A huge lift for local schoolsIn the end, it almost seemed too easy. After a few months of mostly cordial but sometimes heated remarks about why the city should share some of the millions of dollars it receives in property tax revenue from the Shoreline Community, the City Council voted last week to allot nearly $14 million to local school districts over the next three years.
The unanimous vote (Tom Means was absent) was taken at a work session, so the council will have to take the issue up again at a regular meeting. But last week's outcome had to be somewhat of a surprise for the school parents who jammed the council chambers, many expecting the city to more jealously guard its income stream at Shoreline. Even so, parent Jim Pollart, who spearheaded the "Share Shoreline" group, eased tensions when he urged parents to "model good behavior" in their comments to the council. A few parents talked about how lack of funding had hurt their schools recently, but ended their feedback after 30 minutes so the council and city administration could take the floor.
Council member Ronit Bryant reflected the challenge of the city's position — on the one hand being responsible for keeping the Shoreline area competitive with other cities so that businesses will continue to locate in Mountain View — while acknowledging that the city needs to help local schools as much as it can.
And City Manager Kevin Duggan, who has often mentioned the importance the city's stewardship of the Shoreline funds, said he sees that the schools face huge challenges over the next several years due to shrinking property tax revenues and uncertain state funding.
The council agreed, and with a unanimous vote hugely increased the city's donation to schools. Total income for the current fiscal year is expected to be just under $25 million, but $18.7 million of that is committed, so it will not be available to schools. And even if more funds were available, city officials will continue to make sure that all ongoing obligations are covered. But Finance Director Patty Kong said that over the years, the district has run balances ranging from $8 million to $40 million.
In our view, the council has gained a lot of respect in the community for doing the right thing without being pushed by a lawsuit or a heavy hitting campaign that would have pitted school parents against those who think the city should hold onto every dime it can during these unsettling economic times.
It is too soon to determine how the schools will allocate their new-found wealth, but with the state is in such bad financial straits, the influx of millions of extra dollars will be viewed as a miracle by some parents. Mountain View Whisman will receive about $2 million this year and $3 million in each of the succeeding years. The Mountain View Los Altos High School District will receive $1.6 million this year and $1.9 million in the following two years.
For the schools, this windfall will make a tremendous difference in the years ahead. The Shoreline Community tax sharing plan could not have happened at a better time.