District gives nod to new parcel tax | February 15, 2008 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

News - February 15, 2008

District gives nod to new parcel tax

June measure would up tax by 69 percent, easing impact of state cuts

by Casey Weiss

Facing huge state budget cuts that threaten elementary and middle school programs and small class sizes, the Mountain View Whisman school board voted last week to seek a 69 percent increase in the current parcel tax when it comes up for renewal on the June ballot.

If it passes, the tax would raise $1.7 million a year to fund "essential programs," smaller class sizes and to attract and retain teachers.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed cuts in education, if approved by the Legislature, would hit the district hard, taking away an estimated $3 million.

"Our first priority will be to respond to state budget cuts without them having an impact on essential programs," said Craig Goldman, the district's chief financial officer.

Mountain View residents passed the original parcel tax in 2003, when the district faced similar cuts for school libraries and arts and music programs.

"The parcel tax saved all those programs," said Charles Heath of Tramutola, a consulting firm helping to prepare and pass the measure.

Board members originally hoped the new tax would continue to fund special programs for English language learners and at-risk students in the middle schools, as well as hands-on science programs in the elementary schools, according to Goldman. But with the threat of state budget cuts, the additional revenue will likely be used to fund more fundamental programs.

Parcel tax revenue can only be used for programs listed on the ballot measure, and may not be used to pay administrator's salaries or benefits.

"We fully intend to return to our old vision," Goldman said. "We plan to hold onto as many programs as we can from the old parcel tax."

If renewed, parcel tax rates would jump 69 percent, with the biggest property owners — with lots of more than 44,000 square feet — paying more than $1,000 per year per parcel, according to Heath. On the other end of the spectrum, yearly taxes on properties of 8,000 square feet or less would jump from $75 to $127 (see chart).

In addition to higher rates, the new parcel tax would last eight years, up from the previous five-year tax. Residents receiving Supplemental Social Security income would be exempt from the tax.

Heath said the renewal is important because the district receives most of its funds from the state and only receives additional income from its parcel tax; private donations, largely from the Mountain View Educational Foundation; city grants for technology; and outside leases on district property.

The high school district, a basic aid district which is funded mostly by local property taxes, faces smaller losses of around $830,000 if the governor's proposal passes, according to a district official.

A survey of 400 Mountain View residents conducted by Tramutola has determined that 75 percent of local residents will support the tax. Members of the school district community are positive about the measure, said Heath, who says he has run focus groups and talked with the local Chamber of Commerce.

"In our experience working on these measures, when you have cuts of this magnitude, people understand the need for parcel taxes," Heath said.

In reaction to the state budget proposal, both the high school and elementary school boards are planning to send letters of opposition to Sacramento. Also, the Mountain View Whisman board approved a seniority list last week to help determine the order of termination among certified employees. Though administrators said they are not anticipating layoffs, education code requires the district to be prepared with a seniority list.

District transfers

With enrollment increasing in some of the district's popular alternative programs, board members are beginning to review the programs' transfer policies and priorities. In response, parents crowded the board room last week to argue in favor of priority enrollment for siblings of students already enrolled.

Popular programs in the district include Dual Immersion at Castro Elementary, Community-Enhanced Learning at Monta Loma, Parent Child Teacher School (PACT), and independent study for parents wishing to home school students. Parents were most interested in expanding enrollment and priority for Dual Immersion and PACT.

Students in the district (dubbed "intradistrict") currently receive first priority for the choice programs, while students living outside the district with siblings enrolled in Mountain View Whisman programs have priority among out of district (or "interdistrict") transfers. Parents argued it is important for members of the family to attend the same school, and requested that the district prioritize sibling transfers.

Though the board started discussing potential policies, it will not make a formal decision until its March 6 meeting.


