News

Parcel tax renewal on the horizon for MV Whisman schools

Board members considering a higher flat-rate tax

Election season is still comfortably far away, but Mountain View Whisman school board members are looking to get a head start on drafting a new parcel tax to hit the ballot box as soon as March of next year.

The new tax would need to be set at $191 per parcel to maintain the district's current revenue, which is a little less than $2.9 million annually. Some board members said it might be time to bring that number up above $200 per parcel, promising district residents big ticket items to improve the city's schools.

The current parcel tax, Measure C, is set to expire June 30, 2017.

Even if the school district settles for breaking even at $191 per parcel, many home owners in Mountain View will end up paying more as the district transitions away from a tiered parcel tax system, where larger parcels pay the school district more money. Measure C, for example, levied a $127 parcel tax for properties of less than 8,000 square feet, all the way up to $1,016 for parcels larger than 44,000 square feet.

Doing away with this system amounts to a $64 annual increase for most owners of single-family homes, a 50 percent jump from the current $127.

The move away from a tiered system is more of a legal requirement than anything else. In a 2008 lawsuit against Alameda Unified School District over a parcel tax measure, the California Court of Appeals ruled that taxing properties for different amounts goes against state government code, which requires school districts to only levy taxes "that apply uniformly to all taxpayers or all real property within the school district." Alameda Unified now has to set aside $5.8 million from its reserves to cover refunds in the coming years from the ill-gotten tax money.

"The prevailing (legal) interpretation is that variable rate parcel tax structures are no longer compliant with California law," said Charles Heath, a political consultant who has worked on numerous parcel tax campaigns in the Bay Area.

At the May 7 Mountain View Whisman board meeting, Heath said the district's lawyer was "unambiguous" in saying it's time to move on to a flat-rate parcel tax.

"The only legal mechanism at this point in California is a single rate applied to all parcels," he said.

Measure C passed in June 2008 with over 80 percent of the vote, and poured millions of dollars annually into class-size reduction, music and arts programs, after-school programs, support for English-language learners and maintaining libraries. It also contributed to staff development for Gifted and Talented Education (GATE).

Board president Chris Chiang said the new parcel tax could be an opportunity for the school district to make a push for additional funds for early childhood education, more science, education, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses, and a continued reduction in class sizes.

"I think that we should try to push for big items and use the parcel tax as a referendum on if the community really support it," Chiang said.

Neighboring Palo Alto Unified School District passed a parcel tax increase of $120 to $758 per parcel, which would bring in close to $14.7 million each year in revenue -- over five times the amount the Mountain View Whisman School District receives.

The story is the same for other nearby school districts. Los Altos School District, which draws about 20 percent of its students from Mountain View, raked in just shy of $10 million in parcel taxes in the 2014-15 school year, which amounts to a flat $790 per parcel. Menlo Park City School District has four parcel taxes currently levied, which in the 2014-15 school year amounted to $6.4 million in supplemental funding for schools.

"I'm raring to go," said board member Ellen Wheeler. "I'd love for us to be able to do more than we currently are able to do."

While Mountain View Whisman's parcel tax doesn't expire until summer of 2017, Heath advised the board to start looking at a parcel tax renewal sooner rather than later to avoid a possible gap in revenue if the tax fails to pass with a two-thirds majority. He said it really doesn't take much "disruption" to fall under that threshold, and the loss of funds would carry significant consequences.

"You probably don't want to wait until that last possible moment to consider your renewal and place that measure on the ballot," he said.

Heath suggested putting the parcel tax on the May ballot next year during a mail-in special election. While board member Greg Coladonato said he would prefer to put in on the June or November ballot, citing that it would be more democratic with the greater voter turnout, Wheeler said it would be a hard sell on a ballot full of other tax measures.

"The reason not to hold it in June is that everybody and their brother is going to have a tax issue on that ballot. Trying to get our school district's parcel tax passed in such a crowded ballot doesn't bode well for us," Wheeler said.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Maher
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on May 18, 2015 at 2:16 pm

What are the geographic boundaries for Mountain View Whisman's parcel tax?

