Posted by vfree, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2011 at 2:57 pm
NO...I didn't see where the employee unions have agreed to a 5% annual cut in pay, pensions, and benefits for the next three years. I must have missed the story about the student performance sky rocketing, and that child obesity is no longer a problem. Let's just say you have enough of our money, and now you need to figure out how to impress us, before we give you anymore.
Posted by MVer in LA, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2011 at 3:26 pm
Hec no to more taxes.
Let's see now. My salary has been flat for four years now and I'm doing the job of three people. The feds want to raise my taxes, the state wants to raise my taxes, the city wants to raise my taxes, the high school district wants to raise my taxes, and now the elementary schools want to raise my taxes. This all starts to add up and I haven't even factored cost of living inflation into the equation. So in theory, my earning power is going down, while all these entities of government keep demanding more of my earnings. Where are their cutbacks anyway? And what about the bloated pensions that no one ever wants to talk about. Kenyon's and Baier's pensions and all the teachers pensions are guaranteed. They don't even have to save. Me, I work in the public sector and have to save for my retirement. At what point do school district need to learn life's tough lessons and about what's fair.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Feb 2, 2011 at 3:28 pm
@vfree: if you live in Waverly Park, you won't be paying this, even if your kids have a transfer to Los Altos schools. Only properties within the boundaries of the Los Altos Elementary District pay it. Waverly Park is in Mountain View Whisman.
Posted by ann, a resident of another community, on Feb 3, 2011 at 7:36 am
absolutely no more taxes..crack the teachers unions....get rid of tenure and guaranteed pensions...if the school district is short of money....then NOW is a perfect opportunity to be leaders and crack the teachers unions.....show our future leaders..our children ..how to be leaders and get it done....
Posted by Get the facts, a resident of another community, on Feb 3, 2011 at 8:30 am
Teachers in Los Altos are some of the lowest paid in the county AND they voluntarily reduced their salary this year. Class sizes have increased, so they're working harding, too. They haven't had a raise for years. If you're going to comment about unions please get the facts and stop repeating the corporate rhetoric designed to increase profits, not protect the middle class.
Posted by member, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2011 at 1:57 pm
My kids will not suffer if this parcel tax increase fails. I am willing to subsidize my child’s education outside the district, if necessary. If my property value goes down, so be it. Who would want to move into a community that bleeds to a poorly run system? Leaning and leaning on parents is not a good business model anymore. It is time that the district take a look within to fix its financial troubles. If the parcel tax passes, I will deduct $193 from our LAEF contribution.
Look at charts that show how school pensions and medical benefits will continue to cripple our education system. It is not the so much the salaries that are the biggest cost. Any chart that the district comes up with is designed to show the short term deficit, not how to fix it. There is no end in sight for continuing to lean on parents for a system that is broken. We need to take the right steps now. Send you donations that would be used towards a parcel tax to a lobby group that works to bring pensions under control. Put teachers on 401Ks. Hire and fire based on merit. With putting a stop to this broken system, we are teaching our children about financial responsibility in the process – an invaluable message that no money can buy. That is our best investment
Posted by LASDParent, a resident of the Blossom Valley neighborhood, on Feb 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm
Teacher pay is not inflated... few of the teachers live locally, even with dual-income households. Benefits? ok, maybe a case could be made that they switch to 401ks, or contribute more (any?) to their retirement, but upping the retirement age is a mistake IMHO. Teaching kids in the class sizes of today requires extraordinary energy and stamina... I think teachers go downhill after a while and if a teacher WANTS to retire, I don't think they belong in the classroom anyway... it is such a thankless profession that they are only there because they enjoy it and have a passion for it. Is is the rare individual which works 30+ years as a teacher with the same passion, energy and stamina they had when they started... those few will likely not want to retire at the earliest allowed because they love what they do.
Which leaves... tax. I do not like taxes any more than the next guy, but I pay a HELL of a lot of taxes. If I could get my property tax back, it would more than pay for private school tuition. And therein lies the problem. Property tax. Prop 13 had noble intentions, and most of it serves its purpose well. However, when houses can be passed down or 'shared' among multiple generations and property taxes do not even keep up with inflation, we have a problem. It is one thing for an original owner of a 1950s tract home living on Social Security to be paying property taxes on a grossly undervalued property. It is a gross injustice for someone with kids in the district to be doing so. Prop13 needs to be fixed so that assessments are capped to inflation, not an arbitrarily low 1%, while retaining protections for those on fixed incomes through straightforward exemptions. It is wrong for someone to lose their home because property taxes skyrocket, but it is equally wrong for parents of children in the same school living in equivalent housing to be paying an ORDER OF MAGNITUDE difference in property taxes to fund that school.
While I want to vote no, I will likely vote yes, but will be the first to sign any petition proposing a modified prop 13 (not a repeal).
Posted by member, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2011 at 9:03 am
The average teacher salary for Los Altos is nearly $75,000. Full benefits and early retirement. 180 work days. Pro-rate that to the average 243 days of a private business worker, the salary goes to $94,500. Add to this any summer-time work, plus excellent health insurance and 80% retirement at 55. Other demanding professions don't come near this crazy compensation. Other professions can't leave in Los Altos either. Other professions have to earn their keep. To live in Los Altos, people have had to take risks, be lucky, work hard, and be smart. They did not arrive here by working 9 months out the year. Do teachers have to be provided tenure and job security in addition to high pay? What about the administration. Isn't it time to merge the districts and save on the CEO level salaries of about 20 different districts in the valley? SF handles its districts with just one superindent.
