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Voters to decide whether to adopt $23 million bond measure for new school in Menlo Park

Original post made on Jun 12, 2013

School board members last night (June 11) agreed with Menlo Park City School District staff that district voters should be asked to approve a $23 million bond measure in November to pay for the reopening of a fifth campus. A new school is needed, the board determined earlier this year, to address rapidly growing enrollment.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 11:48 AM

Comments (21)

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Posted by Wrong Choice
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Menlo park already owes $38million in principal on school bonds, with $150m long term obligation over 32-35 YEARS.

Another $23m bond measure would result in additional $80-90m bond payments owed by current and future property owners.

Obviously more space is needed, but the school board is proposing the most expensive option, as opposed to the ~$6m option to expand/renovate the existing campus.

The state is considering rules to limit use of these long-term bonds because anything over 20 years is risky and expensive.

The cost to each of Menlo Parks 12,000 households would be up to $20,800 EACH for all 3 bonds combined. The current obligation of the existing bonds is around $12,000 each household.

Can they also put the lower cost option to ballot, and see which one voters approve? I know which one I would vote for, and I have kids in school. I teach them daily not to buy more than they can afford.

Facilities don't make the education great... it's the teachers and parents.

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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 12, 2013 at 9:18 pm

What's the real cost of the $23 million bond. How many years to pay it off? What kind of bond? If it's a Capital Appreciation Bond, like the other recent bonds still outstanding for the district, then it will be 40 years and total cost of about $100 million cost to us taxpayers.

This would bring our debt service for just three of the district's bonds up to $250,000,000 (one-quarter of a BILLION dollars).

It's all in the details.

Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABS) from the LA Times of Nov 29, 2012.
"Risky bonds tie schools to huge debt"
The article
Web Link
The chart - see page 3 of the chart
Web Link

CABs are secured by an unlimited ad valorem tax pledge levied against all taxable property. The CABs shift the debt burden to future taxpayers. The current school board and administration don't care because they'll be long gone and dead when the proverbial "s..t" hits the fan.

BTW has anyone tallied up the cost of renovations to Hillview, from 1995 to 2010, which have been torn down for the "new" campus? Not just the construction costs but the bond amounts and their debt service. I'm sure it's a shocking figure of waste and mismanagement and broken promises to the neighbors and taxpayers.

Taxpayers beware.

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Posted by Fix it
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jun 13, 2013 at 1:16 am

I don't like CABs either, but bonds with a lower debt burden (20 years) would require a higher tax rate. We can pay more today and help the district for the long term if we want. On the topic of incremental / cheaper fixes vs. doing it right in the first place, Hillview was a victim of incremental fixes. The previous facility was charmingly band-aided all over, with the thought that that was the least costly option, based on forecasts at the time. But eventually we ran off the edge of the forecast.

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Posted by Facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 13, 2013 at 6:56 am

Most of the funds spent at Hillview out of the '95 bond were to build the gym, and that facility was not knocked down and is part of the new Hillview.

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Posted by Don't Do It
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm

There are less expensive options. The MPCSD just isn't used to having to think about them because they've never had a bond measure fail.

There is no other school district I've heard of that employees a full-time construction manager. He was hired about four years ago to manage the Encinal, Oak Knoll and Laurel building projects, and stayed on to manage the Hillview construction. They claim he's saved the district more than his salary, but guess who put the numbers together to prove that? He was supposed to leave after Hillview was completed, but instead they changed his title to facilities manager and put him in charge of the study that led the school board down this latest path.

Hopefully Menlo Park voters have finally reached the tipping point. If this one is approved, expect another bond measure in 2017 for something else.

Necessity is the mother of invention and if it's necessary for the district to come up with a better solution they certainly have the brain power to do so. I will be voting NO and hope my neighbors do the same. Too bad we have to waste taxpayer dollars to put this on the ballot before that happens, though.

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Posted by Old MP
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 13, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I think PAUSD has one guy that oversees all of their projects.

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Posted by Keeping Up
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm

That explains why Menlo Park wanted one, too. Only difference is that the construction manager of the PAUSD makes the same salary to oversee the needs of 17 schools, and we have 4 going on 5.

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Posted by Economics
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Wow! Are these numbers true? Once school taxes meet or exceed private school tuition, why would anyone pay them? You'd be better off moving somewhere with lower taxes and pick whatever school you want for your child. The only way it will make sense to move to Menlo Park is if you have multiple school-aged children, which is not good news for costs and class sizes in the MP schools.