Anyone know?


27 people like this
Posted by OldMV
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 18, 2015 at 3:33 pm

I'm getting really furious about our school district ramming through tax increases in "special elections". This allows the schools to motivate parents to pack the ballot boxes with yea votes while most other citizens stay home. Mountain View needs to pass a law that forces all tax increases, whether government or school districts, be voted upon during regular November elections and not any other time, not even primary elections.


6 people like this
Posted by Outlier
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2015 at 4:40 pm

OldMV is absolutely correct, but any sort of city-level mandate re. parcel taxation will of course never happen. But ahh, the absolute beauty of a mail-in via the May special election. Who cares what it cost, right? As PA just proved, it's a guaranteed win, leveraging union backing/motivated system cronies, and the ever-ready sympathetic regional press corp. Net, minimal participation for a stand-alone taxation ballot measure that naturally tugs at the heart strings while probably exempting voting seniors is a great startegy...esp. when you just want to have money, but no plan on what to spend it on. What's not to like here?


12 people like this
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 18, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Doug Pearson is a registered user.

Folks, we need to concentrate on why we even have a parcel tax: Without it, the Mountain View Whisman School District is seriously underfunded. In my opinion, it's underfunded even with the parcel tax.

The same logic applies to the Los Altos School District, where I live.


Like this comment
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 18, 2015 at 5:16 pm

The Tax should be per bedroom or something like that with over age 65 able to op out of the tax.


6 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on May 18, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Speaking very much personally, and not for the school board or school district, there needs to be more attention paid to the disparity in funding between MVWSD and other school districts. As a percent of median home sale prices, PAUSD and LASD homeowners pay 3x more than MV homeowners. So if Mountain View was paying the same percent as Los Altos and Palo Alto (note: percent, not total), the parcel tax would be $320. If a parcel tax possibly means: smaller classes, more science, more arts, or other things the community will in the future have a chance to determine, then these value-added-improvements to our schools only help homeowner values in the long run. We all want great schools, we get to great schools together.

Mountain View Whisman SD (per pupil revenue: $10,683)
Mountain View Education Foundation: $600,000
Current parcel: $127 (for a <8,000 square foot home)
$951,000 median home sale price (parcel tax is 0.01% of the current median home sale price)
Web Link

Mountain View Los Altos HSD (per pupil revenue: $16,792)
MVLA High School Foundation: $1.3 Million

Los Altos SD (per pupil revenue: $11,805)
Current parcel tax: $790 per parcel ($193 increase)
$2,342,500 median home sale price
Los Altos Education Foundation: $3.2 Million (parcel tax is 0.03% of the current median home sale price)
Web Link

Palo Alto USD (per pupil revenue: $15,217)
Palo Alto Partners in Education: $5.3 Million
Current parcel tax: $758 per parcel ($120 increase)
$2,165,500 median home sale price (parcel tax is 0.03% of the current median home sale price)
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on May 18, 2015 at 7:06 pm

The formatting was off above, below is a clearer organization of the data:
Mountain View Whisman SD (per pupil revenue: $10,683)
Mountain View Education Foundation: $600,000 raised
Current parcel tax: $127 (for a <8,000 square foot home)
$951,000 median home sale price
(parcel tax is 0.01% of the current median home sale price)
Web Link

Mountain View Los Altos HSD (per pupil revenue: $16,792)
MVLA High School Foundation: $1.3 Million raised
Web Link

Los Altos SD (per pupil revenue: $11,805)
Los Altos Education Foundation: $3.2 million raised
Current parcel tax: $790 per parcel ($193 increase in the last election)
$2,342,500 median home sale price
(parcel tax is 0.03% of the current median home sale price)
Web Link

Palo Alto USD (per pupil revenue: $15,217)
Palo Alto Partners in Education: $5.3 million raised
Current parcel tax: $758 per parcel ($120 increase in the last election)
$2,165,500 median home sale price
(parcel tax is 0.03% of the current median home sale price)
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Sylvan
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 18, 2015 at 7:18 pm

How this change will affect the owners of big apartment complexes?


