News

Parents seek larger slice of Shoreline taxes

Issue goes before City Council next Tuesday

In one of its most challenging discussions in recent memory, the City Council on Tuesday will talk about the possibility of relinquishing to local schools a larger share of property taxes from North Bayshore companies, including Google.

A group of parents have organized a formidable campaign, called "Share Shoreline," to retrieve the funds, which they say are unfairly withheld in a 40-year-old tax district known as the Shoreline Community. City officials say they are sympathetic to the parent's concerns and are carefully considering a solution. Nevertheless, the City Council chambers is expected to be packed on Tuesday at 5 p.m. with school parents recruited by the campaign's Facebook page, the shareshoreline.org website and pitches to local Parent Teacher Associations and school site councils.

The Mountain View Whisman School Board will also be discussing the issue on Thursday evening at 8 p.m. at Theuerkauf elementary school.

Shoreline in a nut shell

Special state legislation passed in 1969 allows the Shoreline Community, which is controlled by the City Council, to collect nearly all of the taxes on properties north of Highway 101 in Mountain View, taxes which would otherwise be shared with local schools and the county. The Shoreline Community then pays for the ongoing maintenance and city improvements to Shoreline Park and the surrounding business district, as well as the usual city services of firefighting and police in the neighborhood.

Last fiscal year the Shoreline Community brought in $29.1 million in property taxes and had $18.7 million in ongoing expenses. The arrangement has created the 500-acre Shoreline Park and a successful business district that's home to Google.

"Shoreline is in a sense the crown jewel of Silicon Valley. It is one of the most valuable assets in Mountain View. It's not fair that our schools don't benefit from that asset," said Jim Pollart, a Mountain View Whisman parent who is leading the Share Shoreline effort.

Despite the success of the special tax district, even some City Council members, including Mountain View Whisman parent Margaret Abe-Koga, find the arguments from school parents hard to counter. The Mountain View Whisman School District alone would see an additional $5.9 million in tax revenue if the tax district were to be eliminated. Mountain View Los Altos high school district would see an additional $3.6 million.

City officials were open to the idea of sharing the funds on Tuesday.

"We're not coming from the perspective that we will keep it all for ourselves," said Assistant City Manager Melissa Stevenson Dile, referring to the Shoreline fund.

"It's not a question of whether Shoreline funds will be shared with local schools, but when and how much," said finance director Patty Kong.

Shoreline's revenues are predicted to decline to $26.8 million this year and continue to decline over the next few years. Further detail about its current and forecasted revenues and expenses was expected to be available in a city staff report released on the evening of Feb. 3.

Pollart's group has been quietly approaching city officials about the issue over much of the last year. Pollart spends his workday negotiating real estate development projects with city councils and acquiring land for O'Brien Homes, and he and others in his group have extensive experience fundraising for the school district.

"All our fundraising efforts, however, only generate about $800,000 per year not nearly enough to cover the $2.4 million in cuts in this past year alone" to the district's $32 million operating budget, Pollart writes in a letter the City Council.

Last year, district superintendent Craig Goldman said his district would have an additional $1,000 per student annually if the Shoreline Community was dismantled, which would buy the city's elementary and middle schools smaller class sizes, more competitive salaries for teachers and more funds for programs that serve the district's poorer students.

Pollart said he and his group were shocked to read about the Shoreline Community in an article detailing the issue in the Voice in March 2010. The group has been researching the topic ever since, filing requests for documents with the city attorney.

"We've tried to be very respectful and responsible," Pollart said. "We don't want to go off half-cocked. We wanted to do our homework so that when we come forward we're credible."

Spurred by historical events

The Shoreline Community was never designed to have such an impact on local schools. Before the passage of Proposition 13 in 1979, schools "would have been able to raise the property tax rate," said finance director Patty Kong. The issue remained dormant until 2009, when the Mountain View Whisman district became classified as a "basic aid" district. As a basic aid district, it doesn't get per-pupil state funding and instead would benefit from increases in local property tax revenue. School officials then took an interest in Shoreline.

Pollart and his group say the Shoreline Community needs some serious study by "an independent third-party consultant ... to determine what level of revenues Shoreline would require to finance on-going operations, long-term maintenance and debt service."

Such a study may vindicate the group's position, which is "that Shoreline should be wound down over a short period of time" and completely eliminated once all debts are paid.

Kong and Dile also said that could be a bad move because the Shoreline Community could face numerous potentially expensive projects in the future, including flood protection if the bay level rises, as well as mitigation for traffic congestion from anticipated Google developments.

