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Mountain View Voice

News - April 9, 2010

Irate parent opposes MVLA bond

Steve Nelson uses ballot message to make point about Shoreline tax revenue

by Daniel DeBolt

A Mountain View parent upset with the lack of school tax revenue from the city's Shoreline area is going to unusual lengths to publicize the issue.

Mountain View resident Steve Nelson has written a counterargument to Measure A, a $41.3 million Mountain View-Los Altos High School District bond measure that will be on the June ballot. In it, he asks voters to cast a "no" vote — not because there is something significantly wrong with the high school bond measure, but to protest the city's Shoreline Community tax district, which diverts property tax revenue from local schools.

Mountain View Whisman School District officials began raising the issue recently in hopes of getting a larger share of property taxes from Shoreline companies like Google. By contrast, high school officials have said they are "satisfied" with the current tax arrangement. But Nelson is taking the issue to their ballot measure anyway.

"Think of this property tax extension as a referendum," he writes in the rebuttal. "Should Google, Microsoft and the Shoreline District businesses get out of regular school taxes, forever?"

As the Voice reported on March 12, the tax district diverts millions in property taxes from Shoreline-area companies — $10 million this year alone — away from local schools and into a city fund. The fund covers city services and improvements to the Shoreline business park area north of Highway 101, including Shoreline Park operations.

City officials say the area would not be the economic engine that it is without this special fund to help maintain and improve it. They also point out that both the elementary and high school districts receive several perks paid out of the fund, including about a half-million dollars each per year for technology programs in a 2005 "joint powers agreement."

In the ballot statement he filed with the county Registrar of Voters, Nelson, who says he has been complaining about the Shoreline tax district to local school officials for about a year, calls on parents to "hold your nose and vote no in just this one election," and to vote yes on it in the future.

"The message will be clear. Permanently fix this tax unfairness."

Measure A would not raise property taxes but would extend the current tax rate — previously set to expire in 2024 — to 2030. The money it raises would pay for new classrooms and for "green renovations" at the city's two high schools.

Overall, the district does better financially than the elementary school district thanks to higher property values and greater fundraising efforts in Los Altos.

E-mail Daniel DeBolt at


Posted by Future High Schooler Parent, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 7:55 am

Mr Nelson's ire-triggered counter-argument is misguided.

If he really feels so strongly about the Shoreline tax, he should put on the ballot his own local measure or campaign (vote) against the Mountain View City Council and other elected officials ...who can actually do something about it.

The High School District is simply the wrong target.

Posted by Current High School Parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 8:41 am

Misguided is an understatement! Bizarre comes to mind.

Neither the elementary school district (MVWSD) or the high school district (MVLAHSD) has anything to do whatsoever with the creation of the Shoreline tax district. It was created by the City of MV to keep funds in the Shoreline area.

He's barking up the wrong tree and misleading the voters.

Anyone who doesn't agree with the Shoreline tax district needs to take their concerns to the City Council.

MVLA knows that they will have 900 additional students in the coming years. Instead of relying on guesses about demographics, they can actually COUNT the number of children currently in elementary school! They are proposing an extension of an already existing bond measure so that they can make room for these students when they get to high school. Bond money can be used ONLY for facilities.

If anything, the high school district should be PRAISED for their handling of "general fund" budget cuts! They have proposed numerous cuts at the administrative level, in contrast with the elementary school district which plans to balance its budget on the backs of teachers and students by increasing class sizes.

Posted by just say no, a resident of Whisman Station
on Apr 9, 2010 at 9:14 am

We need to stop borrowing on our children's future with tax hikes and bonds.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Apr 9, 2010 at 9:26 am

I vote against virtually every bond issue that hits the ballot-- have for years and years, even for causes that I find important. This, however, is an absolutely appropriate method of funding capital improvements-- this is what bonds are SUPPOSED to be used for!

Dont punish our kids for massive mistakes made over the years by special interest groups at the state level. I just dont see how you can argue against this sort of financing for infrastructure and capital improvements.

Posted by Another current high school parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 1:49 pm

This is just nuts. Even if the school districts were receiving more of the property tax revenues from the Shoreline district, my guess is that they would still need to go out for bonds for capital improvements. This stunt will do nothing to increase the likelihood of schools receiving Shoreline funds, but stands a chance of causing the bond to fail, which hurts only kids. Not Shoreline, Google, Microsoft, or any one else, just the thousands of kids who will be crammed into campuses that are too small to house them. Shame on Steven Nelson.