15 people like this
Posted by JustTheFacts
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 18, 2015 at 7:20 pm

It's simple. An educated community means lower crime rates and greater wealth (including elevated property values). Here is a national study showing that improved high school graduation rates could save the country $18.5 Billion in expenses _and_ increase personal earnings by $1.2 Billion:

Web Link

But improving graduation rates doesn't start in high school. It starts in elementary and middle schools.

So if you like the idea of your property value increasing and you aren't in favor of crime, then you actually should support taxes funding education. As shown in Christopher Chiang's posting, we in Mountain View are getting off easy.


22 people like this
Posted by MV mom
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on May 18, 2015 at 7:47 pm

I supported the original parcel tax but then MVWSD decided to give Goldman a parting gift. I won't vote to give them any more money that's not going to directly benefit students.


15 people like this
Posted by Huff Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 18, 2015 at 8:25 pm

The current parcel tax is said to reduce class size and go to GATE (along with other items). Why is it then Huff is stuffed with students while other schools have classrooms that are not being used!! Current kindergarten class size is 27 with averages for the last 3 years above 25! GATE was done away with last year and we don't even have full year music and art classes for our children. I don't see the results that were promised with the last parcel tax. I would love if someone on the board can respond to this as they continue to "shaft" Huff. The response from the board was that Huff parents volunteer more so they can stuff our kindergartens more than other school in the district. POOR REPONSE!!
Why exactly should I give more money when the present funds are not used for what the board said they would be used for??


6 people like this
Posted by Wait a Minute
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2015 at 9:13 pm

The State Budget gives school districts a big revenue bump next year, as it did this year. The bump this year was so large that it converted MVWSD from Basic Aid/Locally Funded to Revenue Limit/State Funded. On a $56 Million pot of revenue, the parcel tax provides less than $3 Million. I say, drop it completely.

Drop it Completely.

While the parcel tax has held steady at about $2.8 Million per year, the MVWSD total revenues have soared from $41 Million in 2009-2010 to $51 Million in 2013-2014 and on up over $56 Million for next year if the parcel tax continues unabated. That would be over a 40% increase in funding in just 6 years.

Not only that, but this assumes remaining as a State Funded status. The way local property taxes have also risen, it's possible that eventually this district will start to get even more than the state provides, by returning back to being locally funded at an even higher level.

In 2013-2014 the district was unable to spend all the revenue, spending just $46 Million despite revenues of $51.8 Million. And you want to continue the parcel tax?


Like this comment
Posted by @Huff parent
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2015 at 9:20 pm

They didn't want to add any more classrooms at Huff because the need is likely short term. K through 2 this year each have an extra month of birth date eligibility in them. Next year it reverts to the normal 12 months of births per class. With all else held steady, that should cut the size per classroom by over 8%. Not only that, but there are fewer kids in the age groups 1 through 4 this year than there have been for quite a while. Likely next year's K class will be 24 or fewer kids per class, possibly down around 22 kids per class.

So now a different group of people is mindlessly planning to cut 100 kids from the Huff attendance area. Great. No need, and actually harmful. Had nothing to do with the size of the K classes this year. Empty classrooms are meaningless because the district could always add a portable classroom at Huff, if they didn't feel that this was not even needed.