At a national level, there are hundreds of districts like 'Los Altos, saying the same thing. Enough irrational exuberance in education. Property values will not go down in Los Altos. It is a combination of things that leads to high scores in our schools. Parental invovelvement of smart people and smart kids being the main ones. I have no doubt that my child would exceed any standard no matter the teacher. I teach math and science from home because the elementary school teachers have to rely on science aids and canned math lessons given by a projector.
Quote from Arieh Strod, San Jose Mercury News 2/4/11: 'Organized labor would like to continue the current system of uncontrolled pensions, huge salaires at the top and ineficcient seniority system among their ranks, paid by the tax payers.' I couldn't agree more.
It is time to support the opposition -- we are hoping for Ron Haley. I will give my support to them.
Posted by Hardin, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm
"While I want to vote no, I will likely vote yes, but will be the first to sign any petition proposing a modified prop 13 (not a repeal)."
+1. Proposition 13 in its current form is a viscous cycle, one that feeds off self interest at the expense of the community. The ones who benefit most are those who had an opportunity to vote it into law. It needs to be modified to provide a stable funding source for education and other shared assets we all enjoy, while providing a level of stability and cost control/protection for property owners.
One thing that has been left out of the discussion, is modifications to COMMERCIAL property taxes, whose owners tend to hold on to properties over long time, often in trusts, that shield them from any property tax increases.
Posted by member, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Feb 4, 2011 at 4:55 pm
One thing at a time. The pensions and the irrational educational exuberance need to be fixed, prop. 13 or not.
The funds from prop.13 could go towards creating new jobs for the kids that are being presently educated.
The eduction system needs an overhaul. It is sub-standard for the cost it demands. 3rd world countries beat us at math and science with far fewer resources and bigger classrooms. The teachers make a sliver of the pay that a US educator does. It is time to globalize education and bring in educators on H1 visas to teach real math and science. It will save education a fortune and get our kids to a competitive educational level.
More money does not equal higher quality in education. I just makes the broken system more expensive to keep.
Posted by Anne Westbrook, a resident of another community, on Feb 5, 2011 at 10:22 am
Of course I will vote YES!
I live in Los Altos and my daughter attended Loyola, Blach and MVHS. She is now at MIT and received an excellent education. I was PTA and PTSA President three times and on the LAMV PTA Council and Santa Clara (6th District) PTA Council and know that the only reason that the schools are so good (MVHS sent around 50 kids to HIGHLY SELECTIVE colleges like MIT, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Berkeley, UCLA, Middlebury, Amherst, Duke, Wash U, and Caltech just the year my daughter graduated and scores to the schools a fraction below them) because the community supports the schools with the parcel tax, education foundation and PTA fundraising.
I don't know who Ron Haley is, but maybe he doesn't have kids in the district and doesn't really understand how the burden passed slowly from tax payers to parents after the passage of proposition 13 and how the parents really can't do it alone anymore.
If you don't have kids in the schools or haven't had a kid in the schools recently, you don't understand how these other monies AND thousands of volunteer hours help LASD match the school districts on the other side of the country because we only get HALF of the dollars per child that systems in New Jersey and elsewhere spend. The other half comes from the parcel tax, foundation and all the hard work and dollars parents contribute. If you want the district to stay as good, you should vote YES.
Posted by MVer in LA, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2011 at 4:46 pm
That's just great Ann, but for those of us who can't afford to be taxed more, how are we supposed to save for our children's education? Who is going to pay their tuition? I'd like to know the income levels of the families of those 50 students who attended those Ivy League schools. Taxing everyone the same rate regardless of where they live in Los Altos is hardly fair. There are those that can afford to pay much more in taxes and there are those that can't. The superintendent of Los Altos is a trust fund baby like so many others and hardly knows what it's like to make it on your own.
Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community, on Feb 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm
If you don't own property in Los Altos School District, the parcel tax does not apply to you. So please, use some common sense before blaming LASD. There is no way LASD taxing MV Whisman residents.
Per pupil spending in California is at the bottom of 50 states. It is absolutely baseless to blame "high" teacher compensation for our state education problem. K-12 teachers are not in the same category as fire fighters, police officers, and other high-paying government officials.
Given the current economical situation, I think we should support this moderate parcel tax. Many school districts are on the verge of collapse. When schools go bad, house values will follow. There is no exception. You save on $193, you may lose $50,000 on your house. It would be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community, on Feb 7, 2011 at 10:31 pm
MVer in LA,
If you own a house in Los Altos, but don't live in it, do you rent it out? Since you are not rich, it'd be crazy not renting it out, right? I heard monthly rent for a SFH in Los Altos well above $3000/month. In any case $193/year is negligible comparing to the rent.
But guess who are the renters? Not the hippies. Hippies like San Francisco. The renters are the families, the families with kids. And why? Because they like the schools!
If the schools go bad, the rental market will go bad. You will lose as well. Again, don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
I'd support reasonable parcel tax in Palo Alto, where a family with kids is renting my property.
Posted by MVer in LA, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Feb 8, 2011 at 2:36 am
Mind your own affairs Mr. Hoosac. You assume I don't live in my house in Los Altos? Well I do. There are many people who live in houses in Los Altos who are struggling, working the same job with no raise and more work and increased expenses and inflation in a tough economy. Los Altos schools will never go bad because parents value education. This is simply a money grab by the superintendent and other trust fund babies. I'd be more than happy to vote for a tax based on property size, square feet of residences, and income. Yeah, I thought so...
