acres while the district retained 24 acres adjacent, you don't reject that kind of community asset unless you have plans.)

Here is a promise from the bond under how it defines "Renovation/Modernization"

"For purposes of the Bond Project List, renovation and modernization projects are intended to restore the building systems and infrastructure, weather protections, finishes, and technology, or reallocate and reorganize space, to a condition that will provide a sustainable, functional educational and administrative environment for future years, comparable to new construction."

(Such a promise doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you're thinking of doing a few spot things here and there, it wouldn't exactly provide a " sustainable, functional educational and administrative environment for future years, comparable to new construction.")

The bond also allowed discretion:
"For any project involving renovation, modernization, remodeling or rehabilitation of a building or the major portion of a building, the District may proceed with new replacement construction instead (including any necessary demolition),.."

They're asking us for more money. Our middle schools have already been substantially renovated. Go get someone who has never been here and give them a tour inside the middle schools alone, and ask them if they think they are comparable to new.


2 people like this
Posted by Let's do this instead
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Citizens, there are those of us who live paycheck-to-paycheck in Palo Alto. 70% of my pay goes toward housing - mortgage, insurance and taxes. It gets worse every year because the homeowners/flood insurance and taxes increase annually. Factor in food, utilities, car maintenance/gas and I'm pretty much breaking even. This parcel tax was supposed to be temporary, so I voted for it in 2010.

There must be another way for those who want this passed to provide funding to the district. How about just donating to PAUSD? If I were in a better position, I'd be willing to help the district, especially to provide mental health services. Please consider those who are struggling and do not extend/increase this tax.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 23, 2015 at 1:55 pm

>> Factor in food, utilities, car maintenance/gas and I'm pretty much breaking even.

You'll be asked to factor in your property appreciation. What is that, another $50K or $100K per year? Unfortunately property appreciation doesn't help pay the bills unless you go deeper into debt. Have you considered Airbnb?


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

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