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Tuesday March 7, 2017 — Local Elections
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Special District

Menlo Park City School District
Measure X Parcel Tax - 2/3 Approval Required

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To protect outstanding public schools; retain high-quality teachers, excellent programs, and reasonable class size; avoid teacher layoffs; and sustain property values, shall the Menlo Park City School District replace its expiring parcel tax at the new rate of $360 expiring after seven years, adjusted annually for inflation, raising $2.83 million annually to be spent only on teachers and essential educational programs at Encinal, Laurel, Oak Knoll, and Hillview schools with independent oversight, annual audit, and senior exemption?

What is this proposal?

Details — Official information

Impartial analysis / Proposal

The California Constitution and state law authorize school districts to levy qualified special taxes for specified purposes. Government Code Section 50077 and 50079 provide that such a tax measure passes if two-thirds of those voting on it vote to approve the measure.

The Menlo Park City Elementary School District ("the District") currently has an annual parcel tax of $207 per parcel adopted in 2010 that will expire June 30, 2017. By this measure, the District's Board of Education proposes to renew and increase a special tax on parcels in the District that would raise funds to support various educational purposes outlined below. If this measure is approved, an annual tax of $360 per parcel, adjusted annually for inflation, would be imposed starting on July 1, 2017, for a period of seven years with the tax ending June 30, 2024. 

The proposed tax applies to any unit of real property in the District that receives a separate property tax bill from San Mateo tax collection officials. Any individual who owns and occupies a parcel as a principal residence may apply for an exemption to the tax if they also: 1) are age 65 or older; 2) receive Supplemental Security Income for a disability, regardless of age; or 3) receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, regardless of age, and have an annual income not exceeding 250% of the 2012 federal poverty guidelines.

The stated purposes for the parcel tax are to: retain and attract excellent classroom teachers; maintain reasonable student-to-teacher ratios; preserve comprehensive education programs such as science, art, music, and library; provide other supplemental financial support to purchase instructional equipment, supplies, and materials for classroom instruction; and maintain a comprehensive elective offering at Hillview Middle School. Proceeds shall be used for programs at Encinal School, Laurel School, Oak Knoll School, and Hillview Middle School and shall be fairly and equitably distributed across all schools and students as determined by the District's governing board. No proceeds may be spent on direct or indirect costs of District administration.

The proceeds of the parcel tax will be placed in a special account. An annual report accounting for parcel tax revenues collected and expended and the status of projects or programs funded by the tax will be filed with the Board of Education. An independent citizens' oversight committee will be appointed to review the expenditures of the parcel tax. The tax will be decreased if any increase in local, state, or federal funding is put in jeopardy based on the existence of the tax. The District's appropriations limit shall be increased annually if necessary to ensure the revenue from the tax may be spent for the listed purposes.

A "yes" vote on this measure would impose an annual tax of $360 per taxable parcel, adjusted annually, on property within the District for a period of seven years beginning July 1, 2017, for the purposes listed above.

A "no" vote on this measure would not allow the parcel tax to be levied with the existing annual parcel tax of $207 per parcel expiring without replacement on June 30, 2017.

This measure passes if two-thirds of those voting on the measure vote "yes."

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against

Arguments FOR

The Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) has some of the best K-8 schools in California - Laurel, Encinal, Oak Knoll, and Hillview - with talented, dedicated teachers and staff. California state funding for education is near the bottom nationwide and MPCSD's high quality education is only possible due to our community's support and commitment. Our local parcel taxes provide 15% of the funding for our district, and one of these parcel taxes will expire in June. The loss of this funding, along with increasing state obligations and enrollment, will generate a budget deficit of over $5 million in five years.

To preserve high-quality education and continue to invest in our future, we must approve this critical parcel tax.

Without Measure X, 

 * expiring parcel tax funding will be lost

 * teacher reductions start spring 2017

 * art, library, and science programs will be significantly diminished;

 * and class sizes will increase.

A vote FOR Measure X will:

 * keep class sizes reasonable

 * protect art, library, and science programs; and

 * retain our highly qualified and experienced teachers.

In addition:

 * Funds from Measure X can't be taken by the state. They are required by law to be used exclusively for our award winning K-8 schools.

 * Revenue raised by Measure X will be tracked and is subject to strict fiscal controls and oversight, including annual independent audits.

 * Includes exemption for residents 65 and over.

Menlo Park City School District depends on this crucial funding to provide a bright future for our children and keep our property values strong. YES on Measure X means investing in our students, teachers, and the future of our community.

For more information, go to

Please vote YES on Measure X on March 7, 2017.

/s/ David Ackerman, Retired Principal

/s/ Caroline Lucas, Educator

/s/ Sarah Cueva, Pediatrician

/s/ Charlot Singleton, Community Volunteer

/s/ Mark Box, Investor

Arguments AGAINST

In May 2016, the Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) placed TWO parcel taxes on an all-mail ballot.  They BOTH FAILED.

