News


Palo Alto school district stunned by tax shortfall

Just two weeks into new fiscal year, property-tax increase less than expected

UPDATE: The school board will discuss the tax shortfall in a special budget study session on Wednesday, July 27, 4-6 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave.

The Palo Alto school district is suddenly facing a $3.7 million budget gap due to a new property-tax revenue estimate from the Santa Clara County Assessor's Office that is about 3 percent lower than the district had planned for.

The district learned last week that projected property-tax revenue has dropped to 5.34 percent, significantly lower than the 8.67 percent the district relied on in creating its 2016-17 budget, adopted on June 21. The decrease is due to a rise in assessed properties that are exempt from property taxes, primarily $1.2 billion in exemptions from the major expansion of Stanford University hospitals.

Monthly reports that the district receives from the assessor's office only include gross real property values, not exemptions, though these reports have "provided a reasonable basis for estimates in past years," Chief Business Officer Cathy Mak wrote Thursday in a memo about the budget changes. On June 1, the assessment growth was estimated at 8.62 percent.

The drop, which Mak and Superintendent Max McGee both said was a complete "surprise," will have an automatic impact on the district's new three-year teacher's contract, and likely on the district's reserves.

Though the estimated total tax shortfall is $5.2 million of the $231 million budget, the new projection will trigger a safety-net condition in the teacher's contract that eliminates a 1 percent bonus for teachers when property-tax revenue is less than the district budgeted by 1.5 percent or more. This reduces the actual gap to $3.7 million.

Mak and McGee have preliminarily suggested that the district make up for the lost revenue by pulling $1.2 million from unrestricted, undesignated funds; $1.2 million from bond funds designated for computer updates; $375,000 unused dollars in the budget that had been allocated for the hiring of teachers to accommodate enrollment growth; and not transferring $919,000 to the district's Basic Aid Reserve Fund, McGee said Thursday.

The lower projection also means negotiations with the teachers and classified employee unions can be reopened on the 3 percent raise promised in the third year (2017-18) of their contracts, which in total provides a 12 percent base salary increase over three years, plus the off-schedule bonuses. (An off-schedule bonus is not added to the employee's base salary.)

"As you can imagine, I was surprised and disappointed to receive this news as I consider the three-year contract one of our great collaborative achievements from last year," McGee wrote in an email to the school board and his cabinet on Wednesday.

The size of the salary increases required unprecedentedly high assumptions about the rate of increase in secured-property-tax revenues, which provide about 70 percent of the district's revenue, for the next three years in order to achieve balanced budget projections.

The sole Board of Education member to vote against the teachers' contract, Ken Dauber, raised alarm bells about the contract's budget implications given these high assumptions, while his colleagues relied on an assurance that the local housing market would provide early indicators, at least 18 months in advance, of any major changes in property-tax revenue.

Dauber told the Weekly Wednesday night that he believes the board acted imprudently in viewing the budget projections as conservative. A primary consequence, in his eyes, will be that the district can't afford as many teachers as it budgeted for, and classes could be larger as a result.

"I think the important thing is that our students not suffer the consequences, but it's likely that they will because the board didn't act prudently and leave us any wiggle room," he said. "We don't have a cushion."

"It's just deeply disappointing and upsetting that after one of the biggest property-tax increases in history that produced one of the largest surpluses that the district is likely to ever see, the board and senior staff mismanaged it to the extent that we now face this problem," he added.

Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, reached in Prague Thursday morning, told the Weekly that his office meets with school-district representatives on a quarterly basis and also provides them monthly gross assessment updates.

"We meet with them for just this reason, so they can clearly understand that these are just monthly gross numbers, not net numbers," he said.

And while the exemption estimates don't come in until the end of the fiscal year (the Assessor's Office didn't know the amount until May, Stone said), Stanford University represents the second largest exemption in the state.

"If you're a finance director or superintendent of Palo Alto Unified, you know there's a lot of exempt property," he said. "These aren't rookies here."

The "point of surprise" for the school district might have been that as construction progresses and a project nears completion, so do the property's exemptions, resulting in this year's particularly large amount, Stone said.

Total exemption values came in at $9.1 billion this year, compared to $8 billion last year, according to Mak.

Looking to any compounding effect on the 2017-18 budget, Mak wrote in an email that the district will "revise both the property tax growth assumption and the expenditure budget accordingly."

Dauber cautioned that this is not a "one-year budget issue" that one-time fixes will solve.

"The impact is ongoing," he said. "The only way to solve this on a permanent basis is to reduce our expenses. One-time fixes aren't going to do it because we'll just have the same problem next year."

