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Voters will see parcel tax measure in Menlo Park school district

Original post made on Dec 6, 2016

A ballot measure asking Menlo Park City School District voters to approve a $360 annual parcel tax that would expire after seven years was unanimously approved Monday night by the district's governing board, including two newly seated board members.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 6, 2016, 10:54 AM

Comments (22)

19 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 6, 2016 at 11:26 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Well done school Board.

Now the challenge is to conduct an intense education effort to reach the non-parent taxpayers/voters.




20 people like this
Posted by Kindness matters
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Dec 6, 2016 at 11:32 am

Thank you, members of the board, for agreeing on a reasonable level of funding for this much needed parcel tax. It is critical to pass this measure, otherwise this district will be unrecognizable within the year.

I have watched this open and inclusive process unfold over the last several months and I appreciate the open and candid discussions and compromise.

In addition to raising funds through this parcel tax, even if it passes, the district will have to make significant cuts. Although unfortunate, I understand the expression of those in our community who want to see the district be as efficient with every penny as possible and don't yet fully understand how much money our local district will be mandated to send back to the state in the next few years. I would support a higher level to impact our programs less, but appreciate that compromise was needed to reach consensus.

I particularly appreciate that one of our new board members, Caroline Lucas, support the measure at this level, too:
"Ms. Lucas agreed. "To not pass another (parcel tax measure), I couldn't live with the consequences," she said."

I believe that funding the future of our children should be the highest priority for our community.

@Peter, I agree! Let's work together on helping all voters understand the need for this parcel tax.





33 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 6, 2016 at 11:41 am

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

I think special kudos are due to Caroline Lucas and David Ackerman.

Both have had to come up to speed very quickly in the middle of a contentious debate. Both seemed to start at different ends of the spectrum -- David wanted $500++, Caroline less than the final $360. But they seemed to appreciate that, more than their personal positions, it was important to have a common Board position.

And kudos to the existing Board, all of whom wanted more than $360, but who, even more, wanted a number that the community could approve in support of good schools.

So much was carefully quantified in the weeks of discussions leading up to this! If the campaign committee can winnow the information well, I have no doubt the non-parent voters will (as they in the past) support our Board, our schools, our kids, and the intellectual breadth and depth of this community.


4 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 6, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

What was the final language? Was the only change the dollar amount from $350 to $360, making the new total for all the parcel taxes $1027?


23 people like this
Posted by Karen Dearing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Karen Dearing is a registered user.

I concur with all posters thus far. The amount and term are indeed a compromise and will necessitate considerable additional cuts while (should the measure pass) the additional revenue will shield our district from a more dire and drastic curtailing of the quality of education being provided. Should the tax pass, it buys the district time to work with the community to find a more lasting solution.

Kudos indeed to Caroline in particular for taking the time to get educated on the finances of the district and to our district leadership and parent supporters who helped her do so. I'm so glad to see the district taking the need to inform the public more seriously, to see the increasing level of engagement from the community, and to see individuals who had previous been at odds finding common ground in why and how to move forward.

Peter is exactly right. Now one of the greatest challenges is to inform the non-parent voters about the need.


11 people like this
Posted by Brown Eyed Girl
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 6, 2016 at 6:49 pm

Brown Eyed Girl is a registered user.

Congratulations to the MPCSD Board for reaching consensus on a revised parcel tax measure that will be more palatable to the voters and will provide a dependable funding support for our schools, if passed.

Kudos to Caroline Lucas for all her efforts to get up to speed quickly and for supporting the parcel tax. If not for her involvement, I fear we may have had yet another failed parcel tax effort with devastating cuts to the schools.

Has anyone considered what a gift the District received in the failure of Measure A and Measure C last Spring?

Measure C was a deeply flawed measure that was tied to enrollment growth. The District's failure to admit that escalating employee compensation and benefits ( pensions), were the root cause of the budget deficit, caused them to structure a solution that was going to be ineffective.