3 people like this
Posted by Flat Enrollment
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2015 at 9:50 pm

2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14
Kinder 642 609 670 684 661
Grade 1 609 665 607 653 636
Grade 2 584 575 656 588 640
Grade 3 555 565 565 614 582
Grade 4 558 550 539 544 591
Grade 5 457 562 543 525 530
Grade 6 429 427 511 472 462
Grade 7 438 431 434 492 460
Grade 8 416 440 444 438 490
Total Enrollment by Grade 4688 4824 4969 5010 5052


3 people like this
Posted by Huff Enrollment
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2015 at 10:00 pm

2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14
Kinder 98 98 100 96 100
Grade 1 84 101 88 104 96
Grade 2 81 97 100 89 105
Grade 3 98 86 94 96 93
Grade 4 80 105 87 95 93
Grade 5 85 87 103 90 92
Total 526 574 572 570 579


13 people like this
Posted by It's easy to spend someone else's money
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 19, 2015 at 1:04 am

So finally people are starting to see the light about MVWSD

40% in reserves? does Palo Alto and Los Altos hold back 40% of the tax dollars they collect instead of spending it on the kids?

smaller class sizes? it used to be 20 kids in K-3 and 30 kids in 5-6. unlike earlier parcel tax campaigns, the most recent parcel tax quietly dropped the language "small schools, small class sizes"

music and art is funded by the foundation, not the district, and even then music instruction is for just part of the school year, not the entire year

the trustees could have hired 2 or 3 teachers with the money they spent on the Craig Goldman send-off, and they have the audacity to say they are short of funds?

"I'm raring to go (ask the taxpayers for yet more of their money)," said board member Ellen Wheeler. "I'd love for us (me) to be able to do (spend) more (of your money) than we currently are able to do (on the next fad that comes along and our top-heavy district administration).""The reason not to hold it in June is (because it's easier to sneak it past the voters during a special election in May, or an off-year election like we did last time). Trying to get our school district's parcel tax passed in such a crowded ballot doesn't bode well for us (because people will be paying attention, showing up at the polls, and more likely to vote against us, who's going to take the effort to send in a ballot in May to vote no?)," Wheeler said.

"An educated community means lower crime rates and greater wealth (including elevated property values). Here is a national study showing that improved high school graduation rates could save the country $18.5 Billion in expenses _and_ increase personal earnings by $1.2 Billion" Last time I checked, Mountain View ALREADY HAS a highly educated community, low crime, tremendous wealth, ridiculously elevated property values, very high graduation rates, and high personal earnings by many. So what is your point? Instead of comparing how much MVWSD receives in parcel taxes compared to LASD and PAUSD, how about comparing how those parcel taxes are spent?

Bottom line is you can't have 40% of your annual budget in reserve and say you're short on funds. That's not about the kids, that's greed.


2 people like this
Posted by I like books
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 19, 2015 at 4:58 am

Curious? Nobody has commented on funding school libraries.

The article states: "Measure C passed in June 2008 with over 80 percent of the vote, and poured millions of dollars annually into class-size reduction, music and arts programs, after-school programs, support for English-language learners and MAINTAINING LIBRARIES."

Is maintaining (staffing, materials, technology) libraries still relevant in today's world? What role do you see the school library playing for future students? If no parcel tax passed, would you be ok with shutting down the school libraries?


1 person likes this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 19, 2015 at 10:25 am

Let's all realize a couple of things. MVWSD's reserve practices account for expiring state tax increases, and changes to pension funding rules. The new parcel tax cannot be graduated like the current one is. We can't get to PAUSD's funding levels within current state law.

A volunteer citizen's committee reviews how Parcel Tax money is spent. Portables can't just be "parked". They require site improvements sometimes costing more than the lease of the "building". Even going from $41 to $56 Million since the bottom of the recession, as a district we are still spending less per student than about half the states in our country, without accounting for our Silicon Valley living costs. Good young teachers can start here, but many consider taking pay cuts to move to districts where costs and expectations are lower. Anybody who voted for Trustee Nelson has no business complaining about Mr. Goldman's "resignation settlement".


5 people like this
Posted by Geek
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 19, 2015 at 11:25 am

Geek is a registered user.