School board President Heidi Emberling said she was "shocked" to see the new projection and didn't think the district could have anticipated an exemption as large as $1.2 billion.

"This was not predictable. If it was predictable, then we have to figure out where our systems went wrong. We rely on certain indicators throughout the year to do our planning, and we don't have a crystal ball. We do the best planning we can with the information we have at the moment," she said.

When asked about various areas where the district could look to recapture the lost revenue -- drawing from reserves, rolling back management staff's compensation increases, asking the teachers' union to re-open the contract for the coming school year -- she said, "Right now, everything is on the table."

The board will discuss the budget changes at its first meeting of the school year in August.

Related content:

Editorial: A school budget crisis some feared

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Comments

117 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2016 at 7:11 am

Our worst fears have now been confirmed about the recent budget passed by the Board of Education. Four of the five board members have shown that they are fiscally irresponsible. The superintendent has shown himself to fiscally irresponsible.

The Board needs to immediately roll back the salary increases for administrators.

And we the voters need to hold the Board responsible in the upcoming election in November, and DO NOT VOTE FOR ANY INCUMBENTS.

And we need to ask new candidates how they will hold administrators accountable for this mess - and they need to be specific.


4 people like this
Posted by another Duaber bullet, dodged
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 15, 2016 at 7:38 am

[Post removed due to factual inaccuracies.]


105 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 15, 2016 at 7:48 am

"School board President Heidi Emberling said she ... didn't think the district could have anticipated an exemption as large as $1.2 billion."

This is embarrassing and makes me angry. The County assessor says they absolutely should have seen it coming, but the Board chair defends it (and herself). This wasn't an "act of God" surprise. Anyone could see that the forecast numbers were MUCH HIGHER than they had been before, and an accident waiting to happen. Dauber pointed this out repeatedly and instead of trying to understand and compromise, the others just lined up against him.

Also embarrassing the Melissa Baten Caswell, who styles herself a business expert, also accepted an unrealistic forecast.

Emberling and Caswell are up for re-election - we need to remember this.


16 people like this
Posted by She is truly
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 9:28 am

School board President Heidi Emberling said she was "shocked" to see the new projection and didn't think the district could have anticipated an exemption as large as $1.2 billion.

"This was not predictable. If it was predictable, then we have to figure out where our systems went wrong. We rely on certain indicators throughout the year to do our planning, and we don't have a crystal ball. We do the best planning we can with the information we have at the moment," she said.


84 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto School Parent and Taxpayer
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2016 at 10:05 am

Sounds like a phone call from Mak (or McGee) to Stone to double-check reasonableness of PAUSD figures before they finalized teacher contract, budget, etc. would have avoided this mess. Stone seems pretty accessible (Weekly was able to reach him in Prague even). Stone could have helped steer the district away from unrealistic assumptions, even though it sounds like his office already tried to do that with their quarterly meetings and monthly updates. Still, with so much at stake, an extra phone call to Stone before moving forward would have been prudent. Or alternatively, the district could have waited to finalize the contract/budget until after the more accurate tax-revenue data was released only a few weeks later. When so much is riding on a uncertain number, the stewards of our district need to be much more careful.


73 people like this
Posted by Rookies?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 15, 2016 at 10:34 am

I have to pull out this quote, it is so damning of our highly paid, vaunted school management. The County Assessor basically calls them amateurs, and our Board members not only agreed, but defends them! How can we put up with this kind of self-inflicted harm!?!

Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, reached in Prague Thursday morning, told the Weekly that his office meets with school-district representatives on a quarterly basis and also provides them monthly gross assessment updates.

"We meet with them for just this reason, so they can clearly understand that these are just monthly gross numbers, not net numbers," he said.

"If you're a finance director or superintendent of Palo Alto Unified, you know there's a lot of exempt property," he said. "These aren't rookies here."


35 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 15, 2016 at 10:53 am

We deserve answers on how this oversight occurred and what we can do going forward to prevent it. What we don't need is to spend part of these now-reduced funds on some expensive external audit that concludes two years from now that no one is at fault and that budgeting is inherently uncertain. I feel the worst for our hard-working teachers.


72 people like this
Posted by Board watcher
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:04 am

A few predictions and observations:
Except for Dauber, board members will circle the wagons and defend their own decisions and district staff, and blame the assessor.

Everybody again excepting Dauber will try to pretend this is a one time problem, even though it impacts 2017-18 and beyond. Notice that McGee isn't proposing spending cuts, except for not hiring new teachers. That just kicks the can down the road a year.

PAEA will refuse to give back any pay, even though it will mean larger classes. They will vociferously attack anyone who suggests otherwise. Remember Terri Baldwin's slamming Dauber for proposing smaller raises. Get ready for a repeat.