Consider this: If the failed Measure C was implemented, MPCSD would stand to receive only $96.80 in additional funding (if we use organic enrollment growth numbers and not employee children, etc.) in year 1.

If this new parcel tax passes, MPCSD, will receive not only a renewal of the current $207 but an additional $153 (two years earlier than under the failed measure) and a 4 year runway to make appropriate adjustments to minimize disruption to the schools.

Under the previous parcel tax proposal, if there was no enrollment growth, there would be no additional tax - yet the pension contributions would still be required and deeper cuts would have to be made because you cannot go back to the well after you impose a PERMANENT Parcel tax.

I acknowledge the $468.60 cap on the failed parcel tax is higher (tied to enrollment), but every single other school district surrounding us is experiencing declining enrollment growth. MPCSD may not experience the level of enrollment growth they expect.

This current proposal is far superior to the failed measures.

Thank you to everyone who put in many hours of hard work to get us to this point.




20 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 7, 2016 at 7:39 am

I still think we are putting band aids on a broken education funded system. It seems that we get a parcel tax from one of the school districts every voting cycle. Something is wrong if we need to keep augmenting their financial funding.

How about trying to correct the overall system?


27 people like this
Posted by Jennifer Bestor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 7, 2016 at 8:27 am

Jennifer Bestor is a registered user.

Bob,
I couldn't agree with you more. If you're really interested, get in touch and we can chat. I've spent six years reluctantly digging through everything from property tax assessments to allocation, from local redevelopment incursions into school funding to the state's wholesale backdoor diversions ... all the way through Proposition 98 to the Local Control Funding Formula. For no money and less glory I've tried to figure out how it works now, and made one or two frustrated attempts to change it. Whilst thinking globally, however, I've decided that, right now, we have to act locally.


6 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 10, 2016 at 10:40 am

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Homeowners, a YES vote on the Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) parcel tax will raise their CPI adjusted take to $1037. A NO vote will allow that total to drop to $684. This is in addition to MPCSD’s share of the 1% General Property Tax you already pay. And, in that 1% tax, you are also being taxed for the Sequoia Union High School District and the Community College District. The parcel taxes are above and beyond the 1% tax, as are the taxes collected to service the bonded indebtedness of those three districts.
If you own a $500,000 starter home, those “education” taxes total more than $3,500.

Then, there are the “on behalf” payments by the state (that comes from all of us) to service bonds issued to provide “matching funds” for the district.

If you choose to vote NO, don’t let anyone accuse you of not supporting education!

Seniors are “bribed” by the district with a tax exemption.

The budget problem which MPCSD and school districts throughout California are facing is the result of unsustainable “defined benefit” pension plans. (CalPERS and CalSTRS). Those in the private sector saw their retirement plans devastated by the financial meltdown in 2008. Not so public employees. Individually, districts have little control over the situation. Collectively, they can petition the Legislature for an across-the-board reduction in benefits to solve the problem. This would provide millions in budget relief, AND, an increase in teachers take home pay.

School districts and other local government agencies need to get-off-the-dime and collectively advocate for an emergency solution to the pension problem!


2 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 28, 2016 at 11:42 am

Political consultants hired by the district, crafted ballot language designed to maximize the likelihood of voter approval. The phrase “replace its expiring parcel tax at the new rate of $360...” adopted by the Board on advice of those consultants, DELIBERATELY excluded “increased rate”. The language in this communication to the voters is clearly intended to influence the outcome of the election. The United States Supreme Court defined such communications as an “electioneering communication” that “is susceptible of no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate.” (or, by extension, a ballot measure) Leake, 525 F.3d at 282-83

Ballot Arguments can be found via this link:

Web Link

Th Impartial Analysis is late, but should be posted this afternoon.


