News


School bond measure raises $130K

Major donations from construction companies, individuals

The campaign in support of $460 million school bond Measure Z, which would fund the next two decades of facilities improvements across the Palo Alto school district, has raised almost $130,000 to date, with major donations from building firms that work with the district, campaign finance reports show.

The Committee for Strong Schools raised about $56,600, excluding non-monetary contributions, during the most recent reporting period, which covers Sept. 23 through Oct. 20.

Two major $10,000 donations came during the most recent reporting period from Rocklin-based BRCO Constructors, a general contractor that works for the district, and Palo Alto resident Laurene Powell Jobs.

fs3|Hodges, the district's primary construction firm, also gave $5,000 to the Measure Z committee, following a $10,000 contribution in August.

Concord-based construction company Sausal Corporation contributed $2,500 during this reporting period; CIS Inc. in Pacifica, which conducts building inspections for public school districts, contributed $1,500; and 3QC Inc. in Folsom, which provides design and construction services, gave $1,000.

During a previous reporting period, which covered Jan. 1 through Sept. 22, district architecture firm Gelfand Partners Architects gave $10,000; San Jose-based architecture firm Aedis, Inc. gave $10,000; Richmond-based Alten Construction Inc. gave $5,000; and Sunnyvale-based engineering and construction firm Cornerstone Earth Group gave $2,500, as did San Jose-based Carroll Engineering, Inc. and San Francisco-based design firm Harley Ellis Devereaux (HED).

Dannis Woliver Kelley, one of the district's primary law firms, gave $2,000 during the earlier reporting period.

James Baer, a local developer and the CEO of Palo Alto Land Use Consulting, gave $5,000 during the most recent reporting period, following a contribution of the same amount from his company in September.

The Committee for Strong Schools has also received 13 $998 donations from elementary, middle and high school parent-teacher associations (PTA).

The local classified employees' union, CSEA Palo Alto Chapter 301, gave $2,201 to the Measure Z committee. The California Teachers Association also contributed $625.

Local elected officials who have supported Measure Z include sitting board members Todd Collins ($500), Ken Dauber ($500), Jennifer DiBrienza ($500), Terry Godfrey ($600 total) and Melissa Baten Caswell ($400 total); Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor Joe Simitian ($200) and Santa Clara County Board of Education member Grace Mah ($250).

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Karen Hendricks also gave $100. Resident Neilson Buchanan contributed $750.

The committee reported $3,230 in non-monetary contributions from Alain Pinel Realtors, Coldwell Banker and Pacific Union, which provided facilities for phone banking, and from Susan Usman, the former president of Palo Alto Council of PTAs (PTAC), for meals for phone banking.

The Committee for Strong Schools spent about $42,500 during this reporting period on consulting, lawn signs, flyers, door hangers, translation services, advertisements and paid voter ID calls, campaign finance reports show.

With Election Day fast approaching, the committee still has $84,431 left in its campaign coffers.

If approved, the estimated new tax rate, including the continuing repayments of the 2008 bond and final years of the 1995 bond, will be about $100 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, or $1,000 per million dollars of assessed valuation (not fair market value). This amounts to an increase of $20 per $100,000 above what homeowners are currently paying.

The district is looking to Measure Z to fund a series of upgrades, including aging classrooms, science labs, seismic safety, fire alarms, emergency communication and accessibility for students with disabilities, the ballot text states. District staff worked with staff, teachers, students and parents at all schools to compile a wish list of potential projects and corresponding costs.

The current bond, which voters passed in 2008, has funded significant improvements across the district over the last decade, from new classrooms at the elementary and middle schools to Palo Alto High School's Performing Arts Center and Media Arts Center and Gunn High School's aquatic center and Central Building Project, but the district says more is still needed to keep the campuses up to standard over the next 20 years.

Measure Z needs 55 percent of the vote to pass.

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Comments

20 people like this
Posted by Thank you, donors.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2018 at 11:48 am

Thank you, donors. is a registered user.

From the article, it appears about 19% or $25k of the $130k came from contractors, etc. The rest appears to have come from citizens, PTAs, teacher groups who deeply understand the maintenance and improvement needs in our schools, realtors who have historically supported Palo Alto maintaining excellent schools for obvious reasons.

Thank you, donors.


19 people like this
Posted by Madias
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 29, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Nope.
Remember measure "A".
Vote "NO" on "Z".


38 people like this
Posted by A resident in San Francis Neighborhood
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Apparently, this new bond is largely supported by the construction companies who have been making money out of the previous construction bond.
Please vote no on Measure Z:
1. There is no need for another construction bond after we have spend $400M on revamping all PAUSD campus. 2, The amount of the bond is too large and last another 30 years is too much for the community and needs further examination for the real motivation of the bond. 3 Community (including students and teachers ) are tired of the past 10 years of construction going on in the schools and campus. Please let the school focus on training teachers and teaching students instead of tearing down the building and building new ones and disrupt the normal activities schools have.

IT is time to say NO to this senseless bond and avoid another ROSS project.

Thanks


28 people like this
Posted by South Gate
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 29, 2018 at 1:12 pm

South Gate is a registered user.

@A Resident in Saint Francis Neighborhood,

You are incorrect. There has not been construction at all of our campuses. The construction has mostly occurred at our high schools and some of our middle schools. The elementary schools have gotten very little attention.
Ten years ago when the need for a bond was identified, each campus prioritized the work they needed done. It was determined that the work was extensive and rather than do it all at once, the district decided to focus on the secondary schools and come back and do the rest in 10 years. It's been 10 years. And the secondary work has been quite successful...coming in at or under budget and on time, the district has a stellar credit rating, and the bond oversight committee has done great work.
It's time to finish the work we started. It is unfair to the schools that have not had work done yet to not get their chance because your child's school has had its work done. It is right for the kids, for the school sites, and for the strength of the district as a whole.


