Uploaded: Wed, Feb 2, 2011, 1:47 pm
Los Altos School District to vote on parcel tax
$193 annually for six years to 'get over the hump' of recession
In an effort to make up for falling revenues from state and federal sources, Los Altos' elementary and middle school officials are asking voters to approve a new $193 parcel tax this May.
Officials from the Los Altos School District said that an additional $16 per month is a reasonable price to pay to ensure that the schools continue to provide high quality educational programming.
"We're trying to safeguard our programs," said Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent of business services for the district.
Kenyon said that in the past two years, the district has lost more than $4 million in funding -- 10 percent of its budget. The new parcel tax would generate up to $2.3 million, and help the district "get over the hump of the recession."
Jay Gill, the parent of an eighth-grader in the school district and a member of the Los Altos Educational Foundation, supports the parcel tax, and echoed Kenyon's assessment of the current state of the district's finances.
"We've got to protect what we've got," Gill said. "There is no fluff to cut."
Both Kenyon and Gill said that residents living within the district should support local schools, regardless of whether they have children in the school system.
"I think there is a strong nexus between strong local schools and property values," Kenyon said, noting that homes within the district yield high appraisals in large part because of the quality of the area's schools.
There is a broader reason to support local schools, however, according to Kenyon: "Those children are our future leaders in business, government, industry."
Ron Haley, along with a group of like-minded locals, does not like the way the parcel tax is being presented.
A former CEO at several high tech companies throughout Silicon Valley, Haley said he isn't convinced that the district needs the money, and is even more skeptical about whether the district will spend the money wisely if the tax is approved.
"If they pass another parcel tax, all that's going to happen is what happened before," he said. There is currently a permanent $597 annual parcel tax in the district.
He said teacher salaries are unreasonably high, tenure is awarded too readily and that the district's unions continually make unreasonable demands and the district's "board rolls over and gives it to them."
Haley is organizing an opposition campaign that he said should be up and running in the coming weeks.
The Los Altos School District extends into parts of Mountain View. Kenyon said that about 25 percent of his district's student body -- 1,092 students -- live in Mountain View. The district's boundaries cover 2,766 parcels in Mountain View.
Posted by New Father
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 13, 2011 at 10:37 pm
My wife and I will be voting "Yes" on the parcel tax increase.
We based our decision on a few factors, which certainly differ based on individual voters' situation. To each their own.
* We felt it was important to understand the LASD's past and present finances, so we went over the 2010-2011 budget materials on the district's web site: Web Link
* Primarily, we wanted to know where the district's money is going in 2010-2011 relative to prior years. From the expenditures discussed in the budget, we saw that the major increase 4 years running in operating expenses was noted under employee benefits, but more specifically, the run up was tied largely to employee (current and retired) health care costs and unemployment insurance. Other operating expenses including salaries, books and supplies, and other services have had some rises and some falls in the past 4 years without quite as drastic a run up. Basically, we didn't see any expenditures that voting down a local parcel tax was going to impact in a way that we might want. I'm not an expert on California's pension plans, but I didn't think keeping the LASD leaner was going to do much about state-wide CalPERS or CalSTRS obligations (those plus retired health benefits amounted to about 8% of the projected budget). Also, I saw some concern mentioned about 80+% of the budget going towards salaries and benefits, but I was curious as to why that seemed abnormal or shocking in any way. Unless the schools were spending heavily on capital equipment (e.g., heavy machinery) or going all out with keeping up lavish facilities, I'd expect salaries and benefits to always represent quite a large percent of operating expenses just as with a normal company.
* Unfortunately, the losses in state funding over the past 4 years have outpaced the increases in operating expenditures, offset only marginally by a slight bump in revenue limit sources (e.g., property taxes). We felt the local school district could use the additional revenue.
* We wanted to know the historical support for the parcel tax, which we found in the budget docs: (1989, $168, 68% yes, new tax passed) -> (1993, $168, 81% yes, renewal passed) -> (1997, $264, 74% yes, increase passed) -> (2000, $264, 76% yes, renewal passed) -> (2002 Apr, $597, 65% yes, increase FAILED by 1-2%) -> (2002 Nov, $597, 71% yes, increase passed) -> (2006, $597, 78% yes, renewal passed). Support in the community seems fairly strong, historically. We were happy to see that.
* Lastly, from our standpoint, an additional $193 annually has little impact on our family's financial health. We understand every household has their own circumstances, but we figured we could handle an extra $16 per month ($12 or so after deductions, depending on your tax bracket). Also, if we had to make a choice between paying $50/month for cable TV or handing over $50/month to the local schools, our family would choose the latter.
We don't all have to agree, but I suppose that's why we're all entitled to our own votes.