This makes it less likely that Caswell will run again, but she is still more likely than not, hoping that the incumbent advantage will save her from her poor decision making.


12 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:07 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And here is the other shoe:


Web Link

Borenstein: Bad CalPERS earnings worsen $93 billion taxpayer debt

The nation's largest pension plan continues adding to state and local taxpayers' $93 billion debt.

The question now is whether the board of the California Public Employees' Retirement System will stanch the bleeding. Or will it continue to laden our children and grandchildren with higher taxes and reduced public services because of its failure to properly fund the retirement system now?

On Monday, Chief Investment Officer Ted Eliopoulos will release CalPERS' investment earnings for the fiscal year that ended June 30. We know roughly what he will say because he foreshadowed it last month.

"We're likely to be flat, which is a nice way of saying zero, more or less," he warned the CalPERS board. Goose eggs. Zilch. No return on investment.

That's bad news for a pension system predicated on assumed long-term average annual returns of 7.5 percent. That's especially bad for taxpayers who must make up the shortfall.


89 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:17 am

-- Total exemption values came in at $9.1 billion this year, compared
-- to $8 billion last year, according to Mak.

How can they demand a billion more dollars in a year ... how on Earth
can they spend that wisely? Answer is they cannot, but they are great
at sucking up more and more and more money, and lying to us all about
how greatly they need this money ... so they must deserve a big raise???

This is ridiculous, and all those folks who keep voting for every
regressive rip-off on these property tax, and over and over in the
Palo Alto Weekly we hear these people weighing in about how important
education is, so we better agree to charge everyone equally for it in
Palo Alto irrespective of the number of children they have or the size
of their house ... what a rip-off!

The Palo Alto administrators at the City and School board level are
anything but tax and spend Liberals, the whole Palo Alto system has
been taken over by corporatist Conservatives who like all Conservatives
talk one way and then act another, usually stealing money and causing
huge deficits in their wake and demanding huge bailouts to fix it.

These special assessments have to end. Palo Alto taxes need to be
enough to run our schools. These special assessments only add to
inequality in California and a rip-off in the form of a regressive tax that
has everyone paying for the expensive elitist education that Palo Alto
gets above the rest of California.


69 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:22 am

Any logical person would check to see how much money they have before they went shopping.
This reeks of mismanagement at all levels of the District, from the Board on down. Not surprising.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:22 am

Who gets tax exemptions?


46 people like this
Posted by Carol Gilbert
a resident of University South
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:23 am

Oh, "Common Sense", you nailed it. Unfortunately common sense is not common enough! Thank you Ken Dauber. Rest of Board, clean up your mess. Rollback your unfortunate decisions where possible. Constituency, vote NO on incumbents who couldn't or wouldn't see this coming.


66 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:24 am

"The size of the salary increases required unprecedentedly high assumptions about the rate of increase in secured-property-tax revenues."

So we now in the position of paying teachers higher salaries (because we signed a multi-contract contract) and forced to increase class sizes and hire fewer teachers as a result? That is really unacceptable.

How is this in the best interests of our students? I would like the Board members who agreed to this plan to stand up and defend their position.


10 people like this
Posted by peppered
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:45 am

peppered is a registered user.

Yippee. Time for more raises for the teachers union.


49 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:48 am

Sometimes I read these articles and have to make sure it's not April 1. What a joke. The board was more than eager to give the money away. How can they be so irresponsible?

This will show the true character of the teacher's union. We'll see if they offer up anything, in good faith, or if they take all the money they can and run.

I'm looking forward to MANY new faces on the board next year. Hopefully, McGee has learned his lesson, that just because we're in Palo Alto doesn't mean we can print money.

Cathy Mak should be fired. She's been at this long enough to know better. She makes well over $200K for her knowledge and expertise so that these things don't happen.


30 people like this
Posted by watch the meeting
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:55 am

Few people tune in to watch PAUSD Board meetings. They can be quite tedious and I commend all board members for giving their time. It can be a thankless job. The May 24th discussion about the raises is very interesting and even slightly entertaining to watch what appear to be attempts by board members to bypass and even talk over Dauber's fact and reason-based arguments.

Here is a link. May 24th meeting. About 2 hours - 2:15 is very telling.

Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by maggie
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 12:14 pm

maggie is a registered user.

With all the new apartments being built around the California Avenue area and more to come with pressure on the council to incentivize developers to build small apartments/condo's to house young tech workers, has the school admin/school board done an adequate job of projecting enrollment increases in the next few years? However small, any new housing units will be they will attract couples with two incomes and children, willing to cram into the smallest of units, and willing to outbid singles earners.