26 people like this
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 29, 2018 at 2:34 pm

Becky Sanders is a registered user.

Hi Everyone:

As I recall, my family reaped the benefits of school bond measures when I had kids in the system. Empty nesters helped carry the vote. Now it's my turn to step up. I am voting a resounding YES on Z, even though I no longer have kids in the system. This is a doable, affordable investment in our children.

It's a vote for their emotional health and well being. Kids will fare better in every way studying in modern, clean and safe facilities. It sends kids a clear message that we care about them by the environments we send them off to learn in.

Please do a drill down here. Talk to some of the teachers. Tour some of the sites. Remember the benefits that you have reaped by others investing in you. Find a way to make it work for your family's budget, but vote yes on Z.

Web Link

This video features Esther "Woj" Wojcicki the beloved and quite famous -it so happens- journalism teacher at PALY. Woj gives us all the good reasons to vote yes for Z. In opposition to Z is Paul Hinkley of the Santa Clara County Taxpayer's Association. The guy is just against taxes period. And Paul to my mind offers misleading info as to how the money will be used, trivializing the need for the upgrades. I guess anyone who is against new taxes will vote against this measure. But if your heart has room for our kids, please vote for this new tax, and show our kids in this tangible way how much you care for them.


32 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 29, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Vote NO on Measure Z, in order to get the district to give us a new bond proposal (and they will, that is 100% guaranteed) that

A) includes Cubberley,
B) has been reviewed by the new superintendent
C) has some measures of accountability and is not a blank check like this one

D) has some oversight mechanisms to make sure the money is spent WELL and gives us as much as possible, for example, that the district applies the same analysis (not rules, just analysis) the state requires of other districts when they get money to build facilities, because of all the many ways school construction costs can go up without provided anything for the money (in the last bond, the district overtly refused to use the evidence-based criteria to figure out where they could get more for the bond money without sacrificing anything - it wouldn't have meant less profit for the contractor).

and finally,

E) is hopefully proposed AFTER the district pulls together a donation drive to ask billionaires (like Laurene Powell Jobs), who did well with the recent tax changes, to first consider what they can do to support our schools, before asking those who have been hit really hard by this recent tax change.

There's a reason that $117,000 here is the threshold for "low-income" families, because it's the equivalent of way less than $20,000 in most cheap middle states. The issue is the cost of housing, taxes, and other unique cost-of living multipliers here. If you subtract those costs, you have many families actually living on the equivalent of less than $20,000/year, for clothing, food, transportation, insurance, educational needs, medical, household, etc. It's very tough. And now the new tax law could increase their annual taxes in the four- and five-figure range. If the billionaires gave proportionately to what we are asking of families already most burdened by the recent tax changes, we could build everything new and never have to ask for a bond again.

The district should have first tried to put together its wishlist and asked for donations from the billionaires. It was just hugely tone-deaf from a pretty wealthy segment (the board and the donors) to first ask everyone else least able to pay to shoulder this. At the very least, vote NO on Z because of what has happened in the past year, the district should first try to raise donations.


@donors:
The bond is for facilities construction, it cannot be used for maintenance. That comes from another bond we already approved.

The last tax measure was immediately used for something different. The public must have a bond that is more specific and has at least some measures of accountability. Measure Z does not.

The last facilities bond, that we are still paying for, was touted by Skelly as a way to rebuild our facilities for the next century. That didn't happen, we got a few obvious whiz bang buildings, but not nearly what we could have gotten for nearly $400 million. The limited number of whiz bang buildings is what contractors make the most from.

If you compare the $40million the city spent to completely build the whole Mitchell Park Community Center and library for new, which is the equivalent of about an elementary school (and also if you look at what the state says you can build a new elementary for even in very expensive parts of California), did we get the equivalent of 10 brand never elementary schools? No. We got the Gunn atheletic center for $12 million. Did we get the equivalent of nearly THREE DOZEN Gunn athletic centers across the district for that money? NO.

There is a lot of hypocrisy in claiming what a great job the previous bond did, since there never was any mechanism in it to ensure that we got as much as we needed from that money; it was NOT spent well. Ensuring it was spent well was not part of the job of the Oversight committee, whose job was only to make sure the district spent the money on the things it said it was spending them on. The donor of the funds for the Paly Athletic Center leveraged getting the district into an unfavorable lease-leaseback arrangement, on the argument that the normal bid process made for bad outcomes. That was a huge vote of no confidence by the board in the district's management of the bond.

If you give any district $400 million, they will have something exciting to show for it. But if there is no specific plan, just a blank check, if you are expecting the dilapidatedness across the entire district to go away, you will be disappointed, and you will be asked for more money when you are playing for this one.

Again, there is ZERO risk that the district will not come back with another measure asking for the money, so you don't have to vote based on whether the schools need the money. Don't let the bond money get siphoned off again without such a large sum of money essentially giving us all new schools (as the last bond promised -- new or indistinguishable from new in renovated spaces -- we did NOT get that). And ask the district to first make an effort to reach out to the billionaires first who got huge tax breaks last year while the families most struggling around here are being hit with a life-changing tax increase.

Vote NO on Measure Z, BECAUSE you support the schools.


31 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 29, 2018 at 3:06 pm

I am a voting Democrat parent in our district. People should vote NO on Z so that we actually get the benefit of the funding, that the district will (100% guaranteed) ask for again.

History has shown that they do not listen or hold themselves accountable unless the public says no in the ballot. Please vote NO on Z, we can easily do better than this blank check that will NOT make the improvements we need.