5+ Residential Units/Apartments assessed valuation is > 17.4% of all assessed residential property. But it's only 3% of all residential parcels. Flat per-parcel rate does not make much sense in Mountain View where majority of population are renters.
Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Budget Surplus
a resident of another community
on May 19, 2015 at 12:02 pm

What will the district do with its share of this year's $8 Billion budget surplus? Most of it goes to schools. Already MVWSD has been funded by the state at over $41 Million (out of the total funding counting federal, and local revenue including rents parcel tax and more) out of $54 Million total. The budget has already been spent, and a reserve amount has even been kept aside. Now due to high revenues in the current fiscal year, Prop 30's money turns out not really to have been needed! It brought in $8 Billion for the state, and the state then got $8 Billion more than expected from the original sources.

But in the short term, since the past years' appropriations were written as "borrowing" from the education funding, the state will be returning still more of the money that was not given in previous years, to school districts.

By the time Prop 30 expires after 2015-2016, the MVWSD reserves are going to grow still further. And, the California Teachers are pushing to extend Prop 30. Hah.


14 people like this
Posted by fed up parent
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 19, 2015 at 4:15 pm

I'm so fed up with politicians asking us for more money to squander. There was an uproar over Mr. Goldman's payout package. Mr. Chiang, what have you and your fellow board members done to make sure that won't happen again? Have you done anything to make sure we won't be paying the next superintendent, whom you are in the process of hiring, to "resign", or have you considered the community's concerns about the payout water under the bridge and have gone back to business as usual?


I was a very big supporter of the school district and have voted yes to every parcel tax. You can rest assure I won't be voting yes on this and future taxes until I see some real changes.


2 people like this
Posted by Where does it go?
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 19, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Recent home buyers are already paying an enormous (in some cases prohibitive) amount in property taxes. Every home sold brings in on average well over $13,000 in property taxes. How much of this goes to schools? Where does the rest go?


3 people like this
Posted by Answers
a resident of another community
on May 19, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Property tax allocations vary from year to year and area by area. Partly this is because of some special district deals, related to redevelopment. Part of MVWSD's tax base has been sucked away by the Shoreline Regional Park Community District. Roughly just under 0.20% of the maximum 1.0% levy goes to MVWSD, and about the same amount goes to MVLA. That's because it's felt that 9-12 grades cost more per student than does TK-8. Another 0.10% of the total goes to the junior college district. I'm not sure how the quasi redevelopment agency for shoreline is faring these days, and there are other RDA's in Mountain View currently being phased out. You'd not be too far wrong to view about 0.27% as going to the county and then about 0.15% going to the city with the rest to various special districts.

Now, the county turns back a small portion of its collections to the school districts and MVWSD gets about $700K total that way, plus its own $38M chunk of property tax proceeds directly. Another $3M plus comes from the state partly to make up for having increased the take of the city and the county back in 2006. Strictly speaking none of his is property tax.

In reality of course, because it's an LCFF state-funded district, all of the school district property tax revenue is not enough to meet the figure calculated by the state, so the state makes up still more funding to MVWSD beyond the above.

Pretty confusing, eh? Well, it changes every year!


1 person likes this
Posted by Answers
a resident of another community
on May 19, 2015 at 6:11 pm

Also, there is a "temporary" deal to restore some of the lost property tax revenue from the Shoreline District to the schools. MVWSD gets another $5 Million or so each year out of this deal, so that's added to the $35M.

It's a sweet deal because that's why the district gets to KEEP that money and not count it toward the state calculations for LCFF. Without that district, the state would get the money from Shoreline District to use in counting towards the LCFF amount. LCFF was a HUGE WIN for MVWSD which DRAMATICALLY INCREASED ITS FUNDING. Also works well for MVLA, but it reduced income to LASD over the past situation. C'est la vie. They still get plenty.

This all means MVWSD gets it an extra $5 Million per year, PLUS the LCFF amount. MVWSD also collected $2.8Million per year in parcel tax, and an ever increasing (CPI based) lease revenue rate that is now about equal to the parcel tax. So, these local deals net MVWSD about $12Million in local special funding, of which under $3M is from the parcel tax.