Posted by Parcel tax is Reasonable, a resident of another community, on Feb 8, 2011 at 11:59 am
Ron Haley who is leading efforts against the parcel tax is a Bullis Charter School parent.
But Charter School parents should be supporting the parcel tax if they were really thinking this through.
If LASD needs to have larger class sizes because of State budget reductions, then per Prop 39, LASD will offer the charter school similar reasonably equivalent student loading amounts of facilities. And their class sizes will increase too.
The Charter School thinks they can shoot the other guy's part of the canoe.
LASD has much lower administrator costs than the State average, it receives Finance management awards all the time, and its current parcel tax hasn't changed since it was voted in 2002, despite inflation and State budget cuts.
Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community, on Feb 8, 2011 at 4:39 pm
MVer in LA,
"I'd be more than happy to vote for a tax based on property size, square feet of residences, and income."
I'd support this idea, but I'm afraid that's not possible because of Prop 13. However the base property tax, a significant portion of which is used to fund state education, is calculated based on the appraisal value. But will you support repealing Prop 13? I don't think so.
If you own a house in Los Altos for a long time, say 10+ years, you are underpaying property tax, per square foot, vis-a-vis newcomers. You are taking advantage of other people's money, because you pay less for the same civil service the city provides. It does not seem fair to the newcomers. But will you complain?
Surely in this economy many are struggling. But it is not going to help if the entire system collapse.
The Charter School folks from the Hill have been trying hard to take their property taxes for their own use instead of sharing with Los Altos. It's no surprise that they will take advantage of every opportunity to force LASD giving up the recently renovated school site on the other side of Foothill so they can start their own little kingdom.
Posted by Parcel Tax is Reasonable, a resident of another community, on Feb 8, 2011 at 6:45 pm
To MVer in LA,
It's interesting that you object to the parcel tax because it is not proportioned to income or property size and square feet. I'm assuming you are not one of the mega mansion people, and you think the wealthier people should pay more.
What's interesting is that the wealthier people with the higher income and larger properties, object to the parcel tax because they think they are paying too much too! You see, in LAH 40%+ of the kids are sent to schools of choice, so they think their property taxes are already overpaying for a service that almost half don't use. And they would object to your logic that they should pay more.
It's interesting that as the income and property size go up, the usage of the public schools goes down, and their property tax contributions are proportionally greater.
The point is...... look folks, we either need to support our schools or not. This is a reasonable amount to ask for, all things considered, and it's local money that will stay local to make our community better. No question. It's really too much for everyone to point fingers and make excuses about how people on the other end of the income scale should pay more, or other excuses.
Posted by Jame Hoosac, a resident of another community, on Feb 8, 2011 at 9:04 pm
I'm not saying we should abolish Prop 13. I'm long-time owner of local residential properties. But I'm also mindful that, while taking advantage of Prop 13, I should appreciate what makes the system work.
The newcomers, families with young kids, come here, willing to subsidize my share of civil services with their high property tax, mainly because of the schools here. I at least should pitch in a bit myself and share some of their responsibility.
Plus good schools produce good future tax payers, who help the funding of my social security. For this $193 a year is a bargain.
Posted by Observer, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2011 at 9:08 am
James, it sound like you are making plenty of money all around as a long-time owner of residential propertie(S) in a very expensive real estate market. Maybe you should be the one pitching in way more than the same as the rest of us struggling to keep our single homes! You are the one riding on our backs if you don't. And you expect to receive social security just like all the poor that are unable to save? I think it's your moral responsibility to not collect social security since you've apparently done so well rather than depending on all those "good future tax payers" whom you'd like to support you in your old age. In sum, you want everyone to pitch in regardless of how little they make while you expect to collect back in social security right there with the poor folk. Awesome!
Posted by Vote No, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2011 at 11:25 am
Los Altos school district needs real reform, not another parcel tax
By ronald haley
Posted: 02/08/2011 01:11:39 AM PST
No one likes to be seen as "anti-schools," so school districts usually get a free pass when it comes to public criticism of bond measures. Within 24 hours of the announcement of my opposition to a new, additional parcel tax for the Los Altos School District, I've already received multiple threats from a senior parcel tax organizer that it wouldn't be a good idea for me to send my children to Egan.
I fact checked Ron Haley, and he is corret. Teacher caps are at $96K, etc. In addition, teachers are not qualified to teach basic math or science. We don't hire the best of the best.
Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community, on Feb 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm
Sure I own a small house in Palo Alto that I'm renting out. That does not make me super rich. What I'm saying is for everybody.
Let's imagine that the parcel tax does not pass, and worse, the state-wide tax measure does not pass either. LASD will be forced to drastically change its operations, such as expanding class sizes, closing a school site, cutting many programs, etc. Maybe LASD will be forced to give up the school and property tax base to the Hill residents.
What will happen to the houses in this school district? The values will sink! Nobody will want to buy a house in Los Altos at the current price level. What for?
Further, if as a result, the state-wide STAR test scores go down for a couple of years, the property owners will have a nightmare in their hands.
To use the excuse that LASD needs reform is ridiculous. This is THE BEST school district in the state.
Ah well, too much ranting from me. You guys decide.
Posted by Anne Westbrook, a resident of another community, on Feb 9, 2011 at 1:48 pm
To MVer in LA: Two of the three kids who go to Harvard from MVHS, I know fairly well and they come from the Mountain View side of LASD and have almost a complete ride to Harvard.
Highly Selective schools are need-blind in admissions and give very generous financial aid to families making up to $160,000 or $180,000 based on the school.