33 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 29, 2018 at 3:11 pm

"If you compare the $40million the city spent to completely build the whole Mitchell Park Community Center and library for new, which is the equivalent of about an elementary school (and also if you look at what the state says you can build a new elementary for even in very expensive parts of California), did we get the equivalent of 10 brand NEW elementary schools? No. We got the Gunn atheletic center for $12 million. Did we get the equivalent of nearly THREE DOZEN Gunn athletic centers across the district for that money? NO."
"
(correcting typos, sorry about that)

Vote NO on Z, because we all support schools, and it takes courage to get off the band wagon and ensure we get a good proposal that does right by our kids. Measure Z is wide open to the same abuses we've experienced before. Vote NO on Z.


28 people like this
Posted by Former PAUSD
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 29, 2018 at 4:53 pm

This is yet another excuse for more construction at our schools. Since before my kids started in kindergarten we were paying bond money for construction at our schools. Each time, B4E and whatever else, we were told this would make our schools fit for the next 30 years. From kindergarten to high school my kids went to school in construction zones. They changed from classrooms to portables and back mid year. They had Lake Paly when it rained and they were stranded inside portables. They had bathroom closures due to remodeling. They had no library or multipurpose rooms due to remodeling. They had corridor closures and longer treks around school campus due to remodeling. They had to cross construction sites to get bikes into bike cages. They lost field space and access to gyms as well as losing gyms.

Now they want more money for more construction at the schools. What lies they tell. They have had money and still they want more construction going on for schools. My kids honestly can't remember being in a school that didn't have construction of some sort going on every school year. What wonderful memories they have of PAUSD!


24 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 29, 2018 at 8:50 pm

No on Z!

Longtime Palo Altan, homeowner, taxpayer, and parent. It's unfathomable that we are taking out a loan, to pay back around double after interest, for $460 MILLION dollars. This is for a town of 67K people, making the pre-interest loan of $7K per resident! This is INSANE.

* At the median home sale price of $2.5M (per Zillow), this tax will cost $985 per year for the median home-buyer in Palo Alto. And it will continue to do so for 28 years, for a total of $27,580!

* Per PAUSD, the district serves about 12K students. Measure Z raises $29.5M annually, or $2458 per student. This is TRIPLE the donation request from PiE. Imagine if instead we were fundraising for what matters: actual teachers (including the arts, enrichment, etc), or actual needed projects, instead of shiny vanity projects?

* Families will likely lower their PiE donations, that actually go towards the teaching staff, if they are forced (by this tax) to fund construction firms!

* None of these funds actually go towards better programs! They don't support the arts, teachers, books, or online technology (computers now cost less than ever, but our costs are moving to the cloud).

* I saw a proposal that tens of $M be spent at Paly from these funds, on remodeling the old arts center, after having just built a shiny new arts center. How many new arts centers do we need?

* These are largely vanity and shiny projects. How is it that we portables at every elementary school (all that I've visited), while shiny new gyms and arts centers for a few high schools? Where did the funds from the last bond measure go? Oh right, shiny instead of functional.

* Why not pay as we go? Why take out a loan of $460M, to be paid with interest coming to approximately $1B in total?


20 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 29, 2018 at 8:53 pm

@donors,
Even school board candidates (who are themselves peetty well off) get small donations from lots of “citizens” - I don’t see any of that at all here.

No one has the courage to go up against a school bond or tax, even when history has shown that saying NO results pretty quickly in an improved one after the district listens for once. Measure Z will probably pass, and will be squandered relative to what it could have done just like the last one (that we are still paying for).

Do you want this bond to give us new overhauled facilities for the next century, as we were promised by Skelly with the last one, or do you want it spent piecemeal on a few whizbang buildings but most of the schools still pretty old and dilapidated after it’s all gone, like we just got? If the district includes Cubberley, then it’s possible to do that first, or do Greendell first, then move a whole school into the new building while tearing down andb uilding a new school where it’s needed. And then there are two new schools that can be occupied while two more get rebuilt and so on. No need to subject kids to constant construction, and they only have to relocate for one school year. We were promised renovations that were indistinguishanle from new. Go into the renovated bathrooms at Terman/Fletcher - could those be mistaken from newly built? No. No. No.

Vote NO on Z, and tell other friends to do the same, because people here need to understand that voting NO on this Measure is the only way we will get a better one.

Vote NO on Z.


18 people like this
Posted by Also voting NO
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 29, 2018 at 9:11 pm

I will also vote NO on Z. The district's appetite for funds is insatiable and they cannot be trusted to spend this money responsibly. What sealed it for me was looking at the list of projects still in the queue, refurbishing the OLD Gunn gym is on the list. Why are they even considering this when the prior bond funded the BRAND NEW gym at Gunn. Seems to me like they are just looking for reasons to spend money.

The number of contractors supporting this measure is also very dirty & concerning. If passes I will take the excess amount this is costing my straight out of my PIE donation (which is down to very little already).


Like this comment
Posted by Shu Wen
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 29, 2018 at 9:38 pm

Yes or No. What Kathy Jordan say? She say OK?


18 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 29, 2018 at 10:29 pm

@Shu Wen,

It's probably not really fair to ask any candidate before an election, they'd be attacked by everyone else no matter how bad the proposal.

Do you remember recent Measure A, the tax that we were told was absolutely essential in order to reduce class sizes, and if we didn't vote for it, like 80 teachers would be laid off, and that they needed the money to hire a couple of people for mental health purposes amid suicides? And then they turned around and spent the money on raises after the district had already given generous raises, and the district had to give "me too" administrative raises? And the money never went to reduce class sizes?

No one came out against that when we were voting, not Dauber, not the Weekly. People see the word "school" and "funding" and it would just make them a target if they came out against it openly. And yet, we know the history, the only time the district gives us a better proposal is if we vote one down. And they will ask again. The only thing this vote on Measure Z is about is whether you think it's a good bet that the district will deliver the best they could if they don't tell us what they'll give us in the bond itself. If the district had done that in Measure A tax, they could not have just turned around and spent the money on something else like they did. And now we are still paying for it.