6 people like this
Posted by Cid Young
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2016 at 12:20 pm

[Post removed; please re-post without using all caps]


47 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2016 at 12:21 pm

The administrators justified their salary increases because "the teachers got the same increase". That is why Max & staff glossed over the details, and that's why the administrators (not necessarily the teachers) should be rolled back on their salary increases.

And the first thing that Max put on the table to cover for his greed, is to curtail hiring additional teachers. That should be the last resort. The first item to go should be the administrator salary increases, and perhaps laying off some of those highly paid administrators (do they still have the PR position?)


6 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 12:25 pm

> Who gets tax exemptions?

Schools (like Stanford), Churches, disabled veterans, senior citizen homes (like Channing House), seniors who file for an exemption from parcel taxes. The Assessor’s office can provide a complete list.


28 people like this
Posted by M. Blue
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 15, 2016 at 12:36 pm

@watch the meeting "The May 24th discussion about the raises is very interesting and even slightly entertaining "

Agreed. The only responsible board member is Dauber. He mentions the rosy tax projections several times and questions the raises given the possibility that tax revenues do not meet projections.

Watch to see how it happened.
Web Link

Vote the next election accordingly. I suggest:
Dauber; YES
The rest of the board: NO




11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2016 at 12:58 pm

I never knew about the senior tax exemption until I heard a GOVT employee describing how much she was saving and how glad she was about the exemption provision.

Since then, I've heard quite a few seniors say they were taking the exemption as a protest vote against the city's out-of-control spending and ever-increasing utility rates even though they're well aware that the school and city budgets are separate.

An interesting article would correlate exemption filing timing with news about city spending like granting a $32,000 housing allowance to one of the new assistant city managers who makes well over $200,000 because she came from an impoverished area like Napa and needed to make up the difference.


3 people like this
Posted by M. Blue
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 15, 2016 at 1:08 pm

@Online Name

Please provide some references. You imply they are blanket exemptions but they are not. The exemptions are limited and restrictive.

Here are a few:

Homeowners Property
Disabled Veterans
Non Profit Organizations

Web Link

Senior Parcel Tax
-water
Web Link
-Measure A
Web Link
- others
TBD...





8 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2016 at 1:21 pm

M. Blue, I wasn't implying anything about the exemptions except noting that the Senior Parcel Tax exemption exists. Thanks for the links.

Again, I'd be curious to see a timeline of seniors filing for their $759 exemption.

On a different note, I'm curious why well-endowed Stanford got such a huge tax exemption, esp. since the city seems to favor Stanford whenever they do a phone poll on new tax proposals and test out arguments about Stanford growth doesn't contribute to gridlock.


9 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 15, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Definition of "seniors" qualifying for parcel tax exemption at 55 years old is wrong. Most people are at their peak professional & earning capacity at 55. It should be 65.


4 people like this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 2:09 pm

If there were no senior exemption on new property taxes for schools the measures would not pass. Seems there are endless new taxes proposed for non basic core school studies, environmental issues, etc.
When inflation is running less than 2% why in the world are there increases in water, sewage, electricity, garbage, etc???


Like this comment
Posted by xPA
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2016 at 2:15 pm

It is very easy to tell if a property owner has applied for a parcel tax exemption.

Web Link



11 people like this
Posted by all that glitters
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2016 at 3:06 pm

@Barron Park dad
"So we now in the position of paying teachers higher salaries (because we signed a multi-contract contract) and forced to increase class sizes and hire fewer teachers as a result? That is really unacceptable.
How is this in the best interests of our students? I would like the Board members who agreed to this plan to stand up and defend their position. "



Before you jump to conclusions, please read the contracts. Here's the link to the board's response: Web Link

Any shortfall has provisions already been built into the contract. Specifically the impact on the teachers' salary are:

#1: "The recently approved multi-year employee contracts provide a 4% increase on the salary schedule and a 1% off the salary schedule increase for 2016-17. The off schedule increase is contingent on property tax growth. The provision states that if property tax revenue is less than the amount budgeted in the Adopted Budget by 1.5% or more, the 1% off the salary schedule increase is eliminated."

#2: "The multi-year employee contracts contain a provision for the district to opt out of the 3% salary increase for 2017-18 if property tax revenue for 2016-17 is less than 1.5% of the amount in the Adopted Budget."


That #2 is a humdinger with this shortfall - the teachers are really taking a hit here.


5 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 3:12 pm


Ahem ... why do my posts get consistently deleted for using ALL-CAPS,
when I see quite a few others that never get touched or edited?

Editor?