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Posted by Honesty
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Just weeks ago, when MPSD evicted a rent-paying private school, it said it would quickly reopen the school at minimal cost. It said the action was urgently needed. Now its $23 million and years away. NICE LESSON IN HONESTY FOR THE CHILDREN!

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Posted by Renee Batti
associate editor of The Almanac
on Jun 13, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Renee Batti is a registered user.

Honesty, for the record:

1. The district has not evicted the private school. It shortened its lease by two years, to end in June 2014. It's almost certain that it will again modify the lease next week to allow the school to remain until mid-May 2015. The original lease expired June 2016.

2. The district board never said it would "quickly reopen the school at minimal cost." The board has spent many hours over the last few months trying to analyze options, and almost from the beginning, the cheapest option, which would be to try to modernize the existing building (and which would require the least amount of time), did not appear to have much board support.

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Posted by Wrong Choice
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 13, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Well, $20,000 per household bond obligations over 30 years is about $700 per household each year. Back of the envelope math.

You can see at the below link that births in San Mateo County, and California as a whole, are declining. San Mateo County births: 9910 in 2007 (current kinders) to 9047 in 2011, and projected at 9300 by 2016 and maybe 9734 by 2021.

Thus, we might need a new school for $23m only for a few years. Why not renovate for ~$6m instead?

Web Link

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Posted by Wrong Choice
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 13, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Renee, Why does the renovation have low board support? When many in the public wants a less expensive option, the board really needs to justify why they are opposing public opinion.

This bond measure will not be rubber stamped through. Not with $150m bond obligations already existing, and Sequoia high school also needing to expand. The elementary school doesn't exist in a vacuum, and the public has been anxious for new candidates to run for the school board.

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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 14, 2013 at 2:36 am

wrong choice
It's not just local births in the district, it's also people moving into the district with kids born outside of the district.

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Posted by crown
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 14, 2013 at 5:41 am

A school board that has ripped apart the district with several layers of deceit, beginning with the ONE MILLION DOLLAR swaggering Superintendent, Maurice, now wants MORE money!


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Posted by crown
a resident of Atherton: other
on Jun 14, 2013 at 5:49 am

Renee, you might wanna post an abstract that 'according to Laura, a board member...' then proceed with what THEY told you in quotes.

Please do not do take up their arguments as your own.

The fact is that the board early on decided to not only ask taxpayer for further ANOTHER rip off, but decided long ago to take the school back.

How do I know? Maurice TOLD us at a leadership meeting! And he made this statement WEEKS before the board's position became public once the posturing 'public input' charade party ended.

I am NOT JOKING. I am NOT lying.

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Posted by And Furthermore
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 14, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Not only was the decision to take back the O'Connor site made long before it became public. The Board has also been moaning since Measure C was passed in 2010 that they should have asked for more because it was passed by such a large margin. They won't make that "mistake" again.

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Posted by Unlimited Money
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm

In Menlo Park, loving your school equals giving the school district everything and anything it asks for, so why should the Board be conservative? Parents and taxpayers have proven that money is no object. Keep an eye on what gets spent on the campaign to convince us that the end is near and the well being of our children is hanging in the balance if they open a school that won't win an architectural award. Count the signs, the mailers, the banners, etc. It's money spent from parent donations to the Education Foundation. Parents should remember their pockets are being picked from multiple directions. I thought good schools happened from the inside out -- not the other way around.

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Posted by Menlo Park teacher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm

If 4 local school districts combined into one district, over time millions of dollars could be saved by hiring one superintendent and administration staff. MPCSD has 4 schools, Portola Valley: 2 schools; Las Lomitas: 2 schools, and Woodside: only 1 school. We could have a very nice small-sized school district with only 9 schools. A portion of the money saved could go into additional worthwhile programs.
We have had parcel tax after parcel tax and now the district is asking for more from the Menlo Park taxpapers. I guess they think that every taxpaper is rich!

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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Yes, the voters will decide. They will also decide on the school board members at election time.

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Posted by Stop the Deception!
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2013 at 6:41 pm


Thank you for demonstrating courage by sharing the truth. We have experienced Ghysels and his entourage asking staff the question, “Who is posting those comments in the Almanac?” in order to intimidate us from sharing the truth with the public.

I know you are being truthful, because I was present at the Leadership Team meeting in January, along with at least 15 other district administrators, when Ghysels told us that the diabolical (his exact word) plan was to open O’Connor and hold a bond election sooner than later. He told us not to tell anyone about the plan, because the Board had to hold public input meetings.

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Posted by Grateful
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm

I appreciate that the Superintendent has been willing to make changes to get better staff into key positions. Keep up the good work.

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

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