The trouble is that we have all this history that the district will promise all kinds of things to get us to vote the money, but if what they promise is not IN THE BOND, the district has no obligation to deliver any of the things they get us to vote on. We have to start insisting that the district put its promises in the proposal we are asked to vote on, because they have demonstrated over and over again that they quickly forget what they promised once they have the money, and we have no way to hold them accountable or just ensure they stay on track to deliver what we are promised.

And they really, really should first try a donation campaign among the district's many billionaires, who did well in the tax changes of this year, where those who can least afford it have had their taxes significantly increased. I can't remember the district ever trying a donation drive even though the local billionaires have shown a willingness to be generous.

Vote NO on Measure Z.


10 people like this
Posted by Yes on Z
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 29, 2018 at 11:30 pm

Measure Z has great support, both from voters and from donors. It is good for students, good for the community, good for housing values. The district has done a great job building projects for the last 10 years - both some great new buildings, and redoing classrooms, libraries, athletic facilities, theaters, etc. They had a 20 year plan, and did a good job on the first 10 - now it is time to finish the job on the schools that haven't gotten anything yet. There have been no scandals, no cost over-runs, no problems - just steady work and useful buildings.

Yes, people support school funding in Palo Alto - that's why most of us moved here. I voted for Measure Z and I hope everyone else does too.


9 people like this
Posted by No on Z
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2018 at 12:08 am

Vote No on Measure Z! Don’t keep our kids on construction field for another couple of decades. Please return our students to a quiet and peaceful campus!


4 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2018 at 12:46 am

the average sales price of a single family home this year so far is $3.8 million; the ballot says the bond tax is $39.40/$100,000 of assessed value. Means another $1500 in taxes. If you bought back in 2010, the average sales price was $1.5 million, and with the 2% increase per year, you will be paying another $720 in taxes.

And with the change in federal tax deductions, some or all of this may not be deducted from your federal taxes.

So cut back on those lattes at the coffee shop, start packing your lunch, so that you can go to the school play at the new performing arts theater that will be built at the newly renamed middle school.


15 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 30, 2018 at 9:38 am

@common sense,
Your tone deaf post is why people should vote NO on Z. The portion of the population who can make jokes about lattes because they can even contemplate having that kind of discretionary income do not get it, and should be given a chance to first donate the money through a donation drive rather than forcing those least able to afford it to pay more.

A lot of people in this area own after years and even decades of considerable sacrifice, and only because the alternative of renting is even worse if things like stability are important. When $150,000 is the equivalent of $20,000 in many middle states, it’s because of the cost of housing, which means when you subtract out housing and taxes, people often live on less than $2,000/month for a family. But there is no cost of living adjustment in federal taxes, so the recent tax changes can eat up to half or more of what people are actually living on. Taking another 10% for a blank check with no real accountability is unconscionable.

If you find it so easy to joke about lattes, then you should vote NO on Z and be the first to push the district to raise the money first through a donations campaign - and be as proportionately generous with your own money as you are being with others’ who can far less afford it. If that’s such a small amount for you, perhaps you would offer to pay my and other family’s portions?

We can do better than this proposal, and we need to, given the district’s poor stewardship (which they even acknowledged in making that lease leaseback agreement with the Paly gym donation.) And it’s the right thing to do to first ask people who can afford it and who did very well under the recent tax changes to first consider donations before burdening those who can least afford it and got slammed.

Vote NO on Z. We can do better, and there is no risk that they won’t ask again.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Oct 30, 2018 at 12:55 pm

No on Z, I think the previous poster to you, Common Sense, was being satirical. At least that's is how I read that particular post.

An extra $720 on anyone's tax bill is a dreadful expense for some and yes they will have to curtail spending to afford it. The likelihood is that those who have difficulty paying this extra tax will be cutting out more basic items than lattes and will be eating more home packed lunches than buying lunches out as a result.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Oct 30, 2018 at 2:02 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Amazing Campaign
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 30, 2018 at 2:33 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2018 at 7:00 pm

No to Z & Resident - I was being satirical. On the serious side here is what someone who bought the "average" price house ($3.8 million) in Palo Alto will be contributing to the school district:

1% property tax mandated by Prop 13, 45% goes to school district = $17,100
1st facilities bond from 2004: $80 per $100,000 assessed value = $3,040
Parcel Tax for Schools = $804
Palo Alto library bond = $420
total taxes = $21,364 + measure Z $1500 = $22,864.

Now there is voluntary contributions

PIE - $1000/student so that you can get your name in 8 size font on the PDF report that PIE put outs each year; two kids = $2000

PTA - ? / student

So thats about $26,000/year. For that you get 1 teacher for every 30 students and a robotics coach who will yell at you.

Saint Francis is $19,000/year, 17 - 1 student teacher ratio
Menlo High school $45,000/year, 15 - 1 student teacher ratio
Sacred Heart $40,000/year, 7 - 1 student teacher ratio
Castilleja $44,000/year, 6 - 1 student teacher ratio
Woodside Priory $41,000/year 13 - 1 student teacher ratio
Pinewood $40,000/year 7 - 1 student teacher ratio

So maybe if Castilleja can expand their student body, the student teacher ratio at PAUSD would drop to 29.75 students to 1.

IF PAUSD can get taxes doubled, perhaps they can lower the student teacher ratio to the same as private schools?

You also have to remember that the commercial building binge contributed no additional students, but lots of property taxes. Just remember that when you've seen the stoplight cycle through 3 times before you get your chance to cross one of the arterial roads like Embarcadero.


10 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 30, 2018 at 10:03 pm

@common sense,
Thanks for clarifying. Palo Alto has more billionaires than Dubai. Forbes says the combined wealth of the thirteen billionaires is $125 billion, and that may be old news. That makes $400 million just 0.3%, just a third of one percent, of their wealth. That’s not to mention the almost-billionaires, too.

