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Atherton, Menlo Park: Friday deadline to challenge school tax ballot rebuttals

Friday, Jan. 6, is the deadline for the public to challenge the language of the rebuttals to the arguments for and against the parcel tax measure, Measure X, that will go before voters in the Menlo Park City School district on March 7.

During a 10-day public review period, registered voters in the school district may challenge the language of the rebuttal arguments.

Here are the arguments that have been submitted:

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Argument in favor of Measure X

"The Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) has some of the best K-8 schools in California – Laurel, Encinal, Oak Knoll and Hillview – with talented, dedicated teachers and staff. California state funding for education is near the bottom nationwide, and MPCSD's high-quality education is only possible due to our community's support and commitment. Our local parcel taxes provide 15 percent of the funding for our district, and one of these parcel taxes will expire in June. The loss of this funding, along with increasing state obligations and enrollment, will generate a budget deficit of over $5 million in five years.

"Without Measure X:

"Expiring parcel tax funding will be lost;

"Teacher reductions start in Spring 2017;

"Art, library and science programs will be significantly diminished; and

"Class sizes will increase.

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"A vote FOR Measure X will:

"Keep class sizes reasonable;

"Protect art, library and science programs; and

"Retain our highly qualified and experienced teachers.

"In addition:

"Funds from Measure X can't be taken by the state. They are required by law to be used exclusively for our award-winning K-8 schools.

"Revenue raised by Measure X will be tracked and is subject to strict fiscal controls and oversight, including independent annual audits.

"Includes exemption for residents 65 and over.

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"Menlo Park City School District depends on this crucial funding to provide a bright future for our children and keep our property values strong. YES on Measure X means investing in our students, teachers, and the future of our community.

"For more information go to SupportMenloParkSchools.org.

"Please vote YES on Measure X on March 7, 2017."

Signed by David Ackerman, Caroline Lucas, Sarah Cueva and Charlot Singleton of Menlo Park and Mark Box of Atherton.

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Rebuttal to argument in favor of Measure X

"In May 2016, voters defeated TWO parcel taxes. Only 22.5% of registered voters supported Measure A. Only 20% supported Measure C.

"Existing parcel taxes providing 15% of district funding, and generous contributions from MPAEF and PTO's, have created schools which go far beyond basics. Bonded indebtedness of $131,000,000 approved by voters has added to the grandiosity of MPCSD schools. Voters do not need to raise taxes because the District is already collecting far more than necessary to provide a more than basic education.

"The state has an obligation to provide equal education to everybody. MPCSD tells voters they can have better schools than their neighbors if they increase taxes. This is wrong. Every child is entitled to equal education no matter what school the government forces her to go to. Eventually, the state must adjust funding to approach equality. Because MPCSD could stop the tax, they claim the state cannot take money away.

"A NO vote allows one existing tax to expire, still leaving $684 in parcel taxes with NO expiration date. Proponents claim a $5,000,000 budget deficit will result. Wrong! The district has plans to prevent that from happening.

"Proponents claim this tax will be subject to 'oversight.' But their similar bond oversight committee has 4 VACANCIES out of 7 members!

"Political consultants hired by the district, crafted ballot language to elicit voter approval. The phrase 'replace its expiring parcel tax at the new rate of $360...' recommended by those consultants, DELIBERATELY hide $153 increase!

"Vote NO on Measure X!"

Signed by Harland Harrison of Belmont and Jack Hickey of Emerald Hills, representing the Libertarian Party of San Mateo County.

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Argument against Measure X

"In May 2016, the Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) placed TWO parcel taxes on an all-mail ballot. They BOTH FAILED.

"Proponents blamed the 2/3 vote requirement for their loss, but the 2/3 vote protects property owners from the whims of short-sighted alarmists. Lowering the 2/3 requirement for school bonds has created a massive increase in bonded indebtedness and our children will be stuck with the bill.

"Now, only 10 months after losing two tax measures, MPCSD returned in this off-year election. This time, a YES vote would raise their CPI adjusted 'take' to about $1,044 per parcel. Voting NO would allow that total to drop to around $684.

"MPCSD does not need any more taxes and has budget plans which do not require them. The 1% General Property Tax already includes taxes for MPCSD. Parcel taxes are levied above that 1% tax, as are the additional taxes servicing over $130,000,000 bonded indebtedness of MPCSD.

"Californians pay plenty for education. Nearly half of all general fund taxes in California are spent on education. Then, there are State 'on behalf' payments, (from our taxes), to service bonds providing 'matching funds' to the District. Voters already authorized bonds for MPCSD, for $91.1 million in 2006 and $23 million in 2013. If you choose to vote NO on this parcel tax, don't let anyone accuse you of not supporting education!

"If school districts in California face budget problems, blame the unfunded liabilities in California's 'defined benefit' pension plans, CalPERS and CalSTERS. People in the private sector saw retirement plans devastated by the financial meltdown in 2008, but not public employees. Government should solve its long-term problem of pension plans, instead of continually asking for tax increases.

"Meanwhile, Menlo Park City School District can continue to provide an above average education with their existing revenue. Vote NO on another parcel tax. "

Signed by Harland Harrison of Belmont and Jack Hickey of Emerald Hills, representing the Libertarian Party of San Mateo County.

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Rebuttal to argument against Measure X

"Menlo Park schools face serious financial challenges. Critical funding from an existing voter-approved parcel tax will expire in June. Without Measure X our District's annual budget deficit will grow to $5 million in five years.

"Our schools need Measure X to prevent teacher layoffs; maintain reasonable class sizes; and preserve our science, art, and library programs.

"Some argue that California spends too much on education. In fact, California is ranked #35 nationwide in spending per student. Given state school funding allocations, communities like ours depend on parcel taxes to supplement school budgets. Our local parcel taxes represent 15% of MPCSD's funding.

"Even with those taxes, MPCSD spends less per pupil than comparably high-performing districts nearby. Nationwide, well-funded affluent district spend up to twice our amount per student.

"To minimize taxes, our Superintendent has proposed $2 million in budget cuts. Together with Measure X, the cuts reflect a multi-year plan for financial stability that preserves our educational programs, meets state-mandated obligations, and maintains required reserves.

"This plan is the result of an exhaustive, months-long public dialogue and budget review. Over 2,500 members of the public participated.

"Our community has always supported education. Thriving local schools make our neighborhoods stronger, more vibrant and connected. We must continue to invest in our young minds, maintain our property values, and ensure our community's future.

"Vote YES on Measure X to renew our commitment to Encinal School, Laurel School, Oak Knoll School, and Hillview Middle School."

Signed by Rebecca Bloom, Sherwin Chen, Victor Vuchic and Jeffrey Child of Menlo Park and Veronica Kogler of Atherton.

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