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Guest Opinion: Responsible track record deserves 'yes' on Measure O

Original post made on Oct 2, 2020

Given Palo Alto Unified's record of spending parcel tax funds responsibly, we owe it to our students to renew this critical source of local school funding.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 2, 2020, 6:56 AM

Comments (7)

Posted by Misleading the voters
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 2, 2020 at 11:54 am

Misleading the voters is a registered user.

The school district, and now current parcel tax Oversight Committee members continue to post information to voters that simply aren't true in order to scare us into extending the parcel tax. First it was the PAUSD mailer where Don Austin stated that the $16 from the parcel tax makes up 17% of the schools budget, when it is actually less than 7% of the district's 2020-21 $261M budget. Don Austin also claims (and it now seems to be a rallying cry for those talking about the parcel tax) that PAUSD has lost over $6M due to COVID. However, PAUSD's Chief Business Officer has admitted that this is not correct. Knowing that the information was inaccurate she has said, "The statement, "If the parcel tax expires, ....., which would come at a time when the District has also lost about $6 million due to effects of the coronavirus" was an estimate of the lost revenue and additional expenditures incurred due to the pandemic and resulting school closures."

So what is the real effect that COVID has had on the district, so far? In Carolyn Chow's presentation to the board on September 8th, it was shown that the district has actually SAVED approximately $10.7M due to lower expenditures due to COVID.

From the budget presentation:
"The COVID-19 pandemic shelter-in-place order and the unprecedented school closures in the spring had a significant impact .. .on the District’s budget. The Unaudited Actuals, or the “closing of the books”, for 2019-20 represented a challenging and highly unusual fiscal year close. School closures meant ... shifts to the expenditure side of the budget. Expenditure savings were realized in utility costs and instructional services and supplies that were planned but not utilized due to the school closures. Other unbudgeted expenditures were necessary as school supplies were sent home to families and personal protection equipment (PPE) items were purchased for the safety of staff not able to work remotely.

The net effect to the ending fund balance from the June estimate was an increase of approximately $10.7 million. This was largely attributed to greater than anticipated savings on the expenditure side of the budget during the onset of the pandemic in the spring."

So, instead of losing $6M, they saved almost $11M. Those savings will continue this year given that schools are still closed.

This is not an argument for or against Prop O. It is simply a post to point out that the district is knowingly spreading false information to voters. If we don't accept that from our presidential or even city council candidates, why should we accept it from our school board who is trying to convince us to trust them with our money?

Posted by Dancing around the facts
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 2, 2020 at 12:47 pm

Dancing around the facts is a registered user.

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 2, 2020 at 1:37 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

Pausd s Bob Golton said 'there has been a major downward spike in enrollment in the district.' Yet PAUSD won't release the enrollment report. Scuttlebutt is that PAUSD has lost 900 students, three times what their pre covid-19 worst case scenario was. Doesn't seem like they would need as much staff, or money.

Posted by Observer
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 2, 2020 at 1:38 pm

Observer is a registered user.

"Given PAUSD's record of spending parcel tax funds responsibly, we owe it to our students to renew this critical source of local school funding." Dollars are completely fungible - monies from regular tax revenues that are misspent need replacement from parcel taxes. The district's recent financial management blunders: 1) overlooking the fact that many local properties are tax-exempt, resulting in a multi-million budget revenue shortfall, and 2) forgetting to provide notification of the intent to renegotiate a teachers pay contract, resulting in an avoidable expenditure of something like $6M - suggest that PAUSD doesn't exactly warrant the attribute of spending responsibly. Let's see some further evidence of fixing those egregious financial errors before getting too excited about laying on big parcel tax add-ons.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace

on Oct 2, 2020 at 1:54 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

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Posted by Misleading the voters
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 2, 2020 at 2:55 pm

Misleading the voters is a registered user.

Why doesn't the article just state what the parcel tax does. It pays teacher salaries. The bulk of the money, about 2/3, of the 2018-19 parcel tax dollars went straight to paying teachers. $10M out of the $15M went to paying teachers. The district and the parcel tax folks will label it as "Class Size Reductions" or "Growth Teachers" or even "Electives", but it's salary.

Shouldn't PAUSD be paying salaries from the base property taxes they are provided? Since 2010-11, property tax payments to the district have increased by approximately 8.5%/year (a 90% increase since 2010). On the other hand, looking at inflation rates, $1 in 2010 would be about $1.19 in 2020.

PAUSD spending has far outpaced inflation, yet they're still claiming to need more money to pay the basics.

It is telling, however, that with the school shutdown for just 3 months last year, even while still paying all salaries, the district SAVED almost $11M compared to budget. Maybe some of those things that they spend money on that has zero impact on students can be shelved.

Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 12, 2020 at 10:26 am

Taxpayer is a registered user.

The PAUSD 14th Day Enrollment Report, 2020-21 came out on October 9. Enrollment is down 8% this year, continuing a declining trend (it has been down 6 years in a row).

What's the need for a parcel tax that represents 6% of the PAUSD budget when PAUSD has lost 8% of its enrollment? ($15.6 million projected revenue from the parcel tax/$267 million 2020-21 projected annual budget)

Interesting how timed the enrollment report was to come out after the weekly article on the parcel tax.

Why is PAUSD announcing its enrollment in a parents only email on a Friday night (Oct 9) rather than as an agenda item at a public board meeting, as it has done every year for the past 5 consecutive years?

I will vote No on Measure O!

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