The city's landfill under Shoreline Park is also a major cost concern for city officials. The clay cap covering the landfill requires constant maintenance in order to prevent methane gas from escaping and causing fires, and maintenance to prevent the ground above from settling unevenly.

Last year, the Shoreline Community's $18.7 million in expenses included $3.7 million in "direct operation costs," $6.9 million in debt payments; $5.2 million in "reimbursements" for ongoing police, fire and administrative services; and nearly $2 million in compensatory payments to the county, which also forgoes taxes to the Shoreline Community.

Kong said that Shoreline Community revenues are predicted to decline over the next few years as businesses there are seeking to have their property values reassessed because of the recession. A significant decline in property taxes could make what Pollart proposes more difficult.

Despite those assertions from city officials, Pollart believes the situation needs to be independently studied, much the way the city requires a developer to pay for an environmental impact report.

"We have a high level of trust in Mr. Duggan and his staff," Pollart said. "Having said that, the fact remains the city is in a position to benefit significantly from the continuation of the current" agreement with schools. The city's "joint powers agreement" gives each district $450,000 from the Shoreline Community for technology-related programs.

City officials say that underneath the controversy over the Shoreline Community is a story of successful collaboration. The city provides after-school programs, field maintenance, sports facilities at Graham and Crittenden middle schools, crossing guards and two police school resource officers, while the school districts allow public access to playgrounds, fields and gymnasiums at several schools that the city would otherwise be obligated to provide. The cost of those services has yet to be quantified by the city or school district.

The city's many successes aside, Pollart's bottom line is this: "I would like to see the city come up with a way to maintain Shoreline without continuing to take money from our schools."

Comments

Posted by MVLA HS Future Parent, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 2, 2011 at 7:09 pm

I appreciate that the City provides field maintenance at some school fields. But it really just seems fair since the City typically counts those fields are City Parks:

Web Link


Posted by localmom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 2, 2011 at 7:22 pm

A critical piece of the funding picture is the Federal Title I funds, which flow to only some of the elementary schools (Theurkauf, Castro and Landels, the others I'm not sure of), which benefit children of low socioeconomic status. Due to the fact that 2 schools have not met their API targets (test scores) over the past 2 years, they are in "Program Improvement". Instead of appropriately directing resources to save these failing schools, Mr. Goldman publicly stated in the MV Voice on 1/12/11 that "the district will have to seriously consider whether it is really worth receiving the Title I funds, or if Mountain View Whisman might do better to go without the money and the burden of accountability to the federal government." I urge involved parents to INSIST that this money still be accepted; it is the only significant source of complementary funds from the Federal Government and all local funding sources for the MVWSD has been severely impacted of late. If these funds disappear, students suffer, particularly the most vulnerable.
I also strongly agree that the Shoreline funds should benefit the schools. There is no argument there. I hope the City Council agrees or they can expect some serious opposition from parents in the next election cycle.


Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 3, 2011 at 1:46 am

Daniel has done a particularly fine job in covering this over the last few years. In 2008 the issue was not much discussed because the amount to the elementary district would only have been $2.5 M. Shoreline would have kicked MVWSD into Basic Aid. But it would have been a tremendous amount of political work for the parents. No council candidate supported the schools over Shoreline in the LWV Candidate Forum (I sent in the question).
MV Voice covered it on front page.
Besides the large chunk of money now - there is also the equally important issue of school funding inequity. Mountain View has at least $1610 less per student in revenue than Los Altos (2007 federal data base). [I agree with Localmom BTW]. When you look what that amounts per class, and continue K-8, that's A LOT of instruction.
Daniel one very small error. "Nutshell" Shoreline can collect all tax increases since 1969. This is the archaic TI or Tax Increment that you will hear (along with Frozen Base). This is all really moot - Shoreline now diverts 99% of the property taxes from schools, and only a bit is shared back (8%).


Posted by Mark, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 3, 2011 at 9:36 am

The schools are beginning to sound like the Federal, state and local governments: "We need more money from you taxpayers." ... how about the SCHOOL DISTRICTS living within their means, just like the rest of us schmucks do? After Prop. 13, the real estate market exploded as property taxes were drastically cut ... home owners and the value of their homes are the beneficiaries ... and now those same home owners/parents want yet another break? Home owners will get theirs when they sell their homes for loads more $ than they paid for them ... how about us single folks, us renters? Why do WE have to pay yet MORE for schools that DON'T MEET STATE STANDARDS??? There's gotta be a better, more fair and just way to spend the funds in question instead of just handing them over to schools ... I'm willing to bet that much of that $ will go to teacher salaries and WILL NOT directly benefit the students themselves ... I'm just sayin' ...


