San Carlos School District Mulls Extending Parcel Tax.

January 20, 2011


Measure D Set to Expire.

If you were to take close look at your property tax bill (who ever does this?), you'd notice that there's there's the equivalent of a $188 per parcel assessment that is earmarked for San Carlos School District.  This assessment is actually the sum total of two different school parcel tax measures that were passed by San Carlos voters:  Measure B, which is a six-year $78 per parcel tax that was passed in 2009, and Measure D, a eight-year $78 assessment that was approved back in 2003.   With cost of living adjustments, the Measure D contribution now stands at about $110.

With Measure D set to expire in 2011, the San Carlos School District is strongly considering a special spring ballot measure aimed at rescuing the nearly $1M annual revenue flow that will be lost when Measure D ends.

“More of the Same”

The San Carlos School District Board has been carefully examining avenues for replacing this lost revenue.  They even hired a consultant to conduct a phone survey of select San Carlos homeowners to assess their support on a new tax measure.  San Carlos School District board member Seth Rosenblatt does an excellent job on his blog detailing the results of the phone poll as well as the other factors the board needed to consider as they contemplate moving ahead with a tax measure, so I won't take up space repeating it here.

With the benefit of knowledge of how other parcel tax measures have failed in San Carlos in recent history, the School District appears to be favoring a “more of the same” approach with a proposed $111 per year assessment (with no annual increase) that they will vote on in their January 27th meeting.  The idea here is that homeowners simply continue to pay the same assessment that they have already been paying in their tax bill for the past 8 years, as opposed to the idea of digging deeper into their pockets.

While the District could undoubtedly use even more funds, this conservative approach was a very prudent decision and should greatly increase the chances of this measure passing in the spring.

Poll:  How Will You Vote?

Should the board decide to move forward with a ballot measure for a $111 annual school parcel tax assessment, which seems very likely, how will you vote?  Look for the poll in the right sidebar of the blog and register your opinion!

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  1. Michael on January 20, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    Chuck, thanks for giving us all another opportunity to vent.

    First, I will bet the seniors will be exempted from this tax AGAIN; that should not be an option.

    It is very tiring to feel we’re all being “played” by the myth that a parcel tax is temporary. Parcel taxes are a crutch that our schools and city governments seem to be relyiing on to perpetually fund their budget shortfalls.

    When they are ready to expire, boom, there they are with the hands out asking for extensions. It’s the same with sales tax assessments. Once they pay for whatever it was intended for, has one EVER gone away?

    When will the “budget” that our leaders commit to each year actually be adhered to?

    This is not about “the children”…it is about the CONCEPT of the endless fleecing of our pockets. Enough is enough; let the parents kick in the shortfall. They and their children are directly benefitting. Having no children, we personally are paying for our neighbor’s childrens’ education and we understand that is a part of homeownership and property taxes and we SUPPPORT that.

    BUT, we should not be responsible for additional monies needed when those taxes are not enough. If class sizes need to increase, so be it. It is a “public” education and if you are unhappy with what the public can provide to your children for free, you are welcome to pay tuition at private schools and STILL kick in more for that privilege.

    Children cost money to raise and in these challenging economic times, why are those of us that are already paying our share being asked for more?? It’s just shameless.

  2. Mark Olbert on January 21, 2011 at 12:38 am

    Michael, you raised a number of points in your comment. I’d like to respond to them.

    Since 2003, when Measure D was approved, California’s economy has done little except shrink, exacerbating the conditions that caused the District to ask the community for locally-controlled funding. In that same period the District’s student population has increased significantly, from around 2,100 students, as I recall, to nearly 3,000.

    The District has cut its costs significantly in the last few years. Many years its actual financial results are better than the adopted budget. The problem isn’t that the District can’t adhere to a budget. It routinely does. The problem is that State funding, a critical revenue component, has been in a long-term decline.

    Parents and other relatives contribute an amazing amount of money to the District, more than $1.7 million during the last school year alone. To put that in perspective, it’s around 8% of the District’s total budget. And that’s on top of all the taxes those parents, like everyone else, have to pay. In fact, the San Carlos Educational Foundation, which raises the bulk of that money, is looked to throughout the Bay Area as a model of how to mobilize community support behind public schools.