And to "just say no" - bonds are the only way to fund these types capital improvements, school districts cannot "save" $45 million dollars to build classrooms when they barely have enough money to keep the schools running on a year-to-year basis. If they did not pass bond measures, the school facilities would crumble away from disrepair. The "no borrowing no tax hikes" mantra is just a knee-jerk reaction that is not based in reality.

Posted by MD, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm

MV and LA schools for residents of MV and LA only. Now that MVWSD (and LASD) are basic aid, we should stop allowing students from other municipalities to attend our elementary, middle and high schools.

Posted by mv, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 9, 2010 at 2:47 pm


Posted by Seldon, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 11:46 pm

I understand Mr. Nelson's position and even the anger he's expressed, but I don't agree with the method he is advocating.

I liken his approach to be the same as denying your dog food and water, to enrage it enough to bite the neighbor that blocks your driveway every morning.

I understand the "ends", but I don't agree with the "means".

Posted by :), a resident of Whisman Station
on Apr 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm

fyi - The PACT program at Stevenson school does not accept any out of district transfers and has not for two years.

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 15, 2010 at 6:05 pm

The new special district news, "revitalization district" (Castro St.) diverts another $625,000 away from paying off its bonds. Who directly suffers from this (and future) diversions? 1) MV General Fund (libraries, police), 2) MVW Elementary District, 3) MVLA High School District, 4) County General Fund. Seldon and eric, this is just another example of the school districts being shortchanged by the operation of special tax diversion districts. If the MVLA Trustees or CFO remain silent - there will be little if any possibility of changing these actions on the part of the MV Council (IMO). Using an election to make elected officials 'cry uncle' is an appropriate use of democracy. I guess the MV Council's approach is "OK, business as usual" to the MVLA Trustees. IMO their complacency is part of the problem.

not nuts
Crazy Steve, parent for MVW and MVLA students.

Posted by Future High Schooler Parent, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 15, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Mr Nelson.

Again, if you want to take on the Mountain View City Council over this special district issue, PLEASE do so by voting/opposing or even running in the next election or by putting your own proposition on the ballot.

Trying to "high-jack" Measure A will not do a single thing to your cause. However it might possibly prevent OUR kids to have classrooms when they go to high school in a couple of years. It might also cause MVLA to waste 400-500K to put the measure on the ballot.

In your lunacy, did it even occur to you that a large chunk of the voters for MVLA reside in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Palo Alto? In what democracy would they have a say on how the City of Mountain View handles its taxes?

For the sake of our and your kids, please go to an anger management class.

Posted by bewildered, a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Mr. Nelson, who has had some very valid and reasonable comments in the past, is just nuts on this one.

The city and the school districts are entirely different municipalities, jurisdictions, whatever you want to call it. The high school district serves Los Altos and Los Altos Hills! Hence the name "MV LOS ALTOS" High School District! The schools and the city are governed by different elected officials, and get their funding from different sources.

Like he expects Barry Groves and Craig Goldman to just march down to MV City Hall and demand money? I don't think that is going to happen, as the City Council and School Boards generally have an understanding that one governing body does not tell the other one what to do.

This is just nuts to propose that we pack 900 more children into classrooms like sardines to get back at the City of MV for their special tax districts.

Punish the students of MV, LA, and LAH for the decisions made by the MV City Council?

I hope the voters are not misled by Mr. Nelson's weird proposal.

His time and energy would be better spent volunteering for the Measure A campaign, making phone calls and walking precincts.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2010 at 4:14 pm

First off, Steve, the MVWSD CFO is the one that has put the tax district on the radar of late, so, do you want to punish MVLA because they didnt bring it up first??

Second, as much as I support dismantling the Shoreline district, even if the city WANTS TO DO IT (not likely), it will take an act of the state legislature to make it happen

Finally, while there is certainly cause to question the $625k economic development study that the city is having done, this sort of study is nothing unusual and probably not the worst thing to do when the downtown district is set to expire (last chance to EVER do something like this, and it fits within the purpose of the district-- but I'm not trying to defend the expense, just put it in perspective). It has NOTHING to do with the school district.

Your actions are unconscionable and may do untold harm to our schools and our children.

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