Proponents blamed the 2/3 vote requirement for their loss but the 2/3 vote protects property owners from the whims of short-sighted alarmists. Lowering the 2/3 requirement for school bonds has created a massive increase in bonded indebtedness and our children will be stuck with the bill.

Now, only 10 months after losing two tax measures, MPCSD returned in this off-year election. This time, a YES vote would raise their CPI adjusted "take" to about $1,044 per parcel. Voting NO would allow that total to drop to around $684.

MPCSD does not need any more taxes and has budget plans which do not require them. The 1% General Property Tax already included taxes for MPCSD. Parcel taxes are levied above that 1% tax as are the additional taxes servicing over $130,000,000 bonded indebtedness of MPCSD.

Californians pay plenty for education. Nearly half of all general fund taxes in California are spent on education. Then there are State "on behalf" payments (from our taxes) to service bonds providing "matching funds" to the District. Voters already authorized bonds for MPCSD for $91.1 million in 2006 and $23 million in 2013. If you choose to vote NO on this parcel tax, don't let anyone accuse you for not supporting education!

If school districts in California face budget problems, blame the unfunded liabilities in California's "defined benefit" pension plans. CalPERS and CalSTRS. People in the private sector saw retirement plans devastated by the financial meltdown of 2008 but not public employees. Government should solve its long term problem of pension funds, instead of continually asking for tax increases. 

Meanwhile Menlo Park City School District can continue to provide an above average education with their existing revenue. Vote NO on another parcel tax. 

/s/ John J. (Jack) Hickey, Member, Libertarian Party of San Mateo County

/s/ Harland Harrison, Chair, Libertarian Party of San Mateo County 

Replies to Arguments FOR

In May 2016, voters defeated TWO parcel taxes. Only 22.5% of registered voters supported Measure A. Only 20% supported Measure C.

Existing parcel taxes providing 15% of district funding and generous contributions from MPAEF and PTOs have created schools which go far beyond basics. Bonded indebtedness of $131,000,000 approved by voters has added to the grandiosity of MPCSD schools. Voters do not need to raise taxes because the District is already collecting far more than necessary to provide more than basic education.

The state has an obligation to provide equal education to everybody. MPCSD tells voters they can have better schools than their neighbors if they increase taxes. This is wrong. Every child is entitled to equal education no matter what school the government forces her to go to. Eventually the state must adjust funding to approach equality. Because MPCSD could stop the tax, they claim the state cannot take money away.

A NO vote allows one existing parcel tax to expire, still leaving $684 in parcel taxes having NO expiration date. Proponents claim a $5,000,000 budget deficit will result. Wrong! The district has plans to prevent that from happening.

Proponents claim this tax will be subject to "oversight." But their similar bond oversight committee has 4 VACANCIES out of 7 members!

Political consultants hired by the district crafted ballot language to elicit voter approval.  The phrase "replaces its expiring parcel tax at the new rate of $360 ..." recommended by those consultants, DELIBERATELY hide $153 increase!

Vote NO on Measure X.

/s/ John J. (Jack) Hickey, Member, Libertarian Party of San Mateo County

/s/ Harland Harrison, Chair, Libertarian Party of San Mateo County 

Replies to Arguments AGAINST

Menlo Park schools face serious financial challenges. Critical funding from an existing, voter-approved parcel tax will expire in June. Without Measure X our District's annual budget deficit will grow to $5 million in five years.

Our schools need Measure X to prevent teacher layoffs; maintain reasonable class sizes; and preserve our science, art, and library programs.

Some argue that California spends too much on education. In fact, California is ranked #35 nationwide in spending per student. Given state school funding allocations, communities like ours depend on parcel taxes to supplement school budgets. Our local parcel taxes represent 15% of MPCSD's funding.

Even with these taxes, MPCSD spends less per pupil than comparably high performing districts nearby. Nationwide, well-funded affluent districts spend up to twice our amount per student.

To minimize taxes, our Superintindent has proposed $2 million in budget cuts. Together with Measure X, the cuts reflect a multiyear plan for financial stability that preserves our educational programs, meets state-mandated obligations, and maintains required reserves.

This plan is the result of an exhaustive, months-long public dialogue and budget review. Over 2,500 members of the public participated.

Our community has always supported education. Thriving local schools make our neighborhoods stronger, more vibrant and connected. We must continue to invest in our young minds, maintain our property values, and ensure our community's future.

Vote YES on Measure X to renew our commitment to Encinal School, Laurel School, Oak Knoll School, and Hillview Middle School.

/s/ Rebecca Bloom, Former Benefits and Compensation 

/s/ Sherwin Chen, MPCSD Finances and Audit Committee Member

/s/ Veronica Kogler, Realtor

/s/ Jeffrey Child, Former MPCSD Trustee

/s/ Victor Vuchic, Education Researcher 

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