Posted by Taxpayer Too, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 3, 2011 at 9:58 am

@Mark, your rant against taxes seems mis-directed. Sharing the shoreline taxes will not increase your taxes by even one cent (especially if you're a renter). Note also that there is a much greater public accountability on school funds (you can elect, recall the board) than on the shoreline fund (very few folks even know who runs that fund and the fund managers are certainly not directly elected).


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm

"$5.2 million in "reimbursements" for ongoing police, fire and administrative services..."

------------

This portion of the expenses for the Shoreline Community raised my eyebrows. It isn't clear in the article, but do these reimbursements represent costs generated by the listed service specifically for the Shoreline Community, say on a per square acre cost for service?

Creating a separate pot of money that isn't covered by the same level of public scrutiny and access as the rest of the City budget provides the opportunity for this separate account to act as a slush fund.

The only way to dispel this notion, is to have an independent 3rd party audit of the finances of the Shoreline Community.

From past performance, it appears the Shoreline Community district has succeeded in developing once worthless land, into a highly prosperous area for the City. Its continued existence should be determined by the cold, hard numbers a 3rd party audit can provide.


Posted by Donna, a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm

@Hardin: "Creating a separate pot of money that isn't covered by the same level of public scrutiny and access as the rest of the City budget provides the opportunity for this separate account to act as a slush fund."

It's a separate pot, but it has the same level of public scrutiny. The Shoreline budget and the general fund budget (and the downtown revitalization district and a bunch of other separate funds) are approved simultaneously through the same process.


Posted by MV, a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 3, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I applaud Mr. Pollart. There is no arguement here. Shoreline is well developed and Google wants to develop it more with its own money. I don't understand why can't they share the property taxes with school which are not well developed district like the rest of us.

The city council favors corporations, apartment builders instead of families with kids. Next election we need to take a closer look at who we elect.


Posted by MV, a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Obviously those are slush funds as they make money and try to us money for development of already pretty well developed part of the cities.


Posted by MV, a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Also in 1969 Shoreline was bad condition now the schools are in bad condition. So can we please focus on the schools now!!!


Posted by margaret, a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 3, 2011 at 2:30 pm

It makes sense for money from the Shoreline Community to be redirected to benefit the schools. I would like for my children to have the kind of education we all were fortunate enough to have had.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 3, 2011 at 2:56 pm

I think City Council members are not looking at the whole picture for Mountain View. Just recently, they want to built 2 large apartment complexes on either end of El Camino. I would assume that children will be living in these complexes and will be entering into the school system. Where are we suppose to get the fund to educate these additional students? Should be just sent them to hang out at the Shoreline Park because it is so nicely maintained?

Having Google in Mountain View does not help the city as a whole because one source of tax revenue is being lost - sales tax from eating out. Since they provide free meal, the Google employees have no reason to go out and eat which translates to no business growth for Mountain View and no sales tax revenue.

It would have been better to have Intuit as at least the employee would have generated business for other Mountain View businesses.


Posted by jupiterk, a resident of Gemello
on Feb 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm

I think the school board is greedy and they are not happy with 250K+ or 300K+ salaries plus the benefits that they are getting. they want more. They are using the parents to come up with this plan so that they can steal more from the pot. Bunch of Thieves. BTW, I don't payu any property taxes but I do pay rent. So my some of my rent goes as property tax. What we have is just another Bell city and Most city council, school boards are run by rotten corrupt people. They are just no happy enough with the amount of money they steal from folks like me and want more.


Posted by MVMom, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 3, 2011 at 4:44 pm

@Jupiterk--Get real. The school board trustees are public servants and essentially volunteer their time for the good of all the families in the District. The California Education Code caps the maximum stipend they can receive at $240/month. They are offered some health insurance coverage. But they each spend many, MANY hours each month meeting with the District, preparing for meetings, working on reports, evaluating matters before them, attending school functions and community meetings. I'm sure the stipend equates to pennies per hour. You may not like every decision they make, but they each do what they think is the right thing to do in good conscience. No one is ever going to get rich working in the California public school system--and 99.9% of the folks working in the system do so because they care and want to give kids the very best education possible with the limited resources available. I applaud our public schools!


