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LASD kicks off the school year with budget cuts

Original post made on Aug 20, 2019

As schools starts up this week following the dormant summer months, Los Altos School District's board of trustees will be ringing in the new school year with a round of spending cuts.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 20, 2019, 1:28 PM

Comments (21)

25 people like this
Posted by SMH
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2019 at 2:33 pm

And yet they're moving full steam ahead to purchase land to build a school that they do not need. Enrollment is declining, they can:
1. Move 6th grade to middle school (they have enough land at each middle school for 700+ kids yet they only have 450-ish there)
2. Give Covington to BCS and redistribute the current Covington kids to their OTHER neighborhood schools
3. The aging school buildings could be improved with the $150M bond money.

Not to mention the $$$ that's been wasted on all of the "studies" of different sites to purchase land for the new school (that they don't need)

And lets not forget about their plans to build teacher housing with district money on district land (no money to pay the teachers or improve the dilapidated buildings because they have to build housing for a few teachers so they don't have to commute like everybody else in the county).

SMH at the incompetency of the LASD BoD. They'll be coming back to the taxpayers soon to ask for more money to fund their foolhardiness.


16 people like this
Posted by No surprise
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2019 at 2:56 pm

I agree with all three of SMH’s recommendations. By enacting all three, LASD could run a much leaner operation AND improve facilities for current students. Shame on the current trustees for allowing personal preferences and pride get in the way of fiscal accountability.


2 people like this
Posted by devilish details
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 20, 2019 at 4:20 pm

devilish details is a registered user.

thanks for pointing out "higher-than-expected property tax growth" (property taxes are only 65% of revenues) and "a big portion of the district's funding -- parcel tax revenue and contributions from the district's education foundation -- is flat and doesn't rise with increasing costs." these are devils in the details that most people overlook. Renewing parcel taxes frequently and adding an inflation factor would allow this portion of district revenue to grow more steadily as expenses grow


22 people like this
Posted by No More Parcel Taxes
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2019 at 5:11 pm

We have given LASD plenty of our tax money and they have wasted it pursuing the world's most expensive land purchase for a new school that is NOT NEEDED! And they did all of this in the face of DECLINING enrollment!


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Posted by devilish details
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 20, 2019 at 6:09 pm

devilish details is a registered user.

@No More Parcel Taxes... regarding devilish details: parcel taxes are not used for land and buildings, the land purchase received massive direct and indirect financial support from the city of MV and will cost the school district a small fraction of the total bond proceeds. enrollment goes up, enrollment goes down. betting that enrollment will continue to fall is like betting silicon valley has jumped the shark. have you seen the building happening all around, or by "another community" do you mean "outside northern california"?


14 people like this
Posted by No surprise
a resident of another community
on Aug 20, 2019 at 8:53 pm

@devilish details: we understand the difference between parcel tax $ and bond measure $. The problem is that building a brand new school at the Kohl’s property will drain the bond funds AND add another school to the district’s operating costs. An additional schools adds administrative and operational costs that can only be covered through future parcel tax funds. LASD cannot afford to open a new school now or any time in the foreseeable future.


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Posted by Not really a cut
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2019 at 12:47 am

If you look at what happened, you'd see that they added teaching staff beyond what was in the budget. This was in the midst of an enrollment decline. It's tricky to adjust teacher headcount to match student enrollment when it drops off, because there are fewer students at some schools, which makes for smaller classes unless they are combined across schools. So what's really happening is they are cutting some items so that they can afford to hire more teaching staff than was originally budgeted. It's a cut but it's also an incremental growth in the number of teachers. It's not like they suddenly paid all the teachers a higher salary.


1 person likes this
Posted by devilish details
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 21, 2019 at 9:58 am

devilish details is a registered user.

@No surprise: "No More Parcel Taxes" seems not as informed as you. Also, the los altos school district residents have for many years preferred smallish class sizes on smallish neighborhood campuses and voted for parcel taxes many time to pay for that. It may be true in the future that the community's preferences could change, but I would bet that small classes in small schools is still their goal, so they'll pass more parcel taxes. Especially when lasd revenues and expenses including parcel taxes are only about average among districts in the area


14 people like this
Posted by No More Parcel Taxes
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2019 at 1:04 pm

LASD enrollment is in a state of long term decline. The reason is obvious. Families with school age children cannot afford to live in Los Altos! It is absurd that LASD is pushing forward on the new Kohl's campus when enrollment is tanking at every school in the district. Furthermore, BCS is destroying LASD in the battle for incoming Kindergarteners so the LASD enrollment decline is only getting worse.


6 people like this
Posted by No More Parcel Taxes
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2019 at 7:58 am

Well, Day One of the the 2019-2020 school year is in the books and word on the street is that the student enrollment numbers in LASD schools are abysmal. Even worse than previously predicted.


2 people like this
Posted by Hooked on crack
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 22, 2019 at 5:06 pm

Hooked on crack is a registered user.

