Schools happy with Shoreline compromise
Agreement that district can meet city's obligations and help fund education
As local parents have come to realize the amount of money Mountain View schools might gain on an annual basis if the Shoreline Community were to be abolished — or "sunset," in political parlance — many have called for the special district to be dissolved.
However, for a variety of reasons — political and otherwise — both Craig Goldman, superintendent of the elementary and middle school district, and Barry Groves, superintendent of the high school district, have each maintained their support for keeping the Shoreline Community alive, even as they have expressed an interest in gathering a larger share of the tax revenues from the special district.
Currently city and local education officials are working on an agreement that would temporarily provide Mountain View schools with millions more in funding each year for the next three years, by amending the way that tax revenues generated by the special district are distributed.
Goldman said that the new arrangement will give the Mountain View Whisman district $6.7 million more over the next three school years — including this year — than it would have received under the old joint powers agreement.
The proposed agreement would immediately bring more money to the school districts from the Shoreline Community and give city and school officials up to two years come up with a permanent solution to a problem that has been around for years, but has only recently drawn broad public attention.
The agreement says nothing about eventually closing down the district, however. And that isn't sitting well with at least one Mountain View resident, with children in the local elementary schools.
Steve Nelson, who has been a common sight at Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos school board meetings lately, recently estimated at the Feb. 16 Mountain View Whisman board meeting that the money thestrict stands to lose this year due to the Shoreline Community arrangement could be paid out in $100 bills stacked 9 meters high.
At the Mountain View Whisman meeting on Feb. 3, he gave a presentation that described the situation rather simply.
"If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and flies like a duck, it is probably a duck," he said referring to the special district metaphorically. "It's a nice duck. It's a useful duck. But it is a tax diversion duck."
Even so, Goldman said he is pleased with the progress that is being made and maintains that he has never advocated for completely abolishing the district.
"It's been our position that there is a value in the community continuing to exist," Goldman said.
The Shoreline Community, a special tax district created in 1969, captures almost all of the property taxes within its boundaries, which encapsulate most of Mountain View north of Highway 101. Local schools get only a sliver of the revenues generated by the Shoreline Community. The amount of money schools get from the district is based on a percentage of the property's assessed value in 1969.
However, since 1969, Google has set up shop, the Shoreline Amphitheater was erected, Shoreline Park and the golf links were built over an old landfill, and property values have skyrocketed, from an estimated $33.9 million when the Shoreline Community was established to $2.36 billion today.
Schools losing millions
Goldman estimates that if his district were getting the same percentage of revenues from the Shoreline Community they currently receive — only at 2011 property value levels — elementary and middle schools in the city would see about $5.07 million more than they are expecting this year.
Local property tax dollars are important because the school districts don't receive per-pupil funding from the state. Instead, they receive a larger share of local property taxes.
After the Voice ran a number of articles on the peculiar nature of the district, a group of local parents calling themselves "Share Shoreline" began pressing the city council to change the way the Shoreline Community shares its tax revenues with local schools — and the city council listened.
Although it has yet to be entirely settled, Goldman said it appears that the city, along with his district and the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, will soon enter into a new joint powers agreement with the Shoreline Community — which will replace the current agreement and provide local schools with a larger cut of the taxes generated within the Shoreline Community.
The city claims that it needs much of the funding generated by the Shoreline District to maintain, among other things, Shoreline Park, the golf links and the network of gas diversion lines that pull the methane and other gases generated by the dump out of the immediate area.
The right timing
Goldman cautioned that because of the current state of the economy, pushing the city into a long-term plan too soon could result in an overly conservative estimate of the property values in the area, which would result in less money for his district.
Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, struck an equally balanced tone in his assessment of the Shoreline Community. His district has lost roughly $3.2 million in the last three years and he is "really excited about the possibility of maximizing our share of the Shoreline funds." However, Groves said, all three agencies — the city, his district and Goldman's — must find a solution that they can each agree upon.
"We are a collaborative community," Goldman said, choosing his words carefully. "Mountain View has a fairly unique environment, where government, private and non-profit organizations work well together. It's important for us to maintain that environment."
Goldman said he is confident that in two years time, before the end of the proposed temporary arrangement, that a more equitable permanent solution can be reached.
"I think that this is the best solution for this time and place," he said.