25 people like this
Posted by Long-Time Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 15, 2016 at 4:19 pm

"#2: "The multi-year employee contracts contain a provision for the district to opt out of the 3% salary increase for 2017-18 if property tax revenue for 2016-17 is less than 1.5% of the amount in the Adopted Budget.""

"Opt out" is not what the union contract says. What it says is that the wage issue can be "reopened" - meaning that it has to be negotiated again from scratch. The teachers are expecting a 3% raise - management will offer 0%; what they agree on is anybody's guess.

This could end in a serious labor battle. The teachers could argue that management deceived them about the forecast, and induced them to accept the terms they did under false pretenses. That would be bad faith bargaining, a serious infraction. So the idea that "oh, we'll just opt-out, sorry teachers" is almost certainly not going to fly.


114 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 15, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" The teachers could argue that management deceived them about the forecast, and induced them to accept the terms they did under false pretenses. That would be bad faith bargaining, a serious infraction."

A Hobson's choice - admit to being stupid or to being deceptive.


5 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 4:30 pm

> I'm curious why well-endowed Stanford got such a huge tax exemption

Stanford won its property tax exemption in 1900 when the issue went on CA statewide ballot.


4 people like this
Posted by second chance
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:56 pm

""Opt out" is not what the union contract says. What it says is that the wage issue can be "reopened" - meaning that it has to be negotiated again from scratch."

That's even better. Now the board can do what it should have done in the first place and add class-size reductions to the negotiations.

Teri Baldwin said the union would have welcomed it. The board says they want it. Now let's see if they all meant it of if they were just playing to the balcony.


127 people like this
Posted by Parents Unionize!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:59 pm

I still remember the arrogance of the [portion removed] woman on the board at the May meeting as she relentlessly attacked Dauber as also that of the teacher's union rep who was equally vicious in her attack. This was a personal vendetta (board, teachers union vs Dauber) for his making a common sense recommendation. So much for professionalism! [Portion removed.]

Who in their right minds would barter off so much to please the teacher's unions when common sense and ground realities (luxury homes in Palo Alto have been sitting for longer and are selling for below asking) demanded a smaller pay increase to our teachers who are hard working and deserve a reasonable increase like we all do. And now come August, parents will be suckered and guilted into paying more for PiE because of all the lower projected revenues from property taxes.

It's time for parents to become aware of the way the schools work and get more involved and hold every single board member responsible for this fiasco. It is our kids' education and our hardworking teachers compensation that are at stake. The board, the district and the union has played with and shortchanged both.


Like this comment
Posted by eyes wide shut
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 15, 2016 at 6:14 pm

[Post removed due to inaccurate factual assertion.]


7 people like this
Posted by My cup of tea
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 15, 2016 at 6:34 pm

our teachers need this well earned pay raise, They are the ones who cannot afford to live here.....I really find it amazing that the reduction in revenue was not apparent.....who is to blame for that!


5 people like this
Posted by parcel taxes
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 15, 2016 at 6:57 pm

"Seniors" who qualify for not paying parcel taxes are defined as those 65 (not 55) or older.


62 people like this
Posted by Stan
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 15, 2016 at 7:16 pm

This is so sad. A real WTF moment for most of the school board, Max, and his bumbling entourage at Churchill. The Santa Clara County Assessor specifically warned PAUSD about over estimating revenues and yet they plowed on. Unbelievable recklessness, if not outright incompetence, on the part of most of the the Board and district leadership. I really do not know how else to describe their actions.

To the Board:
Recover the lost revenue from the absurdly generous raises the board recently granted. Do NOT pay for your (most of the Board actually) fiscal blunder by cutting classroom programs. That would really be insult to injury.

To Max:
So disappointed in so many ways.


29 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 15, 2016 at 10:37 pm

The Board and McGee have clearly demonstrated their lack of competence on so many levels.

The administration should immediately halt the implementation of full day kindergarten. There is no reason to rush forward with full day kindergarten, with so much potential harm to our young children, particularly in light of the fact that there are no funds for this maneuver.


1 person likes this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 16, 2016 at 7:59 am

What am I missing, the Board and the assessor as well say that the school district was not being informed about exemptions.
It also says that Stanford has the largest exemption status in the State and that because of the large construction project the exemption is even larger now. While I am not a fan of our district, I don see why they get all the blame, when a numbers of this magnitude should have been in the assessors report. District probably should have had eyes on it too, but it would seem that exactly this kind of pitfall is why the assessor reports to the district. Or what am I missing here?


29 people like this
Posted by reader
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:12 am

Mom @ Charleston Gardens,

The article says "Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, reached in Prague Thursday morning, told the Weekly that his office meets with school-district representatives on a quarterly basis and also provides them monthly gross assessment updates.