The district should try to first raise money through a donation campaign. Local billionaires should be given the opportunity to be immortalized on school buildings the way universities do. They should not be donating money to help make those who are far less able to pay for a bond when the burden at the bottom is already so crushing and got way worse suddenly this year out of the blue.

Voting NO on Z does not mean voting against school funding, because the district always comes back and asks again. But they should first ask for donations through a donation campaign. People who are not hurting financially but who ganed from the federal tax changes or who have so much money that they can spend thousands on political donations, ahould not be asking those who can least afford it to pay for this, first the district should write a much more specific and accountable proposal and ask for donations. Just 1/3 of 1% of the local billionaires wealth would cover the whole thing, and that doesn’t include all the hundred millionaires. This measure would require a far greater percentage of an average earner’s income here every year, and that’s just this bond.

Vote NO on Z. Tell the district to first hold a donation drive before (if they even need to) they ask again, and they will.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 30, 2018 at 11:13 pm

Let's clarify - voting "no" ABSOLUTELY means you are voting against school funding. 100% for sure. And housing prices will likely drop, because school bonds rarely fail in the Bay Area, and when they do, it's a bad sign for schools.

And while some people can dream of billionaires paying for public schools, what will really happen is the building program will stop, for a few years or maybe longer, and the schools will deteriorate. And then we'll have to try to start over.

So if that's what you want, go ahead an vote "no." But please don't kid yourself about what you are doing.


1 person likes this
Posted by taxpayer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2018 at 11:25 pm

Article states: "This amounts to an increase of $20 per $100,000 above what homeowners are currently paying."

My official ballot says: "$39.40 per $100,000 of assessed value."

Obfuscation by a factor of two? ... I must have missed something.


7 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 31, 2018 at 2:07 am

@Resident, You said: "Let's clarify - voting "no" ABSOLUTELY means you are voting against school funding... And housing prices will likely drop, because school bonds rarely fail in the Bay Area, and when they do, it's a bad sign for schools. "

No, that's ABSOLUTELY wrong, just based on history here. Apparently you are new here and don't know the history of our district or read the paper much.

This community is reliably supportive of school funding measures, but it has voted down school funding, and the result was NOT a drop in housing prices, the result was that the district reworked the measure to make it better (as reported in the paper) and the better proposal was voted through. That was a GOOD sign for schools, because our district has suffered from the effects of insularity and lousy leadership for about 15 years, and one of the only thing that cuts through the bad is when they ask for money and the community says no. They always ask again, and as history has shown, they can come up with another ask within months. There is ZERO risk that they will not make another proposal. Anyone familiar with the district could see that.

What you just said isn't even nearly as convincing as the promises made to get us to vote for the last school measure, the tax that we were told was absolutely necessary or they were going to lay off 80 teachers. We were PROMISED it was for reducing class sizes. It never did any such thing, the money was immediately spent on raises even after the district had just given generous raises. We never got the reduced class sizes.

We and our children will be far, far better off if this bond is more specific and enforceable than other measures. People should vote NO, at a minimum, the district will at least listen better to what the community wants. That has been demonstrated already. What DIDN'T happen was a reduction in housing prices that you fear. Go walk around Terman/Fletcher and go into the bathrooms -- tell me, do those renovated bathrooms look and feel like dilapidated old spaces with some spiffy and VERY expensive new coats of paint, or would you mistake them as having been built new (as the last bond promised and failed to deliver)? Wait until it rains and then go walk around the renovated hardscape and building in the front at Terman/Fletcher, and tell me you can't tell that from new, properly done construction.

We should vote NO on Measure Z, and tell the district to do better, as they have already shown they can when properly motivated (by a no vote on a funding measure). A donation drive does not have to take longer, either, and in fact, can result in more flexibility and better improvements happening faster. In just two donations, the district got close to $100million. That's pretty generous, and it's far, far less proportionally from the billionaires (who can also deduct the donations) than you are demanding of people who can far less afford this bond on top of the many other school funding we are still paying for.

Look, this community is so supportive of schools, they vote for measures even when they've been burned from badly managed ones and the newspaper hints that they really should say NO in order to get a better proposal. And the old people who vote and don't have to pay are pretty oblivious to the "house poor" population who struggle to stay afloat -- it's easy to vote yes when they're making other people pay for it. This bond is likely to pass anyway because there is no end of people, like Powell, who are oblivious to how the other half struggles, even though they could WAY more easily get together with their rich friends and cover the amount themselves.

If Measure Z goes down (big if, people here would vote for 45 if he wore a t-shirt that said "for the schools"), history shows the district will ask again, and it's highly unlikely that they'll let even a whole election cycle go by before doing so. The big question is whether the community can get them to do the right thing by the most burdened of its families, and -- given the politics of the tax increase on middle families this year -- vote this down, and at least push for donations from our wealthiest residents first.

The wealthiest did well from the tax changes, as opposed to the families in the middle who were slammed, plus, donations are still tax deductible where the property taxes will not be.

VOTE NO ON MEASURE Z!


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 31, 2018 at 9:19 am

@vote no - you literally are making stuff up. Voting "no" means "no." Since no school bond has ever lost in Palo Alto, there's no precedent at all for what you say. You have no idea how the district will react or what housing prices will do if a school bond fails.

I do think it is kind of sad - your preferred approach for good public schools is "get other billionaires to pay for it!" If we want good schools, we, the people, need to pay for it. That's the choice we're making by living here, and that's the choice on Measure Z. If you want good, modern, safe schools, vote "Yes." If you think that's more than the community can afford, go ahead and vote "no."

But please, stop trying to convince people that "no means maybe (or even yes)." We've seen what that line of thinking can do. No means "no"; yes means "yes."


