It’s Official: San Carlos School District to Put Bond Measure on November Ballot.

July 17, 2012

$72M for School Improvement.

After months of deliberation, public meetings, and consensus assessment, the San Carlos School District Board voted unanimously yesterday to place a ballot measure in the November election to raise another $72M for the school district.  This money is a big chunk of the estimated $100M the district needs to fund badly needed improvements in their facilities and to expand the capacity to handle its swelling enrollment.

Unlike previous school bonds that have been approved in the past, this measure will not tax each homeowner equally.   According to the bond resolution, homeowners will annually pay $30 for every $100,000 of assessed value if their property.  So those with more expensive homes will pay more, and those with smaller homes will pay a little less.  (I guess it's time to pay a little more attention to the numbers on those pesky property tax assessment statements, right?)

If I'm doing my higher level math correctly, that means the average 3BR/2BA home in White Oaks that has been sold recently (or assessed) at around $900,000 will be docked about $270 per year.    A $1.5M home will pay closer to $450.   Interestingly, homeowners who have their assessments capped at much lower figures due to Prop 13 will pay much less.   Indeed, the school district used an average value for ALL of the approximately 10,000 parcels in San Carlos to be closer to $450,000-$500,000 according to trustee Seth Rosenblatt, which likely takes into account those homes that are still protected by Prop 13, as well as other lower-value parcels.

In order to raise the nearly $72M, this assessment will need to be collected from parcel owners every year for about 30 years.

55% Approval Required.

The yet-to-be-named San Carlos Bond School Measure will require a 55% approval from registered voters to pass.   I ran a poll on the site a few months back when the bond measure was anticipated to be closer to $52M, and here's how you voted then:

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

How will you vote now that you know more of the details of the bond measure?  There's a new poll at the top of the site — register your vote today..

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  1. Seth Rosenblatt on July 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Chuck — I just wanted to clarify a couple of things. All bond measures, including the ones we’ve done in the past, are “ad valorem” taxes and are paid for by a tax assessment based on a percentage of assessed value. You may be referring to our past parcel taxes, which indeed are levied as a fixed amount per parcel, regardless of property value or assessment. Parcel taxes fund operating expenses, whereas bond proceeds (like this potential one) fund capital projects. These are the only approaches allowed by law.

    With respect to the assessed value, your reference to the average assessed value was my personal estimate as to what the average homeowner will pay — that is not what the district uses to make its calculation. The district’s financial adviser calculates the proceeds by using the TOTAL assessed value in the district (which is approximately $6.5 billion), the prevailing interest rates, and the estimates for future growth in assessed values. Keep in mind that some of these properties are businesses, some are multiple family dwellings, and some are single-family homes.

  2. Chuck Gillooley on July 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm


    Thank you for the clarification. It’s a challenge in such a short post to accurately capture all of the calculations and factors that go into creating such a complicated measure.


  3. Michael on July 17, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    I hope this is voted down. It is another unfair ballot initiative.

    Again, the inequities of the seniors vs the non-seniors are glaring, although contrary to parcel taxes, they will have to pay too. They will just be paying far less because of their ultra-low property assessments. In the end, most of us will AT LEAST be paying double, but more of us will be paying 3-4 times as much.

    Where does the mentality come from that those paying more have bottomless bank accounts to pay exponentially more? What reason could possibly be that we all pay different amounts??

    This initative, like so many others, is being manipulated to favor seniors, who are such a large voting block. But since they are being asked to pay this time, albeit a lesser amount, I predict it still will not pass.

  4. Seth on July 17, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Michael — you clearly have the right not to be in the favor of the measure, but I do want to correct an erroneous statement that you made. There is no “manipulation” involved in the measure. A school bond measure must be funded by a tax assessment based on a percentage of property’s assessed value. It isn’t a choice. So, although you may perceive inequities between recent homeowners and long-term homeowners (it has nothing to do with being a senior; it has to do with how long you’ve owned your home), you can credit that to Proposition 13 and its cap on assessed values. There are many folks who don’t like the system it helped create, but you can hardly blame that on the local school district or its representatives.

  5. Jim on July 17, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    So how long will it take before you put another bond measure on the ballot to cover the $28 mil shortfall?
    This endless borrowing drives me nuts. In the meantime, the other two fundraising measures are not even paid off.