    Unfortunately, because of California’s economic problems, cost-cutting and increased parent donations have barely allowed the District to maintain its educational program. Losing the $1 million per year provided by Measure D would necessitate much more significant cuts, materially impacting our local public schools.

    I won’t quibble about the fact that the measure which will probably be put to voters won’t increase property taxes. It’ll likely simply replace Measure D, and maintain the locally-controlled funding at the current level. Because I understand your frustration, and the fact that times are tough for many people in San Carlos.

    Does having a top-tier public school system (ranked in the top 60 among California’s 1,000-odd school districts) matter to San Carlos? Is it worth it to them to continue to pay about $110 per year ($9.17 per month) to help maintain their excellent public schools? To make San Carlos a more desirable community to live in? To help maintain the value of all our homes, because as any realtor will tell you, for a community like San Carlos, it’s the quality of the public schools that gets buyers to even consider moving here? And, most importantly of all to me, and I suspect you, to give the youngsters among us a better start at life?

    For me, the answer is clear: absolutely yes! I don’t have any kids in the District anymore, but I want today’s children to get the same great start that my kids got years ago. I hope enough of my fellow San Carlans look to the great work the District has done, and how efficiently it runs, and come to the same conclusion.

    – Mark

  3. AJ on January 21, 2011 at 1:49 am

    Michael, you and every other homeowner in San Carlos benefit directly, and financially, from these annual taxes that you’re complaining about; what you get back far exceeds the tax money you contribute.

    One of the reasons your home in San Carlos is worth so much compared to the same home in, say, Redwood City, is the quality of the San Carlos schools, as compared to the schools in neighboring cities. The reputation of our school district makes this a desirable place to buy into for families with school-age children, and contributes mightily to the value of our homes. If the school district is allowed to tank, watch the value of your home tank with it.

    So even if you want to look at this entirely from self-interest, and without looking at the broader issue of whether it’s a “good” to provide local kids with a decent education even when the State fails to fulfill its responsibilities (hey, they may be our baristas someday), it’s irrational not to support this.

    I do agree with you, though, that seniors should not be exempt. By and large, thanks to Prop 13, most of them are already paying far less than their fair share.

  4. Michael on January 22, 2011 at 3:24 am

    AJ, to take it a step further, I would love to target all those property owners paying, say, under $2000 a year for taxes; divide the projected revenue of this parcel tax among those homeowners, and make them pay. My guess is that their taxes would still be a bargain. Am I bitter about this inequity? Darn right I am.

    And if anyone reading this is assuming I am some sort of loose cannon who has no insight, I am just venting the same frustration that so many are feeling. Many San Carlans are trying to budget for lower incomes and other economic challenges without asking for more. It is something that, in spite of whatever cuts have been made, it isn’t enough.

    It is not about the $9.17 per month. There just has to be another way to admistrate our public schools. We all know this will not be enough and we will be asked again for more in the future.

  5. Prob13 on January 28, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    The quality of your schools is keeping your home value from plummeting.

    Thank goodness for stop-gaps like these measures.
    If we got rid of Prop 13 and everybody paid tax on their market rate..
    imagine all the prop tax bills jumping from $2k to $10k!

    If you’re enjoying prop 13, you should welcome these measures as a bargain.

    Jerry Giveth…

  6. Michael on January 30, 2011 at 2:08 am

    My last property tax bill was $11,235…I would feel a lot better about it if more people were paying closer to what I am paying. Then, maybe I would be more inclined to loosen my purse strings (if in fact we still needed more money).

    But to answer your statement regarding the quality of the schools propping up my property values: I believe there are many more reasons people pay what they pay to live here and our schools as well as the quality of the children in them make a difference.

    So does the location of this town, the topography, the way people care for their homes, the downtown area…it’s not just the schools, but everything takes money to keep it running smoothly and the simple fact remains that there is a HUGE inequity between what many of us pay yet receive the same things.

    It’s just about fairness and right now, and there are definitely those who do not contribute their fair share toward the greater good. I think this is a good opportunity for them to start.

  7. Chuck Gillooley on February 2, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Here’s an interesting article I saw today:

    Homeowners in Los Altos already pay $593 per year in school parcel tax. This new measure, if passed, will push that up to $800 – that’s 4x what’s on the table in San Carlos.

