Mountain View Voice

Opinion - June 28, 2013

A big day for schools

Anyone with a stake in local elementary and high schools should be smiling after the city agreed to share about $5 million a year in property tax revenue from the Shoreline Community with the two districts. The decision could mean up to $1,000 a year per student to the Mountain View Whisman Elementary and Mountain View Los Altos High School districts.

The decision finally will correct an imbalance that has shortchanged local districts since 2009, when the the schools became financed by local property taxes in what is known as a basic aid district. With over $25 million a year in property taxes going to the Shoreline District and bypassing local schools and government agencies, parents and school officials saw a major injustice and began lobbying the city to provide a fair share of this revenue to the schools.

The first commitment came in 2011 when the districts split $4.9 million, partially as a result of lobbying by parents who strongly believed revenue should be shared using the same ratio as if the Shoreline District did not exist. The split approved last week is down slightly from prior years, providing a minimum of $4.7 million a year for the districts to share, which could go up or down depending on property tax revenue. The Mountain View Whisman district would be guaranteed a minimum of $2.87 million a year for 10 years, while the high school district would receive a guaranteed payment of $1.84 million a year over the same period.

City officials say the fund-sharing amounts to six times what the city gave schools in years prior to 2011. The obscure Shoreline tax district was off the radar of school officials and parents until a Voice article in 2010 reported that the elementary district alone was being short-changed more than $5 million a year in property tax revenue due to the stipulations of the special tax district. That set the stage for the lobbying effort that ultimately won out.

The funds will continue to be earmarked for technology-related programs, according to city officials, which will create a link to the original purpose of the funds for the Shoreline area, home to companies that need highly skilled workers. School district officials say the money likely will be used to start phasing in new curriculum in line with national Common Core standards.

It may be difficult to imagine that back in 1969, when the state Legislature passed the measure that established the Shoreline Community and authorized it to collect nearly all the taxes on properties north of Highway 101, school districts were free to impose higher property taxes if money was tight. Then Proposition 13 passed, and that avenue was closed, leaving Mountain View schools to exist on state funding. Now, with basic aid, local districts are funded by property taxes as well as some state grants. So sharing tax income from the Shoreline District will enable the elementary and high school districts to once again get their fair share of local property tax revenue.

Mountain View Whisman Superintendent Craig Goldman said the money comes at an opportune time, as the district is exploring new trends in education such as project-based learning and phasing in Common Core standards.

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