While the UCs cost half as much as private schools, they give out both need-based and academic scholarships. I know kids who received fairly good Regents Scholarships to Berkeley and UCLA. Of course, the kids need to work hard and excel in order to get into those UCs and receive those grants. There is a culture at MVHS at least that allows them to do just that.
I grew up in a factory town in Western Massachusetts with parents who made very little money. But I live in Los Altos now because I got almost a full scholarship to MIT. If a child works hard enough, they can go to just about any college regardless of cost.
Posted by No more taxes, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm
To Ann Westbrook,
I went to college on a full academic scholarship and now live in LA. Working hard does pay off.
Regardless of the school in which I went to, which ranked in the lowest 10% in the state, I graduated from college with top honors with a degree in engineering and post grad at Stanford.
Schools are a factor in the overall academic success but personal drive is the main determining factor. Those who want to learn find ways to do so.
I empathize with MVer in LA and with the growing number of parents who do not or cannot afford this parcel tax train gone out of control. What one can or cannot afford is of personal discretion. Do not disrespect us by telling us what we can and cannot afford.
Posted by MVer in LA, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Feb 9, 2011 at 5:38 pm
"If a child works hard enough, they can go to just about any college regardless of cost."
"Schools are a factor in the overall academic success but personal drive is the main determining factor."
There it is from both sides. Getting into a first rate school has little to do with ever increasing parcel taxes by school districts like Los Altos which is already at the very top. And I seriously doubt property values are going to decline with Los Altos' location and affluence in terms of luxury homes.
Posted by Parcel Tax is Reasonable, a resident of another community, on Feb 9, 2011 at 9:14 pm
Dear No more taxes,
It's impressive that you went to schools rated in the bottom 10% in the State, but you were still successful.
But that doesn't mean we should neglect our local schools and let them decline.
There are also many (exceptional) examples of people who never attended college who are some of the most successful people in the world, but I wouldn't recommend that my kids skip college.
I think we should play the odds, and try to make our local schools as strong as possible. It attracts the right type of people to our neighborhoods too.
Ron Haley and his Charter School supporters are going to do all they can to convince voters to do whatever hurts LASD schools, but that doesn't mean LASD parcel taxes should be given to non-LASD schools of choice. The other schools should really float their own parcel tax initiative, if they want public support. You can't get everything in life by just sueing people, and raining on their parades.
ANd, to MV'er in LA,
Property values are actually determined A LOT by the quality of LASD schools. The realtors mention LASD schools in every one of their ads for a reason. The price boom in LASD area housing started when the State started publishing school district ratings, showing LASD consistently in the top 5 out of 1000 districts. Trust the realtors, they know it is a huge consideration for families deciding where to move. Or, you can just compare the lower price of a house down the street from a LASD school district house.
Posted by No More Taxes, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Feb 10, 2011 at 9:17 am
I too used to think the same line of realtors and the PTA. We moved here for that reason. It is a foolish belief. I have been through the LASD for 9 years. There is no difference in the quality of teachers in Los Altos to those that taught me in a sub-standard school. None at all, except that my teachers had a better background in math and science and actually taught the material themselves. The kids that didn't do well, didn't do so because of lack of support at home. There is nothing magical about the 'quality of schools' in Los Altos. We need the multi-discipled teachers back in the classroom
Quality Schools Means = Smart and affluent parents.
That is the key ingredient to educational success.
It is time to drive for Reform. I want to support a district that is responsible with its budget. As it is, the district has an $8M accumulated deficit. Where it the schools business plan to close the gap? They miss-managed the LAH issue by closing down their school. If they had left that alone, they would have saved $Ms of dollars. Any CEO would have been fired over the finacial fiasco. There is only money to run 6 schools, but now, they are running 8.
Reform is needed. In private industry we call this on-going re-organizations. Sound familiar? Benefits are going away, not increasing. People work hard or they don't keep their jobs. Lifetime insurance when you retire at 55 needs to end. 80% retirement at 55, when you max out at $96K needs to end.
Our kids need a system that protects their future. Allowing pensions to pass down their costs to us is throwing money to the wind.
Posted by No More Taxes, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Feb 10, 2011 at 11:38 am
To St Francis:
I am a long-time resident of Los Altos. Where I live in the city is irrelevant to the points I am making. I certainly would not want to give you my address. A few years ago, everyone in our neighborhood had the same hands-off feel about the school system. That has changed. While many of us don't come forward in the school grounds, for risk or retaliation, we will take actions with our votes and with our wallets.
The sub-standard education of the LASD elementary school is known to many of us. Without the parental involvement, the schools would not do well. The teachers are not better than elsewhere in the valley.
"Quality Schools" is the politically correct way of saying => "Smart and Affluent Parents"
Read Ron Haley's post in the Mercury News. Fact check him and the posts in the comment areas.
You make your decision. Soon enough the the school district will run out of baseless justifications to lure voters and donations. Pensions will run out funds. It is not until then that reform will happen. If it doesn't happen now, it is all a matter of time.
Posted by Bill, a resident of another community, on Feb 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm
Educators just don't get it. The work force has had to make huge sacrafices to make do - most have had no raises if they are even working. District teachers average $99,253 in 2010 up 4.2% over 2009 and FTE remains constant 2009 to 2010. Cupertino has an average of $69,624 in 2010 up 2% over 2009 and clearly have superior education test results. Tell me again why on earth I should vote to increase parcel tax to pay for the inefficency of the district.
Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community, on Feb 10, 2011 at 3:04 pm
You are spreading lies!