Posted by jupiterk, a resident of Gemello
on Feb 3, 2011 at 4:52 pm

@MVMom

My point is about all the officials who are getting the 6 figures salaries with benefits. I was not referring to the trustees. What I am not sure is are these trustees pushed by the other school district officials to get the money from the parcel tax so that the officials can pay themselves 10%+ plus raises and other perks. I think you are missing the point. The teachers and school district officials are making tons of money , if you didn't know already. There is one guy making 300K+ and he wants more because he think deserves more, that is what he thinks. Do you honestly think the quality of these schools is going to improve if we throw another $10M or $10B. These crocodiles will eat everything.


Posted by Hardin, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 3, 2011 at 5:51 pm

"It's a separate pot, but it has the same level of public scrutiny. The Shoreline budget and the general fund budget (and the downtown revitalization district and a bunch of other separate funds) are approved simultaneously through the same process."

---------------------

Thanks for clarifying that. I went online to MV's home page and brought up the annual budget for this year and you are correct, the Shoreline fund is presented in the budget analysis, along with other special funds. Here's what I gleaned from the documents.

1. The General Fund is about $100M available dollars. The Shoreline Commmunity Fund is about $52M available dollars. Other than the remarkable size of the Shoreline Community Fund as compared to the General Fund, is that the Shoreline Fund is hands down the most lucrative revenue generating instrument the City has, even when you take into account the expenditures on a year to year basis. Before expenses ($11M), it doubled in size from $23M to $52M.

2. A look at the balance sheet for the Shoreline Community Fund shows an increase in revenue from $25M to $28M from 2008-2011, while expenses have decreased from $33M to $19.5M during the same time frame.

3. The main driver for the decrease in expenses is Capital Projects, which spent $12.8M in 2008 and $800K in 2011. There's not alot planned to be built this year.

4. The next largest expense is General Fund Administration, at $5M. To put this in perspective, the next largest General Fund expense for any other City department is Waste Water, at $1.2M.

So a salient question is, what is paid for under Shoreline's General Fund Administration to make up $5M of costs? The documents I looked at online don't drill down to that detail.

To be sure, I'm no expert in audit finances, but there's enough on record that brings questions that I think would be good to get clarified, so its understood where the money is going. And, this isn't a reflection on the quality of the Shoreline program. Obviously, its an incredibly valuable instrument for the City, but because of its distinction, it requires even greater scrutiny to make sure the dollars it generates are spent wisely, and above board.


Posted by reader, a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 3, 2011 at 9:47 pm

to localmom, Hardin, Steven Nelson, Taxpayer Too, Donna...

Could you please consider running for City Council? Your remarks seem to indicate that you have the intellect, insight, impartiality, and good judgment needed for the job. I'd like some high quality candidates to choose from at election time.


Posted by localmom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 3, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Let's discuss school funding. The US Dept. of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, publishes the following data:
MV-W annual per-pupil spending: a lousy $9,513. Nearly $700 of this is federal money (and likely much of it the endangered Title I funds).

Anyone heard of Wellesley, MA? They spend $14,865/student/year. Evanston, IL (home of Northwestern U) spends $14,258. I have no idea where this is, but Happaugue, NY spends $19,000. The bedroom community near Boston of Framingham, MA, spends $15,454. Ewing Township, NJ (outside NYC) spends $15,356. Los Altos Elementary spends only $12,169 (near the bottom nationwide but not NEARLY as skimpy as MV-W). Belmont, CA: $10,919. The only district lower that popped up in my search as a "comparable" was Murfreesboro, TN, known for high school band competitions: $8,202.
Folks, the cost of living in MV is probably 3 times what it is in Tennessee! And comparable or more to those other well-off, educated communities I just named. PLEASE stop saying MV-W is wasting money on overpaid staff. There may be a tiny bit of waste, but the budget is FAR too small for these kids to compete in the Real World. Children all over the country are getting a much better-funded public education and this needs to be fixed!! How many of your co-workers moved here and how many graduated from the MV public schools??? Yah I thoughts so.
By sharing the Shoreline funds, no on is being asked to pay higher taxes or dig into their own pocket. The city needs to realize what an incredible resource is being wasted...young minds...a district that can't introduce more computers into the classroom (in Silicon Valley!!), that does not utilize Smart Boards, where kids write things in longhand. I agree that if the district GETS another $5 million/year they should have a plan for it with technology and student items, not just teacher salaries, but I think the teachers just signed a long-term contract recently so that shouldn't be a problem. And guess what, even if they get the $5 mill, that's only $1,136/student which just about brings us into line with Belmont. NEED TO KEEP WORKING ON THIS PROBLEM! BTW I agree, building more housing is NOT the answer, it is part of the long-term funding problem, because each new students splits the dollars even more.


