Los Altos School District to vote on parcel tax
Original post made
on Feb 2, 2011
In an effort to make up for falling revenues from state and federal sources, Los Altos' elementary and middle school officials are asking voters to approve a new $193 parcel tax this May.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Wednesday, February 2, 2011, 1:47 PM
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Posted by New Father
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 13, 2011 at 10:37 pm
My wife and I will be voting "Yes" on the parcel tax increase.
We based our decision on a few factors, which certainly differ based on individual voters' situation. To each their own.
* We felt it was important to understand the LASD's past and present finances, so we went over the 2010-2011 budget materials on the district's web site: Web Link
* Primarily, we wanted to know where the district's money is going in 2010-2011 relative to prior years. From the expenditures discussed in the budget, we saw that the major increase 4 years running in operating expenses was noted under employee benefits, but more specifically, the run up was tied largely to employee (current and retired) health care costs and unemployment insurance. Other operating expenses including salaries, books and supplies, and other services have had some rises and some falls in the past 4 years without quite as drastic a run up. Basically, we didn't see any expenditures that voting down a local parcel tax was going to impact in a way that we might want. I'm not an expert on California's pension plans, but I didn't think keeping the LASD leaner was going to do much about state-wide CalPERS or CalSTRS obligations (those plus retired health benefits amounted to about 8% of the projected budget). Also, I saw some concern mentioned about 80+% of the budget going towards salaries and benefits, but I was curious as to why that seemed abnormal or shocking in any way. Unless the schools were spending heavily on capital equipment (e.g., heavy machinery) or going all out with keeping up lavish facilities, I'd expect salaries and benefits to always represent quite a large percent of operating expenses just as with a normal company.
* Unfortunately, the losses in state funding over the past 4 years have outpaced the increases in operating expenditures, offset only marginally by a slight bump in revenue limit sources (e.g., property taxes). We felt the local school district could use the additional revenue.
* We wanted to know the historical support for the parcel tax, which we found in the budget docs: (1989, $168, 68% yes, new tax passed) -> (1993, $168, 81% yes, renewal passed) -> (1997, $264, 74% yes, increase passed) -> (2000, $264, 76% yes, renewal passed) -> (2002 Apr, $597, 65% yes, increase FAILED by 1-2%) -> (2002 Nov, $597, 71% yes, increase passed) -> (2006, $597, 78% yes, renewal passed). Support in the community seems fairly strong, historically. We were happy to see that.
* Lastly, from our standpoint, an additional $193 annually has little impact on our family's financial health. We understand every household has their own circumstances, but we figured we could handle an extra $16 per month ($12 or so after deductions, depending on your tax bracket). Also, if we had to make a choice between paying $50/month for cable TV or handing over $50/month to the local schools, our family would choose the latter.
We don't all have to agree, but I suppose that's why we're all entitled to our own votes.