  6. Marky on July 18, 2012 at 12:50 am

    Agree with Michael here. Personally, I am in favor of funding school improvement because it is good for the community (no kids in my household). It seems that if we were to base the contribution amts through parcel taxes, it will be an unfair way to raise funds since it penalizes newer buyers. I think a fairer way would be to have a flat tax across each household, with potentially senior exemption or a reduced amt for low income households. Just because I bought a $1M property does not mean I am more well off and can contribute more than my immediate neighbor who bought their house 20 years ago. A flat tax (with exemptions above) will ensure fair contribution to the community.

  7. Al on July 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I am also again this ballot measure. I will not agree to pay a bond measure for over 30 years. I am tired of paying based on the value of your home. If it was a flat parcel tax for all properties I may vote for it. It is time that everyone starts paying their fair share. Just because my house is assessed higher and pay more taxes then my neighbors does not mean they don’t receive the same benefits of living in this town or the same services. I think its time to get rid of Prop 13!

  8. Michael on July 18, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I understand your explanation, however that does not change the fact that it is an unfair division of the tax. And if there are people with low tax assessments that are NOT seniors, I would be very surprised (unless they inherited the property from a relative and don’t get me started on that part of prop 13). People who owned property almost 40 years ago in the mid 70’s are more than likely seniors and they get enough in the way of exemptions when it comes to taxes.

    How is it that this division of the tax is written in stone and cannot be changed?

    I guarantee there would be a opinion shift if those of us continually shouldering the majority of our tax burdens are given a bit of a break by fairly AND justly redistributing the responsibility of this and many other taxes.

    I am interested to find out how this money will be spent, other than “vague” capital improvements. It’s a blank check that the public continually feels uneasy handing ove, especially when it is inevitable that we will be seeing additional requests on future ballots.

    Marky is correct. If anything, those of us with large mortgages and property tax bills should be given a nod since we have such obligations vs those with low tax financial responsibilities

    In addition, we are clearly experiencing a resurgence in the real estate marke and those properties changing hands will be contributing much more to the tax coffers.

    What is the emergency, or is there an emergency? Can’t this wait until we can actually pay for it from future tax revenues?

    Driving past Carlmont HS as often as I do, there seems to be constant building on that campus (a large project currently under construction). What could they possibly need that they don’t already have? Where is that money coming from and why can’t that be funnelled toward more urgent improvement projects?

  9. LO on July 18, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Did I just read correctly that this proposed property tax would be in effect for 30 years?? That is just an unrealistic, ridiculous time frame, if so. Even assuming that this is reasonable to request today, how can we possibly know that it will be reasonable in 10, 20, 30 years? This is basically asking us to give the District a blank check for as long as we live in our homes, handing them a sizable amount of money for a very long time to use for “needs” that will absolutely change and evolve over the years (as will the economy change and evolve over the next 30 years), without having to revisit the issue and get voter approval all over again.

    That is not my only beef with this proposed measure. I do have a child in the San Carlos School District. I have seen firsthand what is needed to improve the school, where the cuts have hit the deepest, and where we need extra funding. That said, I have to admit that I disagree with this proposed bond measure.

    How many times can the District go to the well before the well runs dry? Sure, they need money but they are hardly the only ones in that position right now. In today’s economy, asking homeowners to approve yet another property tax (when we are already paying additional property taxes to fund school measures) seems unrealistic. What really gets me going is that in this scenario, registered voters in San Carlos who are renters have the power to vote on whether or not those of us who own our homes should pay significantly increased property taxes. They have no dog in this fight – why wouldn’t they vote yes? It doesn’t affect them in the least. These are the same voters who would not pass a half cent sales tax a couple of years ago. Yes, yes, I know – that money would not have gone to the school district. It’s the principal of the matter. It’s okay to keep raising the homeowners’ property taxes but as soon as the rest of the voters in San Carlos have to reach into their own pockets, suddenly it’s no longer a good idea. It is completely unfair and onerous on the property owners.

    I also agree with Marky and Michael that a flat parcel tax, with an exemption for seniors, would be much more likely to get my vote than one based on assessed value. At least then all homeowners would be on equal footing and those who managed to buy more expensive homes would not be penalized.

    As this measure stands (in particular the term and the sliding scale), I am afraid I have no choice but to vote against it.