Posted by James, a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 3, 2011 at 10:25 pm

The national average spending per pupil is about $10,000, but the cost of living in Mountain View is almost %150 of the national average.


Posted by Kristine, a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 3, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Honestly, I wonder how much of that money is for fancier buildings and sports equipment rather than new books and complex class subjects.


Posted by joan, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 4, 2011 at 6:52 am

Administrative salaries in MVWSD have risen between 50 and 70% in the last ten years while teacher salaries are flat. The schools don't need any more money until they address that issue.


Posted by localmom, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 4, 2011 at 7:08 am

Hi Kristine, facilities are paid for separately, by bond issues. I think the last one was over 10 years ago and was fully spent on renovating the campuses (actually just bringing them up to modern standards, wiring, HVAC, etc). Can't use annual educational funds for buildings. Could buy sports equipment but usually parents donate that!
Don't know if admin salaries have risen so dramatically. Ask the school board. However there are probably no more than 150 admin people for 4,400 kids so I"m not sure how that would be a dealbreaker if there is more money in the classroom. Maybe some could be allowed to retire and not replaced. Still don't see how that changes classroom needs.
Lastly not sure where that $8,000 average figure comes from. I don't think Silicon Valley is average in ANY way. We have more PhDs, MDs, JDs etc in MV than in your "average" Ohio community, and we need to educate children for the future. BEsides our cost of living is 30% higher (or more) so we should be spending at least $11K by those calculations, just to hit "average"...


Posted by James, a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 4, 2011 at 9:37 am

Mountain View Whisman would have to spend $15,000 per student to be at the national average adjusted for the local cost of living index.


Posted by Thinker, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 7, 2011 at 6:41 am

Lets get real. If the school district gets a huge influx of cash and schools improve, not only will our kis benefit, but anyone who owns a home in MV will benefit. Quality of schools is a huge driver of property value. Just ask our Palo Alto neighbors.


Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Thinker - This also has been reported by the MV Voice. It came up in the context of a large condo complex on the PA-MV border (Greenhouse II)? trying to annex itself to the PA schools and get out of MVW and the high school district. It turns out this is opposed by both local districts (no children in that complex at the time attended public school). Susan Sweeley - (now MVLA High School Dist Board Pres.) was quoted on how much just the 'border shift' would increase the prices of the units. I call this "the Greenhouse II Effect"! Sweeley is a local real estate agent and is well aware of this effect in this complex (and of course between LA and MV also).


Posted by MVWSD Teacher, a resident of another community
on Feb 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm

"The teachers and school district officials are making tons of money..."
As a MVWSD teacher, I can tell you that the teachers are not making tons of money. I have a Master's degree and make less than ~50k a year. I love my students, parents, and school, which is why I stay. I work 10-12 hour days 5 days a week, then put in another 5-6 hours on the weekend. I use my own money for supplies and when the kids learn the parents take the credit and when they don't, they blame the teacher :-) I teach beacuse I love kids, but it really bugs me when people claim we make "tons" of money. Compare our pay scale to Palo Alto. MVWSD teachers are the lowest paid in Santa Clara County.


Posted by trademan, a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 8, 2011 at 2:44 am

Check you pay stub MVWSD teacher since you are mostly being short changed. Look it up on the salary schedule. If you have a Master's degree and a credential you will be making more than 50k a year--if not in your first two years, very soon after. And you are only working a 10-month year. Lots of people work 10-12 hour days. And many teachers claim it, but actually don't.


Posted by Local renter, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 9, 2011 at 10:52 am

Mayor Jack pointed out that only 12% of the population is school age last night. Is the subtext "only kids should care" ? A more prudent pol might add parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts to their voting block calculations.
Of course parents will fight for their kids but let's also credit others in the community with being enlightened enough to see that everyone benefits from educating the next generation of citizens to be productive and useful members of society. I'm not talking about property owners seeing their house values climb but about how we all benefit by building a good community, one kid, one class one school at a time.

Better to spend it on schools now than prisons and food stamp programs later!


Posted by FYI, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 9, 2011 at 5:48 pm

"And you are only working a 10-month year."

Teachers get paid to work 10 months. Can you afford to take 2 months off without pay? Since the economic crisis most districts have eliminated summer school, so many teachers are forced to take non-teaching (even lower paying) jobs over the summer to supliment their income. Before you judge what a teacher does in this district, get to know one.


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