The $99,253 avg salary is for MVLA school district, that is, the high school district. Not LASD.
LASD avg teacher salaru is $74,463. While it is higher than the $69,624 number of Cupertino district, it is also much lower than the $85,360 of Palo Alto school district, and lower than Saratoga Elementary's $78,286 avg salary. Cupertino district is much bigger than Los Altos. So the avg number is understandably lower. LASD is around number 30 among all bay area districts in terms of avg salary.
Posted by Salaries and benefits, a resident of another community, on Feb 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm
A fully loaded teacher in LASD taps out at over $96K. The average salary is $74,463. The pensions and benefits for retires are based on the salary being closer to $100K at retirement. 84% of the LASD budget is used to cover pensions, benefits and salaries. Source: Mercury News, Web Link
Benefits and Salary:
Salary: Close to $100K
Days of work: 180 (compared ot 243 for the rest of us)
Contribution to Medical: minimal
Medical Plan: Full benefits until death
Job security: Infinite
The same thing happened to education in Japan in the 80s. After their bust, government employees had larger salaries and better benefits than industry, with less work and job security. Japan of today, allows lay-offs and temporary work. It is only a shadow of what it once was.
Globalization has impacted the job market permanently. Education has not be impacted by outsourcing, although tutoring is staring to show a shift in that direction with math and science tutors from India being paid $15 per hour compared to $60 or more locally.
Japan waited for the rebound that never came. Silicon Valley is a fortunate place to be but we won't see the wealth of the past anytime soon. We are among the fortunate. The salaries for teachers here in the valley is arbritary when there is such a thing as tenure. Without tenure, an argument could be made that a particular teacher actually deserved a higher salary. It is not merit based but community based.
Adjustments need to be made at all levels, not just in private industry. Teacher and adminstrators have to get with the times.
Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community, on Feb 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm
I think "Salaries and benefits", "No more taxes", and "Vote no" are the same person, who tries to give reader an impression that many people are against the parcel tax. I'm certainly not saying only one person is against the measure. But what a tactic. Let's have honest discussion and be brave.
On the web link only the number $74,463 is there. Rest of the salary information is not. I really hate this kind of half-truth, half-smoke tactics.
84% of the budget is salaries and benefits. Who said so? And what do you expect from a school district? Running a factory?
Again, I think there is a conspiracy here. A hand behind all this is the secessional interest of the charter school. They take a page from the playbook of national party politics.
Posted by Jess, a resident of another community, on Feb 10, 2011 at 4:14 pm
A YES vote for me!!!! My children attend Almond Elementary. There are many great teachers there and in the district. Many do not know that Los Altos School District is in the TOP 1-2% of elementary school in the WHOLE state of California!!
Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community, on Feb 10, 2011 at 5:20 pm
Having said what I said above, I think LASD board needs to engage with the City of Los Alto to discuss better ways to expand its property tax base. For example, the board can tell the City they should:
1. Encourage house re-building. Every new house dramatically increase property tax. But if the city planners hassle too much in the permit process, they become a formidable deterrent.
2. Think about ways to improve and expand commercial properties in Los Altos. Downtown Los Altos has not changed much. Maybe it is because the City is too indulged into the "character preservation" thing and discourages would-be commercial entities to re-construct. Los Altos side of El Camino has not seen much improvement either.
These are long term solutions. LASD needs to tell Los Altos City government: let's be a bit more pro business and pro property development.
Los Altos has a great location. If the City government does a better job, I think there will be a lot more new houses springing up, a lot more new commercial construction projects becoming reality. At such time LASD will be in a much better financial shape.
Posted by What are the facts?, a resident of another community, on Feb 11, 2011 at 9:34 am
The arguments to and for are the same across the state and across the country. One argument that cannot be settled is exactly what the benefit package is for teachers. Can a teacher provide a comparison and clarify the facts?
A CA commissioned study on government (teacher, fire, etc.) pensions was done by Stanford University. The SIEPR report shows California pensions are underfunded by $200B. Web Link. Local governments are expected to use about half their payroll to meet underfunded pensions. The budget for schools is 84%. I confirmed that. Is this sustainable? The experts don't seem to think so. Parcel taxes will not sustain this model of operation. Only rolling incremental taxes will.
Teachers, if you think you are underpaid or overworked, try to get a job in private industry. You will be on permanent probation. That is the way of life. Take a look at how the other side has to live and come forward with adjustments. Jobs in SV are not plentiful. Without job security, taxation is a burden on residents. Others don't have a guarantee that they will have a job tomorrow,no matter how good or poorly they perform, like you do. The old days when everyone made a fortune overnight are over. Work is hard now. Stock gains are impressive anymore, either. The model that your administrators/unions set up during the Dot Com era was short-sighted. It is only getting deeper in the whole over time. Can anyone dispute this? I hope to be told that I am wrong.
The focus needs to be placed on the plan. Our governor and school administrators are starting to feel the presure to balance the budgets. Without the details of the school budget, it is difficult for anyone to speak about the facts. I see people are trying to, which is good, but frustrating. When the data is not coming from the district, it can be easily disputed. In past city council meetings with the school board, they refuse to disclose to the parents. They only want to pass the tab. If they want to tax, then put forth the information so that voters can make educated decisions. If they didn't tax, then, the information could remain closed.
We are not sure how to vote. It is evident that the schools need the money but also that the budget is out of control. We would gladly pay the tax now, even if higher, if a plan was in place to fix the long term.