Following are yearly tax rates for the old and new (not yet approved) parcel taxes, based on lot size:

Square Footage Old Rate New Rate

0-8,000 sq. ft. $75 $127

8,001-14,000 sq. ft. $150 $254

14,001-22,000 sq. ft. $200 $339

22,001-28,000 sq. ft. $300 $508

28,001-44,000 sq. ft. $400 $677

More than 44,000 sq. ft. $600 $1,016


The measure would allow for parcel tax proceeds to be used for the following:

• Teacher retention and recruitment

• School libraries

• Lower class sizes

• Music and arts programs

• Outdoor education

• Student leadership classes

• Support for English language learners

• Extracurricular sports programs

• On-site intervention specialists

• Intersession programming during school breaks

• Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs

E-mail Casey Weiss at cweiss@mv-voice.com


Like this comment
Posted by Ave Joe
a resident of The Crossings
on Feb 17, 2008 at 9:22 am

Didn't we also just vote on allowing gaming growth at casinos to help the schools, budget and essential programs?

We should now tax cigaretts and alchol an extra 10% Oh I forgot 15% gas tax hike we haven't done that for a while. I am still working on how to tax email that should bring in $10,000,000 a year alone.

I think I see a patter here. If you want to add/raise a tax say it is need for schools ,fire, police then spend it somewhere else.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 17, 2008 at 2:28 pm

So does this mean the teachers will get the 4.5% cola added to their pay like the firefighters in this town will get for the next 5 years? Let's see the district put their money where their mouth is because from my recollection, teacher raises and COLA adjustments have been almost nonexistent since the last tax increase. If you want to retain and recruit good teachers, pay them what they're worth, as have the surrounding school districts with higher performing schools. It's teachers that impact students more than anything else. Otherwise, I'm against voting yes to tax myself more. Throwing more good money after bad is a bad idea.

Like this comment
Posted by Ave Joe Jr.
a resident of Shoreline West
on Feb 18, 2008 at 12:57 pm

I agree with both posts. Also lets not for get about how the Lottery which is forever expanding was to help schools. Why not tax that when you purchase it. Gaming growth will not help as we were told if the same people OUR GOVERNER is the one over it we have seen the results from that. This must change since it is easier to pass the buck to someone else then deal with the isuses directly. Those over it.

Like this comment
Posted by Observer
a resident of North Whisman
on Feb 18, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Tax and spend with no accountability. No sooner do we get a get a tax rebate check in the mail when the schools start lining up for more money. You can kiss your rebates goodbye. Does the school board have any meaning of the word recession?

Like this comment
Posted by Calvin
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 18, 2008 at 6:37 pm

The school board still needs to set the record straight on the retirement fraud scandal that broke last year. How can it take them over a year to figure out who's been cooking the books. How in our right minds can we even consider giving them more money to lose track of!

Stop being Sheeple. Demand accountability. Families are already suffering in this down economy. A new parcel tax is not going to help anyone here.

Like this comment
Posted by NUMB
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 18, 2008 at 7:33 pm

WHAT? AGAIN? Are we all living on the same planet? I cannot believe this.

* School libraries - Go to the PUBLIC LIBRARY instead
* Lower class sizes - They already are low! FOR PETE'S SAKE I SAT IN CLASSROOMS OF 30 OR MORE MY ENTIRE TIME IN SCHOOL.
* Music and arts programs - FOCUS ON MATH, SCIENCE INSTEAD.
* Outdoor education - WHAT!?! I don't even want to know what this is.
* Student leadership classes WHAT!?! Who came up with this wacko list. THIS IS A ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT.
* Extracurricular sports programs OH PLEASE
* On-site intervention specialists NOW WHAT? MORE GANGS IN THE SCHOOLS
* Intersession programming during school breaks THIS IS THE LIMIT! WHAT A BUNCH OF HOG WASH

RECALL THE BOARD, they've obviously lost their senses/

Like this comment
Posted by Even Number
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 18, 2008 at 8:45 pm

I agree.

Recall the board, fire the superintendant and make all the schools charter schools.

We could learn a lot from out neighbors in Los Altos Hills.

If you're not voting for higher taxes, you're voting for people that will raise your taxes.