12 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 31, 2018 at 12:20 pm

@Resident,

I have agreed with you that it's unlikely voters here would turn down a school bond, they would vote for Trump if he had the words "For the Schools" on his hat. So why are you making up untrue stuff about housing prices to try to frighten people? If people vote NO on Measure Z, the district will in fact ask again, there is not risk of that not happening, and it gives the community a chance to get a better bond and have the district first start a donation campaign.

There is nothing wrong with a donation campaign in a community among the top places in the entire world for concentration of billionaires and almost-billionaires who have (when their own child benefited) shown a great willingness to donate. The fact is that within the last year, federal tax structure has changed to make it so that ordinary families can no longer deduct their property taxes, but billionaires can still deduct their donations.

Measure Z is a burden for these families who were suddenly burdened in a way they could never have predicted. Costs and tax structures are such that it is just simply not that easy to "move away" -- and your suggestion that families in the middle and at the bottom should move away so that the district doesn't have to respond to recent economic changes by just holding a donation drive (that is just not that unheard of for schools or hospitals in the history of this country) is just egregious.

The fact is, I'm not saying we should "get" billionaires to do anything. If there is a donation drive, the donations to the district will be voluntary, out of generosity by those who can afford it. It is you who is saying we should shake the money out of those who can least afford it, especially when we are being asked to support a blank check.

Read about Measure A, this district has a terrible history with blank checks, and if you study school construction costs, they could have delivered WAY more on the first bond. Were you one of the people beating up on everyone else just like this about how we had to vote for Measure A for all the reasons promised, then silent when the money was misspent? The way you fix that is by ensuring the measure is more specific and has greater measures of accountability, which Measure Z does NOT currently have.

The endorsement on the last school funding measure, the 2015 Measure A tax, is instructive to read. All the dire calls for why we had to support it turned out to be false, because the money was immediately diverted to extra raises including administrative raises.
Web Link
Measure Z has no mechanisms to prevent the same thing from happening, only with way more money. If we allow that to happen, then we really ARE hurting our children's futures because they won't get the facilities they deserve. We can easily fix that by voting NO on Measure Z and leveraging a better measure or even a donation drive first.

The reason the 2015 Measure A tax is instructive to read is because, had people voted NO, and demanded a more accountable bond, then the community would have gotten the things we were promised in Measure A, are still paying for, and NEVER GOT for our kids.

The Alamanac has a very good summary of the history of school bond measures in Menlo Park since 1990 (unfortunately I can't find for PAUSD, so I have to concede any points on history to you, however, my argument is completely supported by the Menlo experience and yours is utterly refuted). Until 2016, every school bond measure passed: 3 bonds, 6 taxes. But then in 2016, 2 (two) school district measures failed. According to the article "the school district made many changes after those measures failed. "
Web Link
The new measure the Menlo district brought forward after those failures, almost immediately (as PAUSD can do, too), were better, and won heartily.

Menlo Atherton housing prices never suffered one iota because of the voters turning down TWO ballot measures for school funding, and a better proposal was created that was passed. That's the kind of dishonest scaremongering that got people to pass the 2015 Measure A tax, that we are still paying for, and that never was used as promised.

Read what happened with the 2015 PAUSD Measure A. We can do better than this. The fact is that never in the history of our community has the federal government suddenly raised taxes on those who could least afford it by a substantial percentage of their living income while also cutting taxes on the many people at the top. That should factor into people's decisions, because the school district really can easily just first have a donation drive. Two donors (only one a billionaire) gave almost $100 million. We have dozens of billionairs and hundred-milliionaires who can deduct donations on their taxes, while struggling families at the bottom can no longer deduct their property taxes.

The experience of Menlo Park over the last 30 years demonstrates that your fear of property values going down is just wrong, or even that our community that has shown such strong support for our schools would ever not soon after either raise the money through donations or provide an improved measure as Menlo Park district did.

Vote NO on Measure Z, BECAUSE you support our schools.


6 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 31, 2018 at 12:22 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Resident,
So do you believe that if the bond fails, the district will give up and never try to float another bond ever again?

And you're voting yes because you don't know what will happen if it fails? Exactly the logic the district is hoping for.

The initial list of improvements given to the board earlier this year totaled over $1B. You can be assured that after this bond, there'll be another one for around $500M.


13 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 31, 2018 at 4:20 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

I believe that the governing bodies of Palo Alto, both CC and the school board, need to check into a construction detox program. Just like 14 year olds who are so scared of any noiseless pause, they blast their music playing devices to eardrum piercing decibel levels, the governing bodies consider any period without construction as scary. How can school kids even study when their schools experience years of noisy construction? Drive around town, and there is construction everywhere, on a perpetual basis. Every single block has one or more construction project. Palo Alto seems to be now noisier than Calcutta and Mexico City put together. Peace and quite have permanently disappeared in the mad rush to build, develop and construct at an ever increasing pace.

The school district treats Palo Alto residents as a cash cow that will produce cash on demand in perpetuity. I had gone through public schools who didn't enjoy even two percent of the amenities Palo Alto school students enjoy, yet still produced many brilliant students and good human beings who have been successful in all walks of life. This huge bond measure will not produce better teachers or increase sensitivity toward victims of bullying, sexual assault, or toward special need student, something that is badly lacking in the PAUSD.

This is a vanity project, construction for the sake of construction, and in a couple of years, they will come to the voters with another bond measure, guaranteed.


12 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 31, 2018 at 5:39 pm

@mauricio,

I think the district really should have paid some attention to the impact on families of proposing this on the heels of the federal tax changes this year.

The media in California have never really dealt with the cost-of-living differential and what that means for our local families, and how people make decisions (and sacrifices) in regards to housing. The median HOUSEHOLD income in Palo Alto is around $135,000, even while the low-income threshold is $117,000. That's median, which means a lot of people are making less.