Posted by Parcel Tax is Reasonable, a resident of another community, on Feb 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm
The LASD budget is not out of control. The State has been cutting funding for schools in California for years (read the newspapers).\
LASD has been making reductions for years, and this process has been very well documented and shared in meetings and newspaper articles.
We can either fund our local schools to keep them strong, or have them decline along with the rest of the State's schools, which are funded at almost the lowest rate in the U.S.
This is local funding spent to our local benefit.
I also don't buy the argument that we are going to hold our breath until all teacher's unions are abolished in the U.S., and all these other things happen. Washington D.C. schools have started movements in the right direction, but we need to answer the question now about how we want to respond to the State cuts.
Some people are commenting how 75K average salary for a LASD teacher is outrageously high. Maybe they think that someone making 75K per year in Los Altos is one of the really rich people buying up all the multi-million dollar houses, but I don't think so. Aspiring to someday make 75K may not even be enough frankly to attract the best and brightest college graduates to teach our future leaders.
Posted by Deficit?, a resident of another community, on Feb 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm
Is the LASD running a deficit or not? Forget the salaries. It is a huge deficit due to the pensions and benefits. Is that not a budget out of control? Is the $193 parcel tax going to close the gap or are the unions stepping in? The answer: No, No.
Aim to be specific on what needs to be fixed. What will a $193 parcel tax buy us from here on out? When will they come back for another increase? Some people in the city don't have endless funds or kids in school. Are you saying they need to subsidize your kids? Maybe only the people who have kids in school should pay the parcel. Have them be taxed $500 or more. I would be in favor of that. Compared to private, that is a good value and it would be fair to the rest of us to be left out of all of this mess.
To the person that wants a long term plan. Don't hold your breath. That is not how govenment or unions work.
Posted by Parcel Tax is Reasonable, a resident of another community, on Feb 11, 2011 at 9:48 pm
I understand your point, but I don't agree.
If the State cuts funding to LASD by 4M and LASD makes reductions, and then the State cuts funding by another 4M, and LASD makes some more reductions but also asks for some parcel taxes so it doesn't have to make the now truly painful cuts to programs, I can see how you call this not living within a budget, but it is hardly a budget out of control. Out of control implies you are overspending irresponsibly. What is happening here is that the rug has been pulled out from under our communities schools, and we have to decide if we care.
But we may need to just agree to disagree here, because it's clear you think teachers are overpaid.
And parents with kids are paying more. These days they pay all sorts of fees, dues and extra school charges for everything, educational foundation donations, etc. amounting to thousands per year per child. The thought behind the parcel tax is that the property owners benefit from having good schools and might be willing to contribute some small amount as well. For communities who want to be better than what the declining California funding can provide. But interest varies of course, some people value education and good schools in the community more than others.
Posted by James Hoosac, a resident of another community, on Feb 11, 2011 at 11:30 pm
There is no such a thing called "subsidizing kids". They are the future tax payers. Our social security, and our retirement depends on them. In fact, it is "they" will subsidize "us".
I've met a couple who vowed to have no kids, because they just want to enjoy life. And they dislike "subsidizing" public school with their property tax. I tell them what I said above. They went silent. Those parents who sacrificed their quality of life to produce tax payers shall be commended.
But it is more and more expensive to produce highly productive workers. The world is flat. Competition is fierce. The burden on the next generation is going to be extremely heavy. Not only they need to fiercely compete with workers around the world, they will have to support a much larger population of retired elderly people.
To invest in their future is to invest in our own future. Let's not lose sight on this.
Posted by ann, a resident of the Blossom Valley neighborhood, on Feb 12, 2011 at 9:17 pm
Hec no to more taxes.
Let's see now. My salary has been flat for four years. The feds want to raise my taxes, the state wants to raise my taxes, the city wants to raise my taxes, the high school district wants to raise my taxes, and now the elementary schools want to raise my taxes. This all starts to add up and I haven't even factored cost of living inflation into the equation. So in theory, my earning power is going down, while all these entities of government keep demanding more of my earnings. Where are their cutbacks anyway? And what about the bloated pensions that no one ever wants to talk about. Kenyon's and Baier's pensions and all the teachers pensions are guaranteed. They don't even have to save. Me, I work in the public sector and have to save for my retirement. At what point do school district need to learn life's tough lessons and about what's fair.
Posted by New Father, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, 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.
Posted by New Father, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Feb 13, 2011 at 11:17 pm
Also, I saw some questions about teacher salaries and benefits.
* From what I saw, both in the budget (Web Link) as well as the Sacramento Bee link posted previously (Web Link), the average teacher salary in LASD for 2010 was ~$74K, and the maximum salary currently on their salary progression is ~$86K. The average in 2010-2011 is expected to rise to ~$77K (i.e., a more senior teaching staff on average progressing along the salary schedule).
* While we might need a district employee to break down their benefits from the receiving end, we can at least see how the district spends its money on employee benefits (21.5% of the forecasted operating expenditures): ~1/2 of that goes towards employee health insurance, ~1/3 of that goes towards pension plans and retiree health insurance, and the remainder goes to what seem to be standard payroll costs (e.g., social security, unemployment and workers comp insurance). It seems most of the benefits are standard benefits that most full-time employees would expect, while the pension/retiree costs are certainly a concern.
* Teacher turnover per year is averaging ~5 teacher retirees per year, but they've mentioned as many as 25 retiring in a single year. The budget states that this typically saves ~$30K up front in salary costs (the difference in salary between newly-hired teachers and the retiring teacher). There are, of course, the mounting legacy costs associated with maintaining health care and pension benefits for the retiring work force.
