Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
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Tuesday November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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Special District

Palo Alto Unified School District
Measure O - 2/3 Approval Required

To learn more about measures, follow the links for each tab in this section. For most screenreaders, you can hit Return or Enter to enter a tab and read the content within.

Election Results


31,194 votes yes (77.44%)

9,088 votes no (22.56%)

100% of precincts reporting (18/18).

43,600 ballots counted.

To renew expiring local school funding that cannot be taken by the State; preserve excellence in academic programs, including science, math, reading, writing, arts/music; attract/retain qualified teachers and minimize layoffs; support at-risk students; shall Palo Alto Unified School District's measure be adopted, extending its current $836 parcel tax for six years, raising approximately $16,000,000 annually with senior exemptions, 2% annual inflation adjustment, independent citizen oversight, all funds benefiting local students?

What is this proposal?

Details — Official information

Impartial analysis / Proposal


                   The Palo Alto Unified School District ("District") Board of Trustees ("Board") has placed Measure O on the ballot to authorize an annual parcel tax of $836 per parcel, beginning on July l, 2021 and increasing annually by 2%, for six years. According to the Measure, the parcel tax will raise approximately $16 million per year. This parcel tax would terminate and replace the existing 2015 Measure A annual parcel tax of$820 per parcel, which expires on June 30, 2021.


The stated purposes of the parcel tax are to protect academic excellence; attract and retain qualified teachers; preserve academic programs, including science, math, reading, writing, arts, and music; add support staff to help at-risk students; maintain smaller class sizes; support school libraries; support teachers' professional development; provide enhanced high school electives; and maintain teaching specialists. The tax may not be used for administrator salaries or benefits.


The tax applies to any parcel of land that lies wholly or partially within the District that receives a separate tax bill for property taxes from the Santa Clara County Tax Collector.  Contiguous parcels that are used solely for owner-occupied single-family residential purposes and are held under identical ownership may be treated as a single parcel upon approval by the District.


A parcel tax exemption may be obtained by the owner and occupant of a single-family residence who is: (I) 65 years of age or older on or before June 30 of the fiscal year immediately  preceding the year in which the tax would: apply, (2) receiving Supplemental  Security Income for a disability, regardless of age, or (3) receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, regardless of age, whose yearly income does not exceed 250% of the 2012 federal poverty guidelines issued by the United  States Department  of  Health  and  Human  Services.  Parcel owners must submit exemption applications to the District on or before June 15 of any year. Parcel owners currently exempted from the District's expiring Measure A parcel tax will automatically be exempted from this Measure without having to file a new application.


The District is required by law to institute additional accountability measures for the tax proceeds. These measures include: (I) using the tax proceeds only for the specific purposes described in the Measure; (2) depositing the tax proceeds into a separate account from other District funds; and (3) providing an annual written report to the Board detailing the amount of funds collected and expended and the status of any project(s) authorized to be funded by parcel tax proceeds. In addition to these requirements, if the parcel tax is approved, the District would continue its Citizens' Oversight Committee to oversee the expenditure of parcel tax revenues.


A "yes" vote is a vote to approve a special tax of $836 per parcel within the District, with a 2% annual increase, for six (6) years.


A "no" vote is a vote to not approve the tax.


If at least two-thirds of all voters casting ballots in the District vote "yes" on Measure O, the tax will be approved.

James R. Williams County Counsel



Published Arguments — Arguments for and against

Arguments FOR


Vote YES on O to extend expiring funding for Palo Alto schools at the current rate, prevent teacher layoffs and limit cuts to academic programs without raising taxes.


For 19 years, Palo Alto schools have benefited from locally controlled funding that cannot be taken away by the State or other school districts. The approximately $16million in annual funding I used to keep great teachers in our classrooms, preserve outstanding academic instruction and support our students.




Palo Alto’s school parcel tax is set to expire next year. Voting Yes on O will expend this important source of local education funding at the current rate for six years to:




·         Attract and retain qualified teachers


·         Preserve excellence in academic program, including reading, writing, arts, science and math


·         Offer competitive compensation so talented teachers continue working in this high cost of living area


·         Support technology for distance learning


·         Maintain mental health/guidance counselors to help at-risk and struggling students




Measure O continues strict fiscal accountability protections:




·         Every penny must stay local and no funds can be taken by the State


·         Independent citizen’s oversight and annual audits ensure funds are spent properly


·         No funds may be used for administrator salaries.


·         An exemption for senior citizens and low-income people with disabilities ensures the cost is not a burden to those on fixed incomes.




If this funding is not renewed, PAUSD will have to cut over $16 million annually on top of approximately $6 million in recent COVID-19 funding reductions. Cuts of this magnitude would require laying off over 100 teachers and eliminating many instructional programs.




Whether or not you have school age children, supporting quality schools is a wise investment that protects our quality of life and property values.




Let’s continue Palo Altos’ tradition of supporting quality education by extending expiring local funding without increasing taxes. Please vote YES.


Arguments AGAINST


Thanks to the state and federal shutdown of the schools, with the unlikely return of students onto school campuses anytime soon, there are going to be significant savings to the taxpayers because of those school closures.




So, why the “temporary” tax increase for 6 more years?




In 2018, voters passed $460,000,000 bond measure to “provide safe/modern schools” on top of a $378,000,000 bond in 2008 to “improve overall safety”.




Palo Alto Unified Schools must be the safest schools in California!




The School district is already spending 168% over the California stateside, per student, average ($23,117 per year per student), but it is never enough is it? The School District always uses the same threats to try to scare us into voting for more debt and higher taxes.




This time we should say NO.




The School district is already paying teachers way above state wide averages:





District Pay


Lowest Salary Offered



BA + 60



Highest Salary Offered



Average Paid






(Source: Education Data Partnership,




And when you consider that teachers only work 240 days a year (not counting vacation and holidays), they are very well compensated for their job. And that is NOT counting benefits up to $24,269 per year!




California is already suffering under a huge tax burden that is driving businesses and jobs and people to other states or overseas. And with record un-employment, many are struggling to pay rent/mortgages. Another tax is the last thing we need.




Tax wise, we are suffering from a death of a thousand cuts.




You can be for schools, for students for teachers and against Measure O.




Please vote NO on Measure O.




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