Like this comment
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 19, 2008 at 9:42 pm

This is horrible lesson to teach our kids. Times are getting tough, time to save, cut back on some luxeries, tighten the belt, watch what we spend, sacrifice. We need to ask how we got into this mess of spending and living beyond our means. The solution is not to tax. That's money coming off the tables of families with children who need it. How does the board arrive at the conclusion that the time to raise taxes is during a recesssion. They're like teenagers with a credit card.

Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2008 at 12:43 pm

"* Teacher retention and recruitment YEAH RIGHT, DOES THIS ACTUALLY MEAN THE TEACHERS WILL GET PAID MORE. A SIMPLE YES OR NO ANSWER IS ALL THAT'S REQUIRED, BUT YOU'LL NEVER GET IT" Simple answer--public schools in California can never know year to year how much money they will actually get from the state & federal governments and never know how they will need to allocate their resources. This is a fact. They cannot and should not make specific promises that they may not be able to keep. Sometimes teacher retention means they will be using some of that money toward keeping the teachers' portion of their healthcare costs down--which may mean not as much for raises.

"* School libraries - Go to the PUBLIC LIBRARY instead" I had a library at every school I went to, I'm sure you did too. Every decent school in this or any other developed country has a library onsite for teachers to take their students to. Teachers can guide students' book choices, or just get a sense of what the kids are reading. They go together when they are learning how to do research on papers, so the teachers and library staff can teach the kids how to use the reference materials, look up appropriate books, etc. Yes, a public librarian can do that also, but the fact is that many kids will never get to the public library, and the school can't control that. Also, a lot of the library costs at the schools (like buying new books & equipment) is already being paid directly by the parents at the schools through their PTAs, book fairs, etc; parcel tax money will pay the salaries of the PART-TIME librarians, as there is no money anywhere else to pay them.

"* Lower class sizes - They already are low! FOR PETE'S SAKE I SAT IN CLASSROOMS OF 30 OR MORE MY ENTIRE TIME IN SCHOOL." Me, too, and it was pretty bad. What do charter and elite private schools and the "good" local public schools always advertise as one of their benefits? Small classes, low student-teacher ratios. It's good for them--it's good for all kids. Kids get lost in the shuffle in huge classes with only one teacher.

"* Music and arts programs - FOCUS ON MATH, SCIENCE INSTEAD." Arts education programs have been proven to increase student achievement in many areas, including math. The district has been and is continuing to increase the instructional minutes spent on math, science, and writing. And here again, the arts programs are the result of a collaboration between many organizations. The city pays a portion, PTAs pay a portion, the educational foundation pays a portion, and CSMA contributes a portion.

"* Outdoor education - WHAT!?! I don't even want to know what this is." Science camp, an opportunity for all 5th graders to experience a week at overnight camp learning about the the science all around them. Again--the district helps out with a portion of the costs of this, while parents do fundraising and pay the majority, at least at some schools. The district's portion helps to ensure that kids from ALL the schools--not just the ones with the wealthy parents--can participate in this experience. And yes, the "GOOD" schools all do this, Los Altos, etc.

"* Student leadership classes WHAT!?! Who came up with this wacko list. THIS IS A ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT." This is a middle school elective class for kids who are not interested in music classes or the computer/art/home ec type of electives.

"* Support for English language learners OH PLEASE... HERE WE GO AGAIN FOOTING THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION TAX BILL SINCE NO ONE ELSE WANTS TO PAY FOR IT" Lots of kids come to the district with limited English skills, and no, they are not all "illegal." That is a stereotype. In my kids' school there were families from Japan, Spain, Finland, France, Portugal and several other countries where the parents were professionals working in the Valley. The kids in some cases spoke no English when they arrived. It is true that many of the kids come from lower-income, Spanish-speaking families, but how do you know they are all illegal?