  8. Tess on February 2, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    As someone who taught in Los Altos, San Carlos public schools pale in comparison both in the quality and motivation of students. Unlike SC parents, Los Altos parents also seem to have a better handle on balancing academic priorities and after school activities, especially athletics. That’s why Los Altos parents consider a parcel tax for the schools to be a no-brainer.

  9. Michael on February 2, 2011 at 5:04 pm


    I guess the latest computers, kindles and european field trips cost qutie a bit.

  10. Michael on February 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    I also think the financial abilities of the Los Altos parents ALSO pale in comparison to San Carlos’.

    I will check, but are the Los Altos seniors exempt from having to pay this tax?

    I will admit, I would be more inclined to support this tax if ALL homeowners had to pay for it. The argument that “it helps my property values” doesn’t hold water when the seniors are also benefitting from that bump in property values, but it is unfairly levied against the rest of us.

    If this is such a dire situation, why wouldn’t every source of revenue not be sought?

    Am I the only one that thinks this is unfair?

  11. Jane HSo on February 21, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    We do no thave superior schools in LA. Where did that come from? Our kids are taught math from canned presentations given by a monitor and science from science aids. We pay extra for this sub-standard system. We are asked to donate $800/student on top of the current $593 parcel tax. Our teachers are not better in LA than they are in San Carlos or Santa Clara. In fact, they are worse than the teachers that taught me in an average school in CA some 30 years ago.

    We in LA, value education. We pay for math and science programs outside the school in order to ensure our kids are challenged. My kids are in music lessons far younger than when the school provides it. Group music lessons are there to provide exposure and nothing more.

    Quality Education = Affluent Parents. The ‘home values’ message is a lot of propaganda. LA Hills lost their school and look at their home values. No change at all. The same goes for San Carlos.

    We moved to Los Altos because we wanted to be with people similar to us in wealth and ideals. The quality schools comes with the territory. Before we moved to LA, I had no idea how MUCH a parent had to do to sustain that ‘Quality School’ facade.

    Don’t be fooled. It is not the schools that gives LA the high scores. It is all the work that parents do behind the sceneds. The $800 parcel tax is huge! We put in another $2-3K per student to get them where they need to be. I can’t afford to give the LASD another penny for sustaining a substandard system. Until the defict is addressed, they LASD has no justification for additional taxes. Perhaps the SC school district derserves it. I came here to see if you had the same issues.

    Here is a link from 60 Minutes that will capture what is going on across the nation with regard to teacher pensions.

  12. Jane Hso on February 22, 2011 at 12:03 am

    I am confirming that teh LASD buys the votes from the Seniors. Los Altos seniors are excempt from the parcel. Before this excemption, the parcel taxes did not fly.

    What happened to the home values while parcel taxes did not pass or make it on the ballot? They remained the same. School scores? They remained the same.

    Please see my post above. It clarifies the misceptions that some have about LA Parents and how we achieve the high scores. Don’t rush to move here anytime soon if for that reason. It is not the schools or the mis-perception that we hire quality teachers. Most teachers in the LASC lack a background in math and science and cannot teach even the basic level, less alone advanced. It is all the behind the scenes work that parents do outside the classroom including the tutors for advanced subjects, the private lessons, the special classes, etc.

    We have an average school. This new tax is being imposed to conserve the salaries of the teachers ($98,000 for a fully loaded teacher, work days (180 vs 243 for everyone else), benefits (minimal contribution to medical, lifetime benefit) and pensions (set for life after a full retirement based on the top average salary of a few years).

    We will get nothing for it except the knowledge that to sustain this teacher package, they will need to come back for more in taxes just a year or two.

  13. Michael on February 22, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    Jane, Thank you fro your contribution.

    I see your point and have assumed this for a long time.
    With anything, especially government, more money rarely translates to better or more for the alleged benefactors, or in this case, taxpayers.

    So much is not disclosed when asking for more money. Instead, scare tactics and manipulation are used to get our votes. It’s just wrong and I hope enough people see that when it comes time to vote.

    I agree that the parents will almost always make the difference and their comitment to their childrens’ achievement is essential.