Posted by Deficit?, a resident of another community, on Feb 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm
What part of the word Deficit do those of you in support of more taxes not understand?
Do you run your households on credit on an income that will never cover your debt? That is how our government, our cities, and our schools are running.
An $800 parcel tax is a huge tax. If you think that it is small amount, you have no idea what other people already have to do without. You have no understanding about fiscal responsibility.
My tax money is already being used for a number of noble causes such as free healthcare, free lower and upper education, and free services so some desperate people.
If you think that $800 is an acceptable tax, why don't you up your contribution to the schools so that the rest of us who don't have the funds, kids, or the education demands that you have can be left out of your broken schemes.
An $800 tax is an unnecessary burden on the community. We made life-style and expectations changes some time ago. Some areas of the public sector, including eduation, are lagging.
Find ways to bring back the stock market, the huge benefits, the flexible schedules, the high salaries, and the plenliful jobs and, if they are guaranteed not to go away, there may be something to what you are asking. With guranteed incomes, taxation would solve the deficit. The point is, nothing is guaranteed. Nothing should ever have been guranteed for the teachers either.
Until our incomes and jobs are guarnteed, find a better source for what you can't afford. Until the defict is addressed, you are in no position to ask for addtional taxation of any kind.
Posted by LASD facts, a resident of the Blossom Valley neighborhood, on Feb 14, 2011 at 11:21 pm
This article is ridiculous! The very, very top salary in Los Altos School District is at $85,657 and that's with a graduate degree. Where are you getting your figures? I have Cupertino's salary schedule in front of me and the top salary is $96,046. Sunnyvale top salary $91,903. Menlo Park 101, 029. Portola Valley 107,813. Los Gatos - $91,903 These are all K-8 school districts like Los Altos. The lowest salary in the bay area is Burlingame at $81,000. Also, Los altos teachers do NOT get lifetime benefits. There is a small group of teachers who were hired before 1985 who are eligible, but NO ONE ELSE. Where are you getting that retirement is at 80% of final salary? The actual number is 60% of their final three years of salary. All facts are on the CTA website. This is after 30 years of teaching, not before. It's less if you retire before 30 years. Most teachers cannot afford to retire before age 60. It is rare for a teacher to retire at 55 unless they are a two income family. All teachers WISH they received 80% of their final salaries. FIrefighters and police officers receive in this area almost 90% or higher of their salary - teachers 60%. Where are you getting these facts? This is absolutely crazy that "Salaries and Benefits" is posting such facts above. I am amazed that no one is actually looking up facts, but are instead spouting off what they "think" they know. Excuse me, but perhaps some of you needed to have a better education when you were younger to realize that you can't just make up numbers and post them in the paper as fact. If you think teachers are making a killing, then you haven't spent a day in a classroom. They are some of the most caring, compassionate people you will ever meet, not to mention dedicated and hard working. Los Altos School District employees took furlough days this past week - equaling a 1.5% paycut. Their last raise was 5 years ago - which totaled a 1% raise. They do NOT receive any cost of living increases (COLA) - unlike other districts - not to mention firefighters and other state employees. The facts are out there. Do some research and you will see how ridiculous the above comments are! Get an education people!!!!
Posted by Political Insider, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2011 at 7:23 am
@LASD, You may have the salaries correct but do not include the benefits paid for by the employer (sters, health, dental, vision, life insurance) , which can be as high as 30K per person. As to other retiree benefits, you are mistaken.
For retirement, If you are in sters, with 2@60 with 30 years then 60% is correct but some teachers start earlier and could get more. pers has higher rates.
Posted by Just Say No, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2011 at 7:48 am
So the tax increase is to cover salary increases for teacher (and automatic increases for administrators which kick in whenever teachers get raises!)? I thought so. This IS all about paying more to public employees while the rest of us stiffs slog out the recession! No more taxes!
Posted by Observer, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Feb 15, 2011 at 8:34 am
"60% of their final three years of salary" is the average salary for teachers retiring in CA. A few years ago, two administrators with 30 years retired from MVWSD and actually are making more in retirement because they "spiked" their high three by adding in the value of their health benefits and bonuses, and maybe even cell-phone and car allowance. Teacher who work 30 years are eligible for full salary at 65. Many just do not choose to wait that long.
Posted by Count Me Out Too, a resident of another community, on Feb 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm
Posted on the Mercury News by David Jenkins:
As I see it, Ron Haley has it right. Ms. Logan’s link to LASD’s budget confirms that the average teacher salary (fully-loaded) is $98,800. That’s AVERAGE… Would love to know what the highest one makes for 10 months of work (including two weeks off at Xmas, a week in February, and another week in April!)… Yes, I know—they work nights and weekends—sorry guys, around here, we ALL work nights and weekends, and I work through the summer as well. (And I don't get a pension and lifetime healthcare when I retire either.)
LASD’s budget crisis is of their own making and I for one will not vote for this parcel tax.
The teachers were given a raise just a few years back even though the board fully understood this just added to the structural deficit they were already projecting (this is an addition to the raise they all get every year for just years of service!). Why would you raise salaries when you knew you couldn’t afford it?
The board elected to open a new school even though student enrollment wasn’t increasing in any meaningful way. Again, why would any fiscally responsible group add to a known structural deficit?