  10. Seth on July 18, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Michael — obviously we’re of different opinions on the value of this measure — for example, I would further argue that the investment by each homeowner would be dwarfed by the maintenance and/or increase in the value of their home given the demand in San Carlos is driven by the attractiveness of the schools, and that just because the system feels unfair seems to be a poor excuse to dismiss the honest work by local officials to do the best they can within the confines of the system they need to live by as well — but I do want to answer your specific questions:

    You asked why the methodology of collecting the tax cannot be changed. I’m not an attorney, but I believe it’s a combination of Proposition 13 and Proposition 39 which govern the way in which local school districts can float bond measures and the ad valorem tax to service them.

    As to how the money will be spent, the measure actually has an approved project list which is public. Also, the district has already started publishing a list of how it’s planning to prioritize that list, and will continue to do that through a series of public forums and processes between now and the end of the year.

    You asked what is the emergency? First of all, the district is already serving 10-20% more students than the facilities were built to handle. And since we’re projecting an additional enrollment increase of 20% over the next six years (and it takes a number of years to complete building), we do have an urgent need to have facilities that can service all children, maintain safety, and have an effective educational environment. By the way, you asked “can’t this wait until we can actually pay for it from future tax revenues?” — to be clear, the San Carlos School District’s funding isn’t determined by local taxes. It is a “Revenue Limit” district so it’s level of funding is determined by the state. So, even if there were in an increase in local tax revenue, it wouldn’t go to the school district (and even if it did, it would be yearly operating income, not for capital projects which is what a bond funds).

    As for Carlmont HS, I cannot speak to that as that is part of the Sequoia Union High School District, not the San Carlos School District.

  11. Michael on July 18, 2012 at 9:16 pm


    I think we can all agree on the “value” of this measure. Only the most ignorant person would say that investment in our schools and our children is foolish.

    Clearly the issues voiced here are
    (1) the proposed inequity of the contributions per household, and
    (2) the frequency that the residents of San Carlos are being panhandled for the schools.
    (3) THIRTY years of assessment on our taxes.

    Your position that this helps all our property values may be correct, but why should some be allowed to contribute so little vs some of us having to spend so much more simply by virtue of when we bought our homes? Their property values rise at the same rate as the rest of ours. They are actually making money on the backs of the schools and the rest of us; why wouldn’t they vote for it?. Why should I supplement someone else’s property appreciation? On what planet does that sound fair??

    Over the past decade, many of us have experienced declining incomes. The schools are no exception. San Carlos property owners often give the schools more money when they ask. This is becoming a bad habit as well as an annoying one. I guess i should ask myself what, in my own personal budget, will I have to cut to pay for this if it passes?

    Our vote is the only way we can make our voices heard. Will the schools listen?

  12. Seth on July 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Michael — although I don’t disagree with the concerns and the notion of fairness, you’re arguing with the wrong body. The schools are subject to these same rules – they didn’t create them. The schools are listening — there is just nothing they can do on their own to change the system. I suggest that we all direct our energy to our state legislators to change the dysfunctional funding system (I have been a very vocal voice in that regard). In the meantime, I for one can not ignore the realities on the ground and use the tools that we have today. I disagree that a no vote is the way to make your voices heard. A no vote won’t affect anyone in Sacramento, only here. It’s the proverbial cutting off your nose to spite your face. BTW, I’d be happy to talk to you individually to give background on how the whole funding system works and the limited degrees of freedom our local schools have.

  13. Marky on July 19, 2012 at 12:31 am


    if I may ask, how are school fees set? Is there a governing body that controls school fees? Why can’t there be an increase in school fees? I hope you don’t mind sharing.

    IMHO (and in absence of knowledge of rules, regulations, statutes, etc of what can be done currently to fund schools), I strongly feel that the burden and responsibility of better infrastructure for our schools lie BOTH with:

    (a) the residents of the community (via a flat tax, with exemption for seniors and low income), and
    (b) those parents whose children go to those schools (via higher school fees)

    I am all for contributing my fair share to local education but am extremely interested in doing this fairly. The Bond Measure, as it stands, I will likely be voting against it.