"We meet with them for just this reason, so they can clearly understand that these are just monthly gross numbers, not net numbers," he said.

And while the exemption estimates don't come in until the end of the fiscal year (the Assessor's Office didn't know the amount until May, Stone said), Stanford University represents the second largest exemption in the state.

"If you're a finance director or superintendent of Palo Alto Unified, you know there's a lot of exempt property," he said. "These aren't rookies here."

The administtratros and the Board get the blame because they were warned; and they get the blame becasue the administrators were using the raises given to the teachers as the rationale for giving themselves the same raises, and they get the blame for not performing their oversight function when one of the Board members wanted to discuss different options, and they get the blame when they rushed the decision, rather than waiting a few weeks to get the final numbers


106 people like this
Posted by Sick and Tired
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:30 am

I'm so sick and tired of a district culture that gives lip service to community but continues business as usual in terms of protecting and enriching those who work there. Because it's a school district, we can lose sight of the fact that it is just another government agency where the modus operandi is always to benefit those who are getting paid with public money. I'm sick in the heart that the truth is so undeniable at this point. If you're a parent of students in the district, you just cant rely on them to benefit your kids, as the system exists to enrich its bureaucracy, not for them.


18 people like this
Posted by WaitTheresMore
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 11:02 am

Just wait if the PAF crowd gets its way and builds tons more housing - our schools are screwed and mediocrity will be the norm. More houses, even small ones, will have more kids. With these necessary budget cut backs, total school size will balloon. At a time when we should be building more elementary and middle schools, we instead will be removing open space to put in temporary trailers as classrooms.

We need elected officials who understand that improving Palo Alto schools is our number one mission - on the school board and on City Council. We need people with financial and business experience who don't get caught up in illogical, emotional arguments. Todd Collins looks to be such a candidate for School Board. We need analytical candidates for Council as well.

Come on Palo Alto - now is the time to fix this before it really is too late.


15 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 16, 2016 at 1:31 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

Saturday afternoon, July 16

These missteps by the superintendent and board (excepting Mr. Dauber) would seem to argue in favor of the election of Todd Collins, a candidate for school board this fall, whose leadership in 2012 on the Strong School Bonds Citizens' Oversight Committee kept the District from issuing flawed capital appreciation bonds--foresight that saved the PAUSD an estimated $850 million.

Web Link

Sincerely,

Marc Vincenti
Gunn English Dept. (1995-2010)


31 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:50 pm

Guess we can expect to PAUSD to declare another "financial emergency" and claim that another parcel tax is needed to fill the gap between their management and reality.


22 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 16, 2016 at 8:20 pm

I'm going to agree that Collins looks like a good bet. The bonds have been well run unlike the rest of the district. Emberling's quotes were embarrassing, she will not be getting my vote again this time.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 17, 2016 at 10:41 am

If any one is paying attention there is a continual turn over of houses in PA. Each time a house turns over the tax assessment is upgraded to the current sales price. So the question is who or what is happening to this huge windfall of tax money? The city should be awash in tax dollars.
No - an audit first before any tax assessments. Something is very wrong.


8 people like this
Posted by Wally in wonderland
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jul 17, 2016 at 11:06 am

The bottom line is your being ripped off going to a public school. Most of you just don't know it. It's where Animal Farm meets Calpers. [Portion removed.] You can get a much better education in the private sector. If you truly want to improve the current system, the first step is to dump the government oversight.


29 people like this
Posted by Voter
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 17, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Actually we need school board members like Dauber who exercise real oversight. One is not enough. Let's use the election to get a competent school board. Palo Alto schools deserve better then amateur hour.


19 people like this
Posted by Shocked
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 17, 2016 at 11:09 pm

Just reading this now after getting home from vacation. What a shock! What kind of accountability will there be? This wasn't just a mistake - we signed a 3 year contract based on the mistake. Good test for the Board.


32 people like this
Posted by Teacher neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2016 at 12:13 am

@my cup
"our teachers need this well earned pay raise, They are the ones who cannot afford to live here.....I really find it amazing that the reduction in revenue was not apparent.....who is to blame for that!"

Um... The majority of teachers in Palo Alto make more than $100,000/year, more than the median comfortably. A two earner household, also the norm, can live here easier than the average student whose family pays their salary. In my neighbirhood, the majority profession is teachers. It's not true that they can't afford to live here.