Randy Kenyon says that the district stands to lose $1.5 million if the state taxes aren’t extended as Gov. Brown suggests. Fear tactics! That’s NONSENSE… Revenue Limit districts (e.g., Mountain View) stand to lose that and more. LASD’s own budget admits that they get only 5% of their revenues from the state—see Ms. Logan’s link Web Link. LASD is a Basic Aid district (like Palo Alto) and is largely (but not entirely) protected from the state’s budget woes. If LASD’s budget is in trouble it’s not because of the state. Don't look to me to throw good money after bad. Until there's real concessions from the union, count me out.
I couldn't have said better. Those who can't understand the above are either the beneficiaries of the pensions or financially loaded and have little regard for the impact on others.
Posted by Keep our Schools Strong, a resident of another community, on Feb 27, 2011 at 11:59 am
It's a fact that the communities in CA who don't help their schools are going to end up with much worse schools due to all the cuts in funding.
Teachers in LASD are not overpaid compared to neighboring districts. This has been shown in many presentations, including in a recent one by the LAH public education committee who looked into this. Those saying that teachers are overpaid are entitled to their opinions (they probably think fire fighters, policemen and soldiers are too) but it's a fact that to have competitive schools you need to have at least somewhat competitive salaries.
People who don't want to support strong schools have lots of excuses. Some fault the district for closing down the last school in LAH. Some fault the district for opening it! But several schools were headed to well over 600+ kids, and the growth was all occurring in the NW part of the district, so some redistricting and a reopening made long term sense,or, we would have people complaining that the schools were too unequal. The public comment sessions were held for 9 months on this.
When the pink slips are handed out later this month, we need to decide whether we will be one of the communities who will support ourselves, or whether we will allow our community to decline along with the rest of CA. It would be sad if a community such as ours would not be willing to help keep public education strong.
Posted by Count Me Out Too, a resident of another community, on Feb 28, 2011 at 9:22 am
To: Keep our Schools Strong:
The average salary of a fully loaded teacher is $100K, works 180 days of the year, gets >80% or more on retirement, has full benefits until death. So, maybe PA teachers make $110K? Is this a salary we should aim for for LA teachers? Is that your plan to keep our schools 'strong'. That will do it, huh?
To improve our education system, reform is needed. Get rid of tenure, give pay raises based on merit, and don't put a cap on salaries. Then you may have teachers that can make $120K and some that don't perform can get stuck at $60K until they either leave or they get let go. That is a fair system that will bring the best of the best teachers.
We have very average teachers in Los Altos. A typical spread. Some teachers that should be let go get rotated around the school district. Some teachers that do well, get the same pay raise as those that coast. We also have average administrators in LA too. They close and open schools without a clear long term vision. Now they want to tax without addressing the bigger issues.
The parcel tax will not fix the bigger issues plaguing our schools. Unions need to find out that jobs are not plentiful as they once were. The rest of us know this and live with that appreciation. More is expected of those of us fortunate enough to have a job. Why aren't we holding teachers to that same standard? You ask for equalization among the teachers without looking at those paying for their services. The issue is not the imbalance between districts, the issue is in the imbalance between the sweet deals of the unions and the rest of private America.
I agree that as a parent, I make the difference in my child's education. I can invest the $193 towards a course that will bring my child a better education or I can throw it to the wind and have it plit a million ways to cover the pensions of the union workers.
We need to get the LASD to take a hard look within to fix its fiscal woos. We need to take our schools back and provide better teachers for our children. Not just pass our dollars to the unions.
Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org, a resident of the The Crossings neighborhood, on Mar 5, 2011 at 10:56 pm
To: Count me out too,
I agree with your long term vision of schools, but we can't wait for Obama, Duncan, Rhee, Wisconsin, etc. to come to long term full fruition before we act and support our schools in the meantime.
It's apparent to everyone, including unions, that reform is on its way, but our State is making real cuts to our schools now. And unless we support our schools now, our community will decline along with the rest of California. The parcel tax isn't intended to fix "all the problems plaguing our schools." It's a stopgap to respond to a very real problem, with very real consequences to our children, our community, and our property values if we don't step up. It's obviously an individual choice and values whether they can afford $193 per year for good schools, and most communities across California will not be able to afford to offset State cuts. But I hope we are one of the exceptional communities.
So I agree with your philosophy, but we need to take some action now and support our schools by passing the parcel tax. It only solves the problem for our community, not "all the problems plaguing our schools," but we need to be pragmatic and look after our kids and our community first.
Posted by Count Me Out Too, a resident of another community, on Mar 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm
Thank you for recognizing that we have major issues to address. I respect that you value sustaining something that doesn't work for fear that things will get worse. Sometimes things have to go bad so that they can get better.
Rubber staping another increase will only encourage further delays from the union and the union employees. They will come to think that they are entitled to educate poorly and get paid well.
Like it was said by someone above, affluence is the main indicator of quality education and not how much it is spent on supporting the unions. Parents can take action by supplementing with other programs outside of the school system and ensure that their kids can still perform well. Given our education system, it may be more beneficial to be taught some subjects outside the school district than inside. In the meantime, the unions can get the message that they need to be held accountable.
Accountability is around the corner, not years and years away. The pension system is not sustainable. In years to come retirement budgets will outpace the employee budgets. What will we do then? Make up for the difference?
It is best to make a change in small steps. Say no to $193. The school system will not fall apart, but for that small amount, the unions may begin to take the message. I also can't see how our instruction in key subjects can get any worse. They do use videos (not overhead projectors as someone indicated above) to teach math. This is appauling. It is OK in the short term to help sustain the high test scores but it will stifle the view that our kids have about the sciences in the long term. Where is the reward in a high test score now?
Don't settle for a sub-standard education. Send a message that funding will come only with improvement. Do it for our kids.