2 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 28, 2016 at 4:36 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

IMPARTIAL ANALYSIS OF MEASURE X
The California Constitution and state law authorize school districts to levy
qualified special taxes for specified purposes. Government Code Sections 50077 and
50079 provide that such a tax measure passes if two-thirds of those voting on it vote
to approve the measure.
The Menlo Park City Elementary School District (the “District”) currently has
an annual parcel tax of $207 per parcel adopted in 2010 that will expire June 30,
2017. By this measure, the District’s Board of Education proposes to renew and
increase a special tax on parcels in the District that would raise funds to support
various educational purposes outlined below. If this measure is approved, an annual
tax of $360 per parcel, adjusted annually for inflation, would be imposed starting on
July 1, 2017, for a period of seven years, with the tax ending June 30, 2024.
The proposed tax applies to any unit of real property in the District that
receives a separate property tax bill from San Mateo County tax collection officials.
Any individual who owns and occupies a parcel as a principal residence may apply
for an exemption to the tax if they also: 1) are age 65 years or older; 2) receive
Supplemental Security Income for a disability, regardless of age; or 3) receive Social
Security Disability Insurance benefits, regardless of age, and have an annual income
not exceeding 250% of the 2012 federal poverty guidelines.
The stated purposes of the parcel tax are to: retain and attract excellent
classroom teachers; maintain reasonable student-to-teacher ratios; preserve
comprehensive education programs such as science, art, music, and library; provide
other supplemental financial support to purchase instructional equipment, supplies,
and materials for classroom instruction; and maintain a comprehensive elective
offering at Hillview Middle School. Proceeds shall be used for programs at Encinal
School, Laurel School, Oak Knoll School, and Hillview Middle School and shall be
fairly and equitably distributed across all schools and students as determined by the
District’s governing board. No proceeds may be spent on direct or indirect costs of
District administration.
The proceeds of the parcel tax will be placed into a special account. An
annual report accounting for parcel tax revenues collected and expended and the
status of projects or programs funded by the tax will be filed with the Board of
Education. An independent citizens’ oversight committee will be appointed to review
the expenditures of the parcel tax. The tax will be decreased if any increase in local,
state, or federal funding is put in jeopardy based on the existence of the tax. The
District’s appropriations limit shall be increased annually if necessary to ensure the
revenue from the tax may be spent for the listed purposes.
A “yes” vote on this measure would impose an annual tax of $360 per
taxable parcel, adjusted annually, on property within the District for a
period of seven years beginning July 1, 2017, for the purposes listed
above.
A “no” vote on this measure would not allow the parcel tax to be
levied, with the existing annual parcel tax of $207 per parcel expiring
without replacement on June 30, 2017.
This measure passes if two-thirds of those voting on the measure vote “yes.”


2 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 28, 2016 at 4:41 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

"The District’s appropriations limit shall be increased annually if necessary to ensure the revenue from the tax may be spent for the listed purposes."

"We the people" passed the Gann Expenditure Limit to put a cap on expenditures while allowing for growth factors. When revenue falls below these limits, it is reasonable to seek additional revenue. That is not the case here.


2 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Dec 28, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

History of MPCSD parcel taxes appended below. Did each of these include a provision to raise the Expenditure Limit? I expect that they did. I leave the research to apologists for the district.

Parcel tax revenues account for approximately 15% of the District’s Total General Fund Resources. The District collected parcel tax revenues of approximately $6.7 million in 2015-16. The District has four parcel taxes of which three are evergreen. The four parcel taxes together provided the District with about $850 per parcel for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Senior exemptions are allowed for all parcel taxes. Click here for more information about the exemptions.

On May 4, 2010, 76.2% of District voters authorized a parcel tax (Measure C) to maintain small class sizes, fund teachers and educational programs. The measure authorized the District to levy the tax at the initial rate of $178 per year on each parcel of taxable real property in the District for a term of seven years. This measure sunsets on June 30, 2017. The tax rate is adjusted annually to account for changes in the consumer price index for the San Francisco Bay Area. The rate for 2015-16 is $201.38 per parcel.