17 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 18, 2016 at 7:06 am

Every union has a party line to justify their negotiating position. The Teachers union is no different. Ability to live here is based on when you came here, how old you are, and what type of household you are managing - do you have a mate who is also working to support the household. Different for all people. Hard to judge but also hard for the new teachers who are just graduating and trying to establish themselves. But that is also true for all of the young people who are working in tech.


10 people like this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 18, 2016 at 10:00 am

No emergency funds set aside for rainy days?

Just move some money from the capital projects budget to cover the shortfall. Lots of money sitting there for years....

I would hate to see another fund-raising campaign begging parents to cover PAUSD's mistakes.


Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2016 at 4:15 pm

My experience with the Santa Clara Assessor's office is that they are NOT clear about anything (at least with regard to homeowners). I would not be surprised if they were not clear in this case, either.


3 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 18, 2016 at 7:06 pm

@ Sarah - If you're talking about moving the money from the last Bond issue, I believe nearly all of what was sitting there is now going towards the Paly gym. Last I checked, there was approx. $17M going towards the Paly gym project. At one point, that number was only $8M, so there was still a good chunk of change left in the "unallocated" bucket. But, PAUSD found ways to spend it.


8 people like this
Posted by GraceBrown
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 18, 2016 at 7:09 pm

GraceBrown is a registered user.

@Teacher neighbor

Having grown up in Palo Alto, and now teach in the district, it's been my experience that most of my colleagues are unable to live in the community - a combination of demographics, structural shifts to our US economy, and suburban land use policies. I am not familiar with your specific neighborhood, but if it's true (and I believe you are posting from your own truth and experience) that you live in a neighborhood with many PAUSD teachers, then you and your neighbors are fortunate to live on an economically diverse block. Most Palo Altans aren't so lucky.

Respectfully,

Grace


3 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2016 at 9:00 pm

> it's been my experience that most of my colleagues are unable
> to live in the community

Shame the PAUSD does not publish a list of zip codes with the number of employees in each of these zip codes so that we might get some sense of where teachers and staff actually reside.


13 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2016 at 10:07 pm

A number of folks on this thread are complaining about the composition of the school board. I assume some of you are planning on entering the race in November for this unpaid, thankless, no-win job. Last I checked, it is often difficult to get enough candidates to run. I believe there are three people currently running for three slots. I'm always amazed people are willing to do this public service.


12 people like this
Posted by Consider This
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 19, 2016 at 11:09 am

By the way, this is why I always vote against school-related parcel tax measures. Our school district does not know how to control its own spending. Give it more money and the only thing you can count on is higher teacher salaries.


2 people like this
Posted by Parent of 3
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 19, 2016 at 12:26 pm

@consider this - good point - we wouldn't want higher teacher salaries, right? What good could come of that?


6 people like this
Posted by caroline V.
a resident of Portola Valley
on Jul 19, 2016 at 2:20 pm

Superintendent McGee should have known. Many community members (including myself) have addressed this issue with him. This does not come as a surprise and this is another piece of evidence that the administration controlling education is involved in promoting a political ideology and political agenda.
Superintendent Torlaksen, Superintendent Gundry, Superintendent McGee, Superintendent Campbell, San Jose State University Interim President Dr. Martin, newly appointed President Papazian, and CSU Chancellor White, all promote the Common Core, STEM education, all day kindergarten and all day preschool programs, 21st century and global learning initiatives. We do not know what is discussed behind closed doors, but we experience the following: 1) our education system demonstrates lack of fiscal responsibility and lack of accountability 2) uses false advertisement 3) fails to abide by the rules, fails to respect the law, fails to respect the Constitution, and violates the requirements for receiving state and federal funding. There is no quality education, no equity and definitely no safety. Anyone who discloses these deficiencies is being retaliated against and silenced. Furthermore, this administration gives preferential treatment to foreign and undocumented students without teaching them American values, without providing quality education nor proper vocational training, and trains its administration to cover up sexual abuse, discrimination, harassment, intimidation and retaliation. Our elected and appointed officials are supposed to oversee its administration, but there seems a conflict of interest, because our politicians and elected/appointed officials promote the same ideology and the same agenda. They too ignore their responsibilities as described in our government laws and our Constitution.

California has a huge debt (www.usdebtclock.org/state-debt-clocks/state-of-california-debt-clock.html ). This is the second year California failed to repay its federal loans (Web Link California has a broken education system, a broken healthcare system and a broken justice system. The Committee of Fair Political Practices and the Judicial Review Board both reported huge backlog of complaints. Senator De Leon closed the Oversight Committee. Despite the huge debt, California continues to rapidly expand government jobs and government funding for education and healthcare as seen in the Annual Financial report of State Controller Betty Yee: Web Link

Despite the increased spending in education we remain at the bottom of all 50 states and hospital mistakes are now the 3rd leading cause of death.