1 person likes this
Posted by PACT parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 19, 2015 at 6:49 pm

OldMV Old Mountain View wrote:

"I'm getting really furious about our school district ramming through tax increases in "special elections"... that forces all tax increases, whether government or school districts, be voted upon during regular November elections and not any other time."

First, don't imagine this is at all unusual, it's quite common.

Second, this one is to continue basic funding because the last Parcel Tax is about to run out. That would mean a loss of at least $2.6million to the MVWSD operating budget. That loss would mean a massive cut to all schools programs and the closure of at least one currently operating school.

Third, they are looking at a mail-out and mail-back ballot this time so people would NOT have to go out to the polls to vote on this item.

Fourth, it will require 2/3 majority to pass.

Fifth, If you feel there should be a change in the laws, you would need to convince state law-makers to make that change.

I guess that's it.


Like this comment
Posted by PACT parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 19, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Huff Parent of Waverly Park wrote:

"The current parcel tax is said to reduce class size and go to GATE (along with other items). Why is it then Huff is stuffed with students while other schools have classrooms that are not being used!!"

The parcel tax has ZERO to do with the over-crowding at Huff, that's a Boundaries issue and that is being addressed as we write. The new boundary changes should help Huff reduce and help Theuerkauf make us of more classrooms.

Measure G funds will also help Huff, after Castro, DI and Monta Loma are done, then comes Huff, Bubb and Landels, then when they are done comes Theuerkauf and Stevenson last.


2 people like this
Posted by Windfall
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2015 at 3:46 am

Local revenue of over $5 Million from the Shoreline Community District accrues to MVWSD for the next 6 years. Web Link

Because of the new LCFF school funding formula, MVWSD is no longer limited to the local property tax revenue. It gets direct state funding under LCFF in lieu of the former Basic Aid status it enjoyed. This basically gets MVWSD an extraordinary amount of funding. I gets per student funding reflecting a 50% rate of un duplicated low income/ELL/foster youth students. This total exceeds its local property tax potential. But it still also gets the $5 Million of in lieu fees from the joint powers agreement concerning the Shoreline Regional Community District.

I'd say that getting that $5 Million (and rising) fee obviates the need to continue the separate local parcel tax.


Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2015 at 2:43 pm

@Answers & @Windfall. Funding through LCFF startup and Redevelopment phaseout is indeed complex to understand. Thanks for helping public understanding. As a "state-funded" district, we're phasing in an extra 20% $$ per Target student. (called LCFF "Supplemental Grant" and subject to LCAP planning/reporting). We get no "Concentration Grant" $$.
The complex situation with District now being funded by state - not "community funded" (regular property tax like LASD, MVLA, & PAUSD) is well explained above. The $5M and slowly rising Shoreline share agreement is important - And Extremely Rare!
Our Parcel Tax situation is fairly common, but we are really low per parcel, and will have to move to a different taxing statue to keep our 'stepped' parcel revenue (Google headquarters now pays 10X the smallest house.) We could also implement "uniform tax rate" like, 1/4 cent per square foot, which gives a 150x50 SFt city parcel about $190 in tax per year. Google etc. CANNOT be charged a different rate. The rate must be uniform over all types of parcel (a recent court decision).
I'd recommend looking at Berkeley Unified's extra revenue system - they require in their law that a fixed percentage be used (required) to hire extra numbers of teachers. 20% of their teacher positions are supported by this revenue! The Berkeley district law shows how the 'promise' can be fixed, hard wired, into the tax law's language.
Web Link

my MVWSD Bd. President, Chris Chiang, has not authorized this, but we try to inform the public commentary, as much as possible, without violating Brown Act


12 people like this
Posted by Nwhismanparent
a resident of North Whisman
on May 22, 2015 at 12:12 pm

This is awesome......let's pay more taxes...now we can charge parents in the Whisman neighborhood even more for providing them with NO elementary schools....way to go MWSD!!!


3 people like this
Posted by MV
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 22, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Vote "NO" there is no debate.


5 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 23, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Here is an idea......NO


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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