"* Extracurricular sports programs OH PLEASE" Surely you recognize that after-school sports can make a world of difference in a middle-schooler's life. A sense of belonging, teamwork, discipline, structure, the role model that the coach can be, the camaraderie, has gotten many a kid through those tough years. It keeps kids off the streets, engaging in a healthy activity, and if they want to participate, they need to keep a certain GPA, providing motivation to pay attention to schoolwork. And here again--parents pay for much of this out of pocket through participation fees, etc., but the district has certain costs for coach stipends and probably insurance & buses. They need a guaranteed source of revenue, which ain't coming from the State, my friend.

"* On-site intervention specialists NOW WHAT? MORE GANGS IN THE SCHOOLS" You know, kids DO have problems in their lives that don't involve gangs. And if the schools did NOT do anything to try and intervene with the kids that they suspect are being recruited by gangs, you and others like you would be all over them for NOT doing anything. Make up your mind! Do you want the schools to try to help with SOCIETY's gang issues or not? The Los Altos schools have "guidance counselors" -- which are intervention specialists with a different name. Maybe we should call them that?

"* Intersession programming during school breaks THIS IS THE LIMIT! WHAT A BUNCH OF HOG WASH" I thought you wanted the school to do more to help achievement and keep kids out of gangs? Here's an idea--offer supplemental programs for the kids who need some more help to achieve during the breaks. Oh, wait--this means paying teachers more money--I thought you wanted us to do that anyway? Maybe we can just ask the Governor for the money, then we don't have to raise it locally.

"* Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs TAKE THE MONEY YOU SAVE FROM PAY MORE TAXES AND GET YOUR KID PIANO LESSONS" Trust me, my kid's piano lessons cost way more than even the increased parcel tax will cost me, so that's a specious argument. Besides, many GATE kids come from homes where parents lack the resources (in either money or time) to provide outside enrichment activities for kids. Good GATE programs can provide every GATE kid, rich or poor, with a variety of enrichment offerings to keep them engaged. Not every GATE kid is an engaged and motivated learner in the traditional classroom. They come in all varieties. The district is required to offer a GATE program, yet they get only small amount of money each year from the state for GATE programs. Bottom line--parents want to see quality GATE programs, and the state funding is not enough to provide them.

"RECALL THE BOARD, they've obviously lost their senses" On the contrary, the board is doing what they know is necessary. Los Altos has had a parcel tax for far longer than we have, and the citizens in general pay more--a lot more. You'd be paying around $600 per year if you lived there, regardless if you had a 1-bedrom condo or a 10,000-square foot mansion in Los Altos Hills--$600. If you had a kid in their schools, you would also be asked to pay something like $700 or $800 per kid per year to the Educational Foundation. Then you'd be asked to donate probably more than that to your individual PTA's. then would come the fundraisers, silent auctions, etc. Then you'd still be paying participation fees for sports, etc. Of course, with a median income of around $175,000 in Los Altos vs. a median income of around $85,000 for Mountain View, they can ask for all this and get it. Same for Palo Alto. Our ed foundation has been very successful at increasing parent participation this year, and is probably going to raise over $300,000 this year, a new record. Their goal is $500,000 a year in a couple of years. But this won't even make a dent in the reductions in funding coming from the State. Our costs are going up (just like businesses) and the funding keeps going down. The district has no way of increasing revenue other than a parcel tax. The money is being well and honestly spent.

The parcel tax is modest, it is ESSENTIAL, it has been spent on what it was collected for, and it has all stayed in our school district. NONE of it goes to the state, to the feds, or anyone else, unlike some of the other taxes/funds/fees people mentioned. (Gaming, lottery, etc.)

Like this comment
Posted by Parcel Tax Supporter
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2008 at 1:01 pm

"Tax and spend with no accountability. " Actually, this is one tax that's kind of easy to track. The district has to show how the money was spent, and by law it has to be spent in accordance with the ballot language. Have any of you contacted the district to ask about seeing the Oversight Committee's report on the parcel tax spending? You might want to do that before you throw around accusations that it's not being spent appropriately.

Regarding the comment about the Lottery--that ended up being a big scam, I agree. Yes, the lottery does provide money to education, but the state just cuts more than the Lottery brings in, so schools still end up behind. Not sure how any one Superintendent or school board can be blamed for that, though....