Funding On November 4, 2003, 77.4% of District voters authorized another parcel tax to restore programs lost due to State budget cuts, including funding for remedial math and ‎reading, textbooks and materials, and to prepare teachers in the most effective teaching techniques in math, reading and science‎. The measure authorized the District to levy the tax at the initial rate of $73 per year on each parcel of taxable ‎real property in the District, commencing July 1, 2004, without expiration. The tax rate is adjusted annually to account for changes in the consumer price index for the San Francisco Bay Area. The rate for 2015-16 is $94.78 per parcel.

On November 4, 2003, 80.9% of District voters approved a measure to renew an existing parcel tax to maintain smaller class sizes for all students, and to maintain funding for the teaching positions that facilitate those smaller class sizes.‎ The measure authorized the District to levy the tax at the initial rate of $97 per year on each parcel of taxable ‎real property in the District, commencing July 1, 2004, without expiration. The tax rate is adjusted annually to account for changes in the consumer price index for the San Francisco Bay Area. The rate for 2015-16 is $125.94 per parcel.

On April 11, 2000, 74.7% of District voters authorized a parcel tax to improve children’s academic performance, reduce class size, improve teacher quality and expand courses. The measure authorized the District to levy the tax at the initial rate of $298 per year on each parcel of taxable ‎real property in the District, commencing July 1, 2000, without expiration. The tax rate is adjusted annually to account for changes in the consumer price index for the San Francisco Bay Area. The rate for 2015-16 is $429.46 per parcel.


10 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jan 9, 2017 at 3:58 pm

It is appalling that people fight these taxes and then casually say that children are our future. Using political means to force board member seats and financial change has long term results on the education level of Menlo Park. $1027 is hardly a lot of money and the parcel tax should be three times that if we really want to prepare our children for the future.

Thank god we have the MPAEF to pick up where the citizens of our school district so poorly left off!


14 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 9, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Parent states - "$1027 is hardly a lot of money and the parcel tax should be three times that if we really want to prepare our children for the future. "

That may well be "true" for you but do not assume that the voters will agree with you either with regards to $1027 or $3081.

Unless the proponents dramatically increase their efforts to educate the non-parent voters the proposed parcel tax, which I support, will fail. Absentee voting will begin in less than 30 days and yet there has been virtually no outreach to the non-parent voters.


10 people like this
Posted by Menlo Park Parent
a resident of Laurel School
on Jan 10, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Rest assured, the "proponents" will soon be launching major efforts to reach the parent and non-parent population who will soon vote on this very important, newly proposed parcel tax, Measure X. Campaign efforts will target those who are not already aware of the MPCSD deficit which has been discussed at numerous open forum, district-wide meetings. Campaign communications will, of course, include mail, email, social media, newspapers, etc.

Now that the holidays have passed, the campaign efforts are underway. In the next few weeks voters will begin to receive information. Meanwhile, I encourage all to visit, read and share two very important links which will provide all district voters more factual information about MPCSD.

MPCSD Structural Deficit FAQ Web Link

Campaign information:
Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Karen Dearing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 10, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Karen Dearing is a registered user.

As an MPCSD parent, and an actively involved on at that, I can say that there has been "virtually no outreach" to parent voters yet either. Peter is absolutely right that outreach to the whole community is critical, but please Peter don't imply that the district or the forming campaign is ignoring non-parent voters.

For those who want to learn more about Measure X, take a look at www.supportmenloparkschools.org. I personally am in strong support of Measure X because I value our excellent local public schools and support a modest increase in my property tax bill (+$153 over the existing parcel tax bundle for MPCSD) to help keep our schools strong in the face of growing enrollment and increasing pension costs being imposed by the state.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 10, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"t please Peter don't imply that the district or the forming campaign is ignoring non-parent voters. "

The public record speaks for itself - there has been zero outreach to the non-parent voters.