$117,000 in Palo Alto is considered the equivalent of $17,000 household income in Cookeville TN, which is poverty even there (using the BestPlaces cost of living calculator). $137,000, about the median income in Palo Alto, is the equivalent of about $20,000 there (and in many middle states).

It's not a proportional scaling, because housing and taxes are just such outsized percentage of people's income here, and people have to be really creative and sacrificial to get into a stable home situation.

The Tr#mp tax changes are poised to really hurt a lot of families in the middle, in a really uneven way, because suddenly their property taxes are no longer deductible. Suddenly the amount of income people actually live on here is getting hugely slammed.

The district really should have been thinking about all of its families and changing economic conditions, and set this ballot measure aside while it instead tried a donation drive first. (After misspending the 2015 Measure A tax that we are still paying for, the district should never have presented a ballot measure similarly open to being misspent.) The district has shown that it is far more careful with the money of major donors anyway.

Vote NO on Measure Z, and ask the district for a donation drive first, and a more accountable bond (if it's even necessary after a donation drive).


3 people like this
Posted by Shu Wen
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 31, 2018 at 7:24 pm

Will vote NO and not pay more taxes. Proposition of no benefit to children. Already spend too much on house.


9 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2018 at 9:53 pm

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Remember Measure A? The classic bait-and-switch. Money raised mostly used to pay salaries, pensions and expansion of district bureaucracy, instead of the promised improvements.

Vote No on Measure Z. PAUSD is one of the most bloated school districts in bay area. It is high time to reform PAUSD.


Like this comment
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 31, 2018 at 9:55 pm

Correction, to pay salary raises, pensions and ...


Like this comment
Posted by taxpayer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2018 at 10:57 pm

On the bright side I am relieved that if Measure Z does pass, then we will need no further school facilities bonds until 2046 when these are fully paid off.

If people think Measure Z isn't enough to hold us until 2046, then why aren't we asked for a realistic amount? It would be terribly cynical to imagine that the plan is to continue ratcheting up the tax level with a new bond series every few years rather than be honest up front.


4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 1, 2018 at 6:59 am

The comments about median income in Palo Alto are misleading since many in Palo Alto are renters who will not be paying the bond in their property tax. Landlords may increase rents, but not as high as the per parcel rate.

Vote for schools which need new multipurpose rooms, libraries, and upgrades at the elementary schools which did not get the last bond upgrades.

Read about the list of improvements and status of school facilities here:
Web Link

A bond builds buildings and capital improvements. Parcel taxes deal with salaries and alleged class size reduction. Please don't mix them up. And if the bond detractors would please point to documentation that stated the parcel tax promised class size reduction and didn't deliver it, show us.


3 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 1, 2018 at 9:16 am

@Anonymous,

The comments about median income are not only apt, they are pretty close to our own situation and that of many of the homeowners in my own neighborhood. We own a home, do not even make $150,000/yr income, and actually have only a tiny fraction of that to eat, pay for transportation and insurance, home repairs, (old) care repairs, education, clothing, visits to care for elderly parents etc., because housing, medical, and taxes eat up all but about $20k/yr. This is just not that unusual here. We have made the sacrifices to do this because it's so much more sustainable than renting, which can seem easier over the short-term but over the long-term was so much more unsustainable.

The percentage of renters in Palo Alto has nothing at all to do with the discussion of median income and how people in the middle are going to be hard hit by the tax, except that a lot of people who aren't going to be paying will be forcing their neighbors who may be far less able to afford it to pay for them. This is yet another reason we should be looking to a donation drive first for once.

If you do a poll of people who own homes in this community, the vast majority could not afford to rent/live in their own homes, or to pay the rent that most renters are paying. You cannot make any assumptions about people's living income based on homeownership.

The unique nature of life in such a high demand area is that, if you want to put down roots or keep your job, you have to figure out how to buy. The majority of people do this at great sacrifice over a long period of time, and it is most painful in the first fifteen years after buying. Often even when they are in their homes, it is as struggle for a really long time (just more stable than when renting in the long term). Then suddenly this year, the floor is shifting out from under many people because of the new Trmp tax law which increased the taxes of ordinary people in California by a lot.

That had the effect of not just hitting a large percentage of people's income, it is taking away a significantly larger chunk of what people actually live on, at the exact same time as interest rates are going up and people can no longer refinance to get over the crunch. When I was describing this above, I was talking only about homeowners.

Developers have created a self-serving narrative to stir up divisions in the community for their own selfish purposes, to leverage destroying zoning protections (that actually protect long-term renters and income diversity, as the residents of the President Hotel are now learning), but it gives a false and misleading framing of homeownership in this area. In my neighborhood, there are numerous teachers, small-time contractors, small business owners, professors, etc, and only one couple of high-paid tech workers who could (wanted to) waltz in and afford a home because of their high income and desire to live here long term. You would think that was everyone based on the rhetoric, and it's just not.

There do happen to be a lot of very, very wealthy people in Palo Alto, but the gap is enormous, and those people have had a hand in driving up prices, as well as simply getting an enormous boon financially from the recent tax changes. Teh homeowners in the middle and at the bottom have, by contrast, just seen the income they struggle to live on (speaking from experience) cut by a third or even a half, because suddenly property taxes are no longer deductible. Millions of ordinary homeowners in California rely on those deductions, and the change was sudden.

This is not the time to shake them down for more. It is simply not that hard to first conduct a donation drive. Including philanthropy in the equation is something that every university and private school does, and it's something PAUSD has benefited from in the past, but has never actually tried for funding facilities.

Again, Palo Alto has one of the highest concentrations of billionaires in the world, and many almost billionaires, and they benefited mightily from the recent tax changes. People in the middle -- and by that I mean homeowners who are the ones paying -- were hit hard. We should not be shaking them down for this bond when we haven't even first tried a donation drive.