What we see in K-12 is happening in higher education. My case is against the California State University (CSU) system. The CSU is a deep pocket public entity that acts completely autonomously.
The CSU acts above the law and lacks good efforts to abide by the rules and our laws knowing that nobody can afford the high litigation costs. The last Whistleblower/Retaliation Case won in court against the CSU Board of Trustees cost over 1.5 million dollars. Since then, Governor Brown, who is the President of the CSU Board of Trustees, closed the bipartisan board overseeing our postsecondary education. I cannot find legal representation on a contingency basis and I am not alone. Like the SJSU Student Coalition for Accountability, I did request an independent and transparent investigation first with the Oversight Committee (but Senator De Leon closed our Oversight in December 2014) then with Governor Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris. Unfortunately our requests remain unanswered. I recently have submitted my request to US attorney Brian Stretch, US attorney Samuels, and US district Judge Mueller.
The lack of quality education, the violations of Civil Rights, the use political influence, the manipulation of credentialing and accreditation, and the misuse of funds are seen in a variety of lawsuits and scandals. Here are a few examples:
Vergara v. State of California; Cruz v. State of California, California Board of Education, Boland v HSU and CSU Officials ; Keller v CSU Board of Trustees ; Friedrich v. California Teacher Association (CTA)
Caroll v. California Teacher Credentialing (CTC); SFCity College v. Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC ), California Concerned Parents Association v. CDE; the sexual assault cases at Berkeley and Stanford, the misuse of funding by UC Davis Chancellor Katehi and UC Berkeley Chancellor Dirks…..

As we have seen in the last few months, our Chancellors, Superintendents, elected and appointed officials all use their position to demand more taxes to fund affordable housing, mental health programs and youth well-being programs. There is no safety, no equity and no quality education. Our education system has a problem with increased drug and gang related activities, shortage of qualified teachers. The Common Core was implemented without proper planning and without the necessary resources.No wonder we have increased rates of truancy, depression, and suicidal ideation. Our taxes are used to pay the high salaries of an expanding administration, its legal defense and data research. It is time our representatives demand results before allowing more funding.


12 people like this
Posted by Teacher neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2016 at 5:48 pm

@GraceBrown,
Luck has nothing to do with it. Capacity for sacrifice and patience are more like. Except for the teachers who are single or divorced, all (100%) of my teacher neighbors are better off financially than we are. Two- person households coupled with the far above the median Palo Alto teacher salaries helps. But it doesn't allow anyone to march up and buy a comfortable home easily. That has never been the case. Developer propoganda to egg on people who clamor for policies that allow developers to cash in have gotten people to think that, but it has never been the case. Mortgage rates are at an all time low, literally half what they were when we bought our home which is not nearly double the value, and our income hasn't gone up. We, like many of our neighbors, live here because we first got in the market wherever we could (not in Palo Alto) and developed equity. If you wish to remain a renter, you will never get ahead here. That has been true for decades.

On my part of the street, of the families I know, all but one are teachers or professors (none PAUSD). One teacher moved in with educator parents. Across the street, a retired PAUSD teacher. I know other retired PaUSD and other districts teachers in the wider neighborhood. We ourselves are house poor, but we recognized it as the price of stability. We were not trying to live in Palo Alto, we were simple trying to find a home anywhere on the Peninsula that we could afford and wasn't so rundown it was unhealthy (been there, done that).

Did you not see the recent article about how the vast majority of Palo Alto teachers make more than 100,000$ a year? With the summer off? They are well paid. But if they want to buy a house, they have to get over the relatively recent propaganda that it was ever or will it ever be easy to buy a home anywhere in the Bay Area on even a dual salary of that size. That is the reality of living in a perennially desirable place. That is the choice we make to live here. Other teachers have done what it takes, probably under more difficult circumstances. I am thinking of a teacher family near us with several kids who put up with so much, I'm sure most people would not.

Back to the topic - when is the Weekly going to take a hard look at the money going to administration and bureaucracy here, and what it buys us? What it could be buying us? When is the Weekly going to take a look at the facilities bond and how well it was spent? Why doesn't it seem like our elementary schools benefitted? Why, if the City could build Mitchell park library and community center for $40 million, could the district not almost entirely replace all the school facilities as new for ten times that (if you count the Paly gym donation)? Candidate Todd Collins openly admits that the oversight committee did not do that kind of oversight. How can McGee now use the facilities money as a piggybank to make up for teacher and administrator raises? Who is minding the store?


Posted by BP dad
a resident of Barron Park

on Jul 21, 2016 at 12:16 am


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