I crack up at crack pot logic from some people. Seen all those House Sold signs and renovations? There’s no shortage of 30-40 year old extremely wealthy tech couples with and still without young kids moving to Los Altos or Mountain View or Palo Alto or Saratoga. Define your “long term” trend. Total enrollment dropping by 400 kids over 6 years negates a 2500 kid increase over the preceding 25 years? It’s not your best thinking but I’m sure this logic feels really right to you


8 people like this
Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2019 at 10:58 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

The fact is that the production of children is on the decline. Most states in the U.S. do not have enough children being born to replace people dying. This is a pattern that began about 8 years ago and has been consistent ever since. You can see this in LASD's enrollment numbers. There are more kids per grade above grade 4 than there are below grade 4. Specifically in 2018-19, Grades 1 2 and 3 enrolled 432 427 434 students. Grades 5 6 and 7 enrolled 535 463 and 526. The birth data shows the same issue existing for kids who have not yet entered school. It's not a complete disappearance, but it is a 20% reduction in the number of students at each age level. So it's not crazed to realize that the fertility rate has dropped off and unless new housing is constructed, the number of kids will be 20% lower for at least the next 10 years maybe longer. Likely what will happen is that in the only apartment-heavy area there will be an increase in kids because of added units, but elsewhere there will be a drop off, so the aggregate situation will be a shift in the location of kids toward more in apartments, but still a net reduction in total students.

For some context, see this CNN story: Web Link

Interesting that LASD has seen the signs over the last 8 years, and they initially dismissed it as temporary. But the pattern has been consistent.

The problem LASD has is trying to keep so many schools open with a decline total population. They have been reducing the average class size so as to have more classes and spread them across the existing number of schools. Slowly they have still reduced the total number of classes. What changed with the budget was likely that they kept more classes than budgeted so as not to assign as many overflow kids away from their default school (due to reduced number of budgeted teachers available to spread across schools). This is hard to sustain without increasing spending per student.

This explains why LASD has to cut spending in some areas. They are spending more on staffing than budgeted, but not more than planned for the average teacher. There are just more teachers than originally planned, by a fairly modest number.


1 person likes this
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 23, 2019 at 8:52 am

Aaron is a registered user.

Long Resident has been here so long he or she remembers the 20th century when birth rates predicted school enrollments. In the 21st century in SiValley the population of tech workers is mobile and global. Demand for school seats is increasingly a function of people moving into this high paying tech job nirvana, more than birth rates.


18 people like this
Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2019 at 1:51 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

Tech workers make up 28% of the Silicon Valley workforce. The other 72% have a a high proportion of foreign born as well. Many of the foreign born have become Americans and have been here for years. However, that doesn't change the issues with the declining birth rate one way or the other. The immigration to Silicon Valley has been going on for decades. You have lots of foreign born parents having kids too. But the net effect of the drop off of natality affects the foreign born potential parents too. Also, it's not just Silicon Valley. There are plenty of immigrants all around the country. Maybe they are helping to keep the birthrate up somewhat in various places and also in Los Altos. Otherwise, the drop off would be more severe. But the net effect is still a drop off in birthrate. Only kids attend elementary school. Fewer kids, fewer classes.

The numbers on LASD enrollment don't lie. They reflect the trend that is in effect. There are fewer kids at younger ages than there are kids at the upper grades of LASD. This reflects people moving in and bringing in some of the older kids too, but the trend is still there.

Also, if you bring in Tech workers and increase the work force, they need more housing units. Increasing the work force doesn't matter unless you increase the housing units. Los Altos hasn't been keeping up with the massive expansion of Google in Mountain View, nor has it gotten any of the tax revenue from all the Google construction pumping up the office real estate values for taxation purposes. Even Mountain View hasn't been keeping up. Much of the hiring has provided workers who still live outside the MV-LA area. This means their kids don't attend LASD. Mountain View is adding a lot of apartments all over the city, but it's still lagging well behind the jobs expansion within the city limits of Mountain View. It mostly increases the chance of kids for MVWSD, and only maybe 10% of it increases the numbers attending LASD. For MVWSD it helps them hold steady. Without the added units both LASD and MVWSD would see numbers decline even further.


36 people like this
Posted by LA taxpayer
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2019 at 4:16 pm

LA taxpayer is a registered user.

@ devlish details + hooked on crack: Enrollment is on the decline. likely long term or permanently, but even if there were some fluctuation over the years LASD has tons of space/acreage to accommodate more kids should the need arise. Blach, Egan and Covington are all huge sites on which buildings could be modified to take more kids and would be far cheaper than purchasing land (despite MV contributions it's still not free) + building a new school As mentioned MANY times over the years, 6th grade can move to Middle (a better academic model anyway) freeing up lots of space to keep elementary schools small. The idea of building a huge new school to POSSIBLY accommodate an unknown number of children in the future is crazy. Why should today's parents be paying bond funds and parcel taxes for somebody else's phantom kids in the future? If the need arises for restructuring the accommodations 15-20 years down the road, let those parents figure it out. Hopefully, if a new LASD parcel tax is proposed, taxpayers will vote it down in effort to teach the fiscally irresponsible LASD BoT some accountability.