3 people like this
Posted by MPCSD Parent2
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 10, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Peter & Others -

As others have recently noted, (i) the proponents of Measure X have quite a bit of information available for "non-parent" and "parent" voters alike at Web Link and (ii) outreach and education for all voters about Measure X, which the Board just approved a month ago, will be ramping up this month after the holiday season. 

In terms of the substance of and need for Measure X, especially after familiarizing themselves with the information available at such sites, I think that all (or virtually all) voters in our community should be able to agree with several items that point towards the need to pass Measure X. 

Putting aside the efforts of a few people who seem committed to reading data/statistics in the manner that supports views such as "public school taxes should never be raised -- even if Prop 13's cap on property taxes imposes a unique burden on community-funded school districts,” I sincerely believe that most members of our community know, or will soon recognize, that:

— Our MPCSD schools (Laurel, Encinal, Oak Knoll, Hillview) provide our children with an excellent education.

— That excellent education is provided at a cost (~$14K per pupil) that is well within the range, if not lower, than the cost of similar high-performing schools in the area (e.g. Las Lomitas, ~$16K per pupil)— and substantially below the cost of numerous high-performing schools in affluent communities outside of California
that consistently rank at the top nationwide (e.g. Newton MA, ~$18K per pupil, Cambridge MA ~$27K per pupil).

— A primary driver of why additional funds are needed for our schools is to pay for state-mandated increases in payments to the state-run pension fund, in order to make up for decades of Sacramento not properly managing payments to that fund — something well beyond the control of our school district.

— Another primary driver of why additional funds are needed is to pay for increases in student enrollment; the tax revenue from homes newly sold and other funding mechanisms simply do not cover the costs for the increases in student enrollment.

I look forward to all of our community , or at least 2/3 of voters, acknowledging the above and casting a ballot to preserve one of the best assets of our community.


10 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 10, 2017 at 6:12 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

"A primary driver of why additional funds are needed for our schools is to pay for state-mandated increases in payments to the state-run pension fund, in order to make up for decades of Sacramento not properly managing payments to that fund — something well beyond the control of our school district."

THIS is what it's all about. NONE of the other stuff. EXCEPT, the board can control pension costs by CONTROLLING SALARIES. I know that's a dirty word, but if you really want my vote, which I already tend to give you in this case already, DON'T treat me like I'm stupid. DON'T blow smoke up my skirt. Be COMPLETELY honest. Your post above is NOT.

Stop treating the voters of this district as dummies and we might actually vote for X. Keep putting out the garbage above and we WILL NOT.


3 people like this
Posted by Money Saver
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 28, 2017 at 9:08 am

Menlo Voter, I couldn't agree more with you.
All these monies that the district is asking for is to cover non other than the teacher's pension fund. It has nothing to do with great schools and teachers for our children.
The government of the State of California keeps squandering money on needless projects, reaching into every single money chest they can grab on and everyone knows about it but, turn their eyes away from the real problem. The solution is simple... to better manage their costs is to cut off the monetary support and I'll bet you they will be a lot more frugal with spending the little money they get. Why is it that we as taxpayers have to always bail them out of their shortfalls? Why do we always have to foot the bill for mishandling of funds? Keep in mind that they (teachers, superintendent, etc,etc) get a substantial salary raises every year. Is not just about our CHILDREN only!!! There's always a motive behind the action.


4 people like this
Posted by Concerned Citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 28, 2017 at 9:35 am

Until Teachers stop using the classroom for promoting liberal politics and denigrating conservative values then voters should reject the parcel tax. The classroom should be used to teach children not indoctrinate them with "progressive" propaganda. The classroom needs to be a "No Partisan Politics" zone. How about teaching mathematics, logic, science, literature, English writing, English spelling, at least one romance language, music, the arts and physical education instead of indoctrinating children in partisan politics?


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