    I went to private and public schools in the south bay and no matter what the economic background of the parents, the kids who did not accel were alone in their learning experience. The involved parents encouraged their children to participate and when a shortcoming was identified, it was addressed in the form of tutoring or other supplemental assistance.

    The government has proven that they cannot manage the funds they have (I am referring to when times were good and we still had parcel taxes on the ballots), so why trust them with more with no guarantees?

  14. Cris Wilde on March 12, 2011 at 5:03 am

    Mr. Olbert,

    Are the rumors true that the superintendent is being considered for a bonus? What do you know about this?


  15. Mark Olbert on March 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm


    Part of the superintendent’s compensation is based on overall student and district performance, as well as his achievement of certain specific goals set annually by the Board. Determining what, if any, he or she has earned in a given year is something the Board discusses during our annual in-depth review of superintendent performance. That typically takes place in late May or early June.

    Last year, for example, the Board looked to Craig’s handling of the boundary changes and the District’s financial situation, as well as student achievement. We concluded he more than achieved the goals we set for him and had earned the incentive. Those achievements included, among other things, bringing in about $500,000 in new revenue.

    – Mark

  16. scott on March 13, 2011 at 3:16 am


    I’m truly chagrined to say I pay less than a third of the property that you report you are paying – and I’ve got a 3000 square foot palace. It’s not right. My next door neighbor pays less than $900 per year. It’s just not right. Try to get a Prop 13 supporter to acknowledge that it isn’t fair. That’s a challenge.

    Another thing that’s not right is that since Prop 13 came to pass; homeowners have gone from paying 1/2 of the state’s property taxes to 2/3’s of the state’s property taxes. Commercial real estate owners, who rarely sell, are the real winners in the implementation of Prop 13.

    Howard Jarvis frightened Californians into voting for this mess by suggesting that Prop 13 would keep grandma in her house. The fact is, the state had a mechanism for keeping elderly people that had trouble with their property taxes in ’79.

    Can we get this reversed or fixed? I don’t know; mentioning Prop 13 sure makes the Matt Grocotts of the state reflex and withdraw.

    There is no doubt that the law is flawed and fundamentally unfair.

    I wish I knew how we might fix it.


  17. Cris Wilde on March 14, 2011 at 2:57 am

    Mr. Olbert,

    Thank you for the reply.

    In a financial climate like the one we’re in, a bonus doesn’t sound appropriate. I’m sure Dr. Baker is grateful for his job, for his salary, and any perks he may receive; however, with the constant bombardment of SCEF requests, parcel tax renewals, new parcel taxes, larger classroom sizes, and the fact that our teachers, who are on the front-line and being faced with the possibilities of lay-offs, no matter their performance, is unacceptable. I think you can imagine the surprise by those of us who pay property taxes, who contribute to SCEF, who approve of parcel tax renewals, and new parcel taxes to hear that a bonus is even being considered.


  18. Michael on March 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    I appreciate your insight and I truly think I have the answer to level the playing field.

    Why didn’t they think about inflation regarding infrastructure back then? Prices go up and how could such a large part of the population be allowed to not contribute to that inflation? Sure it sounds like a good idea to hold taxes below $2000 a year for senior citizens by only allowing 1% increase per year. But their 1% and my 1% are 10X different every year. Who thinks that (by the time I retire) it is reasonable to think I can pay $15,000 per year in property taxes? Nothing seems to be on the horizon to head that off.

    If our government could somehow determine a base minimum property tax (sort of like car registration on old cars) and levy that minimum tax on all paying below that point, could that not create a system that is more fair to the rest of us? (I’m thinking $4000-$5000/year)

    If Grandma or Grandpa could not afford that increase, they could apply for exemption. At least they would have to prove they do not have the money to afford the taxes instead of extending a blanket exemption to people by virtue of their ages. It apalls me that seniors can vote for the parcel taxes and still don’t have to pay them.

    IF social security is around when I retire, half my monthly check will be going to paying property taxes. How is that sustainable for the people who have no investments? Does that not create a perfect storm to force the elderly of my generation to flock to public assistance that may or may not be there? Oh wait, we could just sell our homes and live off the proceeds…WHY can’t that happen now with people who cannot afford their homes any longer?

    When did moving become a non-negotiable evil that must be avoided at all costs to elderly people? I think if they sold their expensive homes, they would be able to pay people to help them move.

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