  14. Seth on July 19, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Marky — if by “school fees” you mean charges directly to parents for their kids attending school, then that is a simple answer. Those are illegal. No public K-12 school is allowed to charge fees for going to school. There could be fees for ancillary and optional activities, but those are very limited. Of course, a school can charge for programs outside of the core school program and day — for example, we charge for after-school programs, summer camps, pre-school, etc. However, I would like to point out that parents do, on average, contribute a lot more to our funding through the San Carlos Education Foundation. Although donations are of course optional, SCEF raises about $2 million per year, which is about 7-8% of our entire budget. And the parcel taxes which fund another 7-8% of our budget does come from flat taxes. It is only a bond — which is meant to fund capital projects (assets that will survive for 30+ years) which is funded like normal property tax, that is on a percentage of assessed value. As I offered to others, I’d be happy to talk to you individually to explain how the funding system works.

  15. Michael on July 21, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    I also think that if there is a way to add all these parcel taxes etc to seniors’ property taxes as deferred and payable upon sale of property is a good idea.

    If the concern is not to strain the elderly out of their homes, this also helps the community and again, makes the property taxation more fair as the taxes are eventually paid.

    I don’t think any of the people or heirs selling homes under prop 13 would begrudge repaying part of the money that helped their homes appreciate to current levels.

  16. Brad on August 2, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    I really like the dialogue on this ballot measure. I am of the mindset that I would be happy to pitch in a couple hundred a year to help the schools if it would fix the problem, but it won’t. Prop 13 is just a monster. It is not so much a fault at the local school level, but at the state level, where they have given so much of a tax break to long time residents and business’ under 13 that an imense burden falls on new homeowners. The people who bought there homes 15,20,30 years ago are making out like absolute bandits. I can’t feel sorry for grandma if she is forced to move into a condo because she can’t afford her property tax. She will just have to suffer and live off the million dollars of appreciation she gets on the sale of her San Carlos home she bought in 1960 for 50k. Boo hoo grandma. The fact that the state can’t afford to properly maintain and fund it’s school system is a result of prop 13 and this lack of revenue in the first place, And compounding that problem by expontially taxing people who are already paying the hightest taxes is an even more ridiculous solution. CA government is really retarded. I am so amazed that this state can simultaneously maintain the highest income and sales taxes in the whole country, yet still be the most structurally unsound and lowest rated (moodys, S&P) in the union. It leaves our poor local politicians looking for this type of “handout”, but again that doesn’t even begin to approach the root of the funding problems.

  17. small but pricey on October 27, 2012 at 4:45 am

    Hi Chuck.

    In your first paragraph you say that more expensive homes will pay a bit more and smaller homes will pay a bit less. That’s a bit misleading. We have a small home – about 50% smaller than our neighbors – but we bought 4 years ago and they bought 10 years ago. So we will actually pay about $200 a year more than they will under Prop H.

    Please don’t confuse “small” with “cheap” and “large” with “expensive.” If only that were the case… I’d feel much better.

  18. seniors on October 27, 2012 at 4:57 am

    I think this is an excellent idea. Two thumbs up!

    I can’t stand the senior exemption. Can’t stand it. Fixed income? My mom’s a senior and she’s still working (at a salary close to mine). Fixed income? Seems like there are a lot of old people at Town.

    I’m all for sliding scales based on income. Just because you’re old? No way.

  19. renters get to vote? on October 27, 2012 at 4:58 am

    I had no idea that renters get to vote on parcel tax measures!

    Do landlords have to pay the parcel tax? I hope they pass it on to their renters.

  20. Anonymous on October 27, 2012 at 4:59 am

    By the way, what percentage of voters in San Carlos are renters v homeowners?

  21. Chuck Gillooley on October 27, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Point taken. Probably not the best choice of words on my part. The point I was trying to make is that the proposed tax is not a flat tax, and will vary based upon the assessed value of a particular home. And generally speaking, larger homes are more expensive than smaller homes, and thus would be assessed at a higher value.

    But when you factor Prop 13 into the equation, that’s not always the case. There are probably many larger homes that are assessed at a much lower rate than smaller homes because of the protection that Prop 13 provides.

    Thanks for your comment.


  22. Michael on November 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    So, is this really true? They are already talking about building a new school if prop H passes?

    Another example of the school administrators chomping at the bit to spend money. I thought this money was supposed to go for propping up a crippled education system.

    Adding a new school and a whole new administration? Is this the wisest way to spend money that they don’t even have yet that they alledgedly need to keep the schools competitive? What about the other schools that so desperately need help? Will there be THAT much money to go around?

    I guess as long as the San Carlos homeowners get stuck with the bill, it’s ok.

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