Vote NO on Measure Z.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2018 at 9:27 am

Yes renters may not be paying the increases in Property Taxes, but you can bet your bottom dollar that their rent will be increased to pay for it!


11 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 1, 2018 at 9:36 am

@Anonymous,
Go read the list that was promised for the first bond, the link you provided is even LESS specific. The last bond promised things like "To provide safe and modern schools...improve fire alarms and school security....replace old portables with permanent classrooms..."

Do we have modern schools? Did we replace all the old portables with permanent classrooms? The new bond proposal is even LESS specific than this one, and it repeats some of the same promises, like school security.

The previous bond also promised a host of specifications that were never even close to met, including that any renovated spaces would be equivalent to new.


No one above is claiming that parcel taxes should have paid for those things, you have completely missed the point. The point is that the misuse of the last parcel tax -- the dire pronouncements about how teachers would be laid off and how we had to have the class size reductions and then spending the money on additional raises after already generous raises -- is a clear demonstration of our district's utter mismanagement of public funds when the language of a ballot measure is so non-specific. If you talk to lawmakers, they will tell you that whether a bond does what is promised or not, whether the public can ensure they get what was promised, comes down to the language of the bond. This current proposal is an even vaguer and less-enforceable blank check than the first one.

The State of CA publishes per square foot costs of school construction, which is a range that encompasses even very expensive parts of the state (of which there are many). If you use that measure, or you compare what we got to, for example, the Mitchell Park Community Center and Library (which was $40 million), we did not get nearly what we should have gotten for almost $400 million dollars, especially since it was spent during the recession. Did we get the equivalent of 10 new schools? No. Not even close. IF you walk around any of the schools in the district (except maybe Paly), do even the most renovated ones look like modern like-new spaces to you? Most of the classrooms are as dilapidated as ever.

Our teachers should understand this intrinsically. They teach our kids to manage their time by looking at what they have to do and how much time they have. If the kids have a block of time and just launch into things figuring it's a lot of time, they actually end up getting very little done, and typically nothing compared to their goals.

The last bond was raised, and then people started in on their wishlists, but ultimately the process was led by the construction people who made far money by building a few star buildings and avoiding the hard planning it takes to remake our facilities as new and modern, as Skelly promised we would get.

And now the schools that got a few new buildings here and there are locked into that arrangement where a complete redesign could have allowed something much better, all new, for FAR less money. The process ended up failing to give us the renovated schools we were promised. It is utterly misleading to now tell people that the reason their still completely dilapidated old school is still that way after $400 million was spent is because someone else got the new facilities that they will now get. Look around, go in the "renovated" bathrooms at Terman/Fletcher, and tell me that those look indistinguishable from new construction as the bond promised. Wait til it rains and walk around the campus -- that wet mess IS the after-renovation improvement.

If we are to get the facilities our students deserve, especially for that money, the district should decide what we need FIRST, and provide a specific plan, and that plan should include Cubberley. And then the district should have a donation drive in which they ask those who did especially well because of tax changes to contribute, as they have generously done so in a few cases recently when their own children benefited. And then if there are any further needs, they should put forward a more specific and accountable bond proposal so our kids will actually get what is promised this time, and not a few more overly expensive buildings and a lot of horrendously expensive paint over still dilapidated schools.

Just like Menlo Park did, we can send a message to the district to give us a better bond proposal that is not as subject to being misused as the recent Measure A tax was. And we can be more humane to those who can least afford this by having a donation drive first. No one is going to publicly say not to vote for a funding ask from schools here, despite how badly things went wrong just recently. But it is our kids and families who are hurt when we don't do this right.

Vote NO on Z, BECAUSE you support our schools.


7 people like this
Posted by Vote NO on Z
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 3, 2018 at 9:50 am

"1st facilities bond from 2004: $80 per $100,000 assessed value = $3,040
Parcel Tax for Schools = $804
Palo Alto library bond = $420"

@Commong SEnse:
Are those amounts everyone is paying, or there senior exemptions? My concern is that seniors in this community are very self-righteous and think that anyone who came after them is rich, and are more willing to vote to make others pay because they can afford it better themselves or because they can just go get an exemption.

Speaking of which, is a household eligible for the exemption when one owner is 65 or above? Or do both people in a couple have to be seniors? Do all the measures have senior exemptions?

This area has a lot of liberal voters, and we all support schools. But last year the ground shifted politically with the Tr#mp election, and with the tax changes, millions of ordinary Californians are going to be hit really hard, with high increases in their taxes eating into a substantial fraction of what they live on. It's not even possible to get good estimates of what's going to happen unless people have a lot of money to pay for accountants.

But we do know the people at the top did well. Now is not the time for the majority of Palo Altans who are NOT going to be paying the tax to force those most hard hit by the recent tax changes to pay for this. We have shown over decades how strong is the support of schools and that there is NO risk that we won't pass another, better bond. But people of good conscience should vote NO on Z so that the district can first try a donation drive to see if the many billionaires and almost-billionaires can step up first.

If we do this, history has shown that the district is much more likely to spend the money in a more effective way anyway. This bond proposal is WAY to nonspecific and the community CANNOT enforce the promises. We can get a better bond, if it is even needed after a donation drive. If you can afford Measure Z increases, then Vote NO on Z, and be at least that generous in a donation drive.

Billionaires did well with the Tr#mp tax changes, and can still deduct their donations. Ordinary people who are struggling the hardest in the middle have been hit hardest by the tax changes, even as interest rates have increased. We do not have to finance tconstruction on their backs, we really can do this better.

Vote NO on Z.


4 people like this
Posted by Joe Dixon
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 3, 2018 at 1:00 pm

@No on Z, do you think anyone is not clear about what you think? Why are you posting the same thing at great length repetitively? Don't you think this is a bit much?


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

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