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Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2019 at 4:33 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

With the population trends, we are in a situation where in the future, 25% of the LASD population will likely live in that 1/4 square mile area in Mountain View. Another 15% live around Springer within the city limits of Mountain View but in way less dense housing. All the other schools are in the city of Los Altos with just one in Los Altos Hills. This is why it makes sense to add a new school
in that NEC area and to not have it be an elementary school. There are going to
be way too many kids in the area to be served by a single new elementary school, and LASD can't afford to add even one (let alone two) without closing one (or two)
of the existing elementary schools. You're going to be splitting the NEC kids between at least 2 elementary schools anyway, let that be two existing schools to keep on providing population so they can stay open. Then relocate Egan Jr High to the area, as it will be 50% comprised of students living in the area. They aren't discriminated against because at least for 2 or 3 years of their schooling, they do have a local school!

That's why it makes SOME sense to add the new land and to spend $20 Million on those 10 acres with the city of Mountain View also buying 2 additional acres adjacent to the property and much of the shopping area being replaced by new apartment buildings.


8 people like this
Posted by LA taxpayer
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2019 at 5:35 pm

LA taxpayer is a registered user.

@Long Resident- this is a convenience issue, not an academic or space availability issue. First, relocating the Jr High to NEC doesn't fit the argument as the Jr High is not the commuting problem - it's the elementary schools that require the drive. The NEC kids are certainly capable of commuting from their location NEC to Egan Middle which is only a few blocks away.

Mtn View continues to expand housing in the LASD NEC quadrant with no input from LASD and LASD shouldn't have to relocate a Jr High school, which accommodates half of the LASD kids, to that neighborhood in order to accommodate newbies. Maybe MV should give LASD a bus to get the elementary kids to school but before this huge apartment/ housing expansion almost all LASD housing was located in Los Altos and half the city of Los Altos shouldn't have to commute to MV to go to school when they had no voice in the expansion. Besides, all parents moving into that area know before residing there that there is no neighborhood school. They could probably petition to attend MVWSD but my guess is that most would prefer to remain in LASD despite the commute.

I agree that it's less convenient to not have a neighborhood elementary school but using their limited funds on a new land + school is a problem in that there will be no funds in renovate the aging existing schools with significant deferred maintenance. if they move 6th to middle they could give Covington to BCS eliminating the administrative costs of an entire school. The LASD BoT is just not using their money wisely - they're still wrapped up in the emotionality of the BCS feud.


2 people like this
Posted by LA taxpayer
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2019 at 5:42 pm

LA taxpayer is a registered user.

In summary, if anybody should be building a school NEC, it should be the city of Mountain View, gifting an elementary school to LASD in exchange for the uncontrolled housing expansion they've approved but suffer no consequences.


6 people like this
Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2019 at 11:07 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

The housing expansion in the NEC area of LASD is not uncontrolled. First consider that the student count has very gradually risen from 600 to 800 between 2000 and this year. Then consider that over the next 5 to 10 years the added students to LASD from the area are projected at about 200 more, making a total of 1000. While seeing these added 200 kids in that area, we are likely seeing a drop off in other areas of LASD that is much larger, i.e. perhaps 400 to 800 students less living elsewhere. So LASD is still not seeing a population increase, but rather a shift. The LASD demographer first started alerting to that 2.5 years ago. There was no regular demographic report last Spring, which is unusual, but we do expect a big drop off in the first reported attendance numbers this school year, even WITH the increase in NEC and even with allowing for all those newly switching to BCS.


3 people like this
Posted by LA citizen
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Aug 24, 2019 at 7:38 am

LA citizen is a registered user.

To the people who ask, “Why should today's parents be paying bond funds and parcel taxes for somebody else's phantom kids in the future?” I reply, “Because you’re a member of a community, and you don’t individually get to choose which public goods to fund.”

If you see yourself primarily as a taxpayer and not a citizen, as an economic stakeholder rather than a community member, you’ve been influenced by Howard Jarvis mentality and may have an underdeveloped community sensibility.

Not every public good is intended to serve your needs, or meant for your pleasure. We share the costs because these public goods (like our public schools) build strong communities. I hope you can think in less transactional terms, the WIFM, quid-pro-quo mindset is undermining communities and choking funding. We seniors vote for parcel taxes and bonds because they’re going toward good schools like what our children enjoyed


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Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2019 at 11:15 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

Who says it is today's parents who will pay for new LASD construction out of Measure N? Measure N has not started issuing bonds yet. The $150 Million will be amortized out over 30 years in the future, not the past. The development in Mountain View will bear a large tax burden both for the bond and for operating expenses of LASD. One new project that is probably the only large one to be completed yet was completed 3 years ago. That 3 acres of land with the buildings is now assessed at $150 Million, $27 Million for the 3 acres of land and the rest for the buildings. So roughly it is contributing about $500K per year to LASD in revenues. Does it have even 15 kids residing in that complex? The other large projects have not been put into service but the result will be similar, only larger. Prometheus will likely be assessed at $500 Million by itself, or more. There's a ton of new revenue coming to LASD from all this expensive construction on expensive recently purchased land. Those properties will be paying down the bond over the next 30 years in the FUTURE as well as contributing to LASD's operating funding.


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