Town Square

All I was looking for was information on the parcel tax

Original post made by Dave Walden on Mar 22, 2009

I am amazed at what I read in the Town Square Forum. Yesterday, I got two different written opinions on the parcel tax for Pleasanton and I am having a hard time deciding on my vote. I opened up the Forum and thought that I would look for intelligent opinions for the citizenry and found an amazing new look at Pleasanton. It was not very pretty.

Instead of finding well thought out arguments, I found a bunch a bickering people whose arguments were weak and full of emotion. I found people calling each other names instead of writing about the issues. I found people attacking the very entity that is allowing them to view their opinions, for wanting people to identify themselves and their opinions. I found attacks on the Weekly staff for researching the issue to allow people understand all sides and then those researchers were lambasted for offering their own opinion (labeled as their own opinion) after the research. I thought the people of Pleasanton were better than that.

Now to be fair there were those that offered arguments that made sense to support their opinions and for that I thank them but to those who write in to "stir the pot" and cause a ruckus that benefits no one but to satisfy their own ego, please go away and irritate someone else. What's more, I fully support the "registration" of people posting their thoughts in the Weekly. If you want to share your thoughts, you should be "person" enough to stand up and say that those opinions are yours. I hope no one finds a misspelled word in here or I might be under attack for being a student.

Civil discussion and good arguments are what we should strive for in communication with each other on all issues involving our community.


Posted by PUSD Teacher, a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 22, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Hi Dave-
I am a teacher and have tried to stay away from commenting because like you, I can not believe the comments that have been made on this forum site. I am not affected by the current parcel tax because I live in a neighboring community that already pays a partial tax (which I voted for even though my kids are in private school).

I do want to help someone though who is truly looking for real facts. There is so much misinformation being spread in the Pleasanton community and I am shocked at the response that has ensued. Voting for a parcel tax is a personal decision, but you are entitled to truth.

I have done an enormous amount of research and here is some clarification on points that have been made:

1-The current budget cut proposals are not threats being used by PUSD to get people to vote for the parcel tax. Our state is cutting the money they give to this district. The Federal stimulus package will give the district about $1.2mil, but the district must to cut $10mil.

2-Our district offers students an enormous amount of programs, smaller class sizes, athletic teams and extracurricular activities that many schools in the state can not offer. These programs cost money--some of the funding goes to teachers salaries that run the program, but some of the funding goes to program costs like books, supplies, etc. Either the district continues to fund the programs, students fund them or they go away when the state cuts our funds.

3-Homeowners in Pleasanton already pay a tax every year that funds the additional building that this growing community needed. Now they are being asked to help fund the extra programs and class size that the district can't continue to fund when the state takes the money away. The additional tax being asked for is $233/year or $19.41/month. There are exemptions for seniors.

4-The district is not out of money due to teachers "raises". Teachers in this district have similar salaries to most of the other districts around here. We used to pay more, but other districts caught up and we are now 5th from the top in the East Bay Area.

-->So you know--Starting pay for most credentialed teachers in this district is $55k. After 35 years and 45 additional post graduate units, a teacher will cap out $98k. You must remember to take out their monthly benefits though-a single teacher pays about $700/month for benefits, and a married teacher with children pays an average of $1500/month. This sounds unreal, but the numbers are real. Teachers pay goes up if they earn more post-graduate units (MLA cost me $23k and I earn $4k more a year for it).
There is a lot of talk that teachers earn too much for how much they work. I left a six figure career to give more back to my community by taking a public service job. I love teaching, but I work just as many hours as I used to. I also have to work during the summer to ensure I am ready for the school year. I don't get bonuses when the economy is good, and I won't ever see stock options. I contribute $670/month to my retirement and I will retire at 65% of my highest pay. Those are the facts.

This is too much information for most people, but it is the basic facts--minus the spin. A lot of people are hurting right now, including teachers. We need a parcel tax or we will lose programs.

What I find most peculiar though is that in my district, the Livermore district, the Dublin district and the Acalanes district there is no infighting on blogs, no name calling, & no campaign of misinformation going on. I am disappointed in the behavior of the people on this sites because I expected more. I was proud to be hired in district known for high educational standards and will continue to work to maintain those standards-parcel tax or not.

Your vote is up to you.

Posted by Mflanagin, a resident of Parkside
on Mar 22, 2009 at 8:32 pm

Response to: PUSD Teacher, a resident of San Ramon

Would you be willing to move your wonderful content over to the "Schools & Kids" section? I think a lot of people,including myself, like to see the research that you have diligently worked on. I don't know if they will come to the "Comments on Stories" section.

Thanks much,

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 22, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

1- I dunno where the $10MM number comes from. My understanding is that the shortfall is $8.7MM. At least, that's the number PUSD said in their informational meetings. PUSD has identified more cuts than $8.7MM.

2- Parcel taxes typically fund services that the majority of property owners derive no value from. The YES people want everyone to believe that all property owners are receiving a benefit in the form of high property values. While true that school quality increases property values, how do these specific Measure G programs achieve that? My opinion is that you need to investigate the claim of how these extra programs contribute to property values yourself. Don't just take the proponents' word for it. Look carefully at the programs listed on PUSD's website for what will be funded by Measure G (Web Link). Then research how and how much these programs affect school quality or not. After that, investigate which measures of school quality affect property values. Pleasanton has always been known to have a quality school district even from before many of these programs were offered. Then decide if you want to tax yourself and your community to fund these programs that supposedly benefit the entire community.

3- The current tax being paid is a bond, which is based upon the value of the property. Pleasanton will continue to pay this for about another 15 years. The oversight committee which is supposed to oversee the expenditure of the bond funds hasn't met in five years. The parcel tax, on the other hand, is a regressive tax. It unfairly burdens single-family homeowners, especially those who may have already lost their jobs and are struggling just to make ends meet.

4- I haven't read that argument. What I have read is PUSD using one-time sources of money for some administrator raises. They probably expected that they'd get enough funding from the State in the next year to make the new salary amounts sustainable and lost the bet. The person who wrote this is Disagree w/B, who is supposedly a teacher in PUSD. I haven't looked at the details personally.

5- The decision to pocket more money instead of receiving benefits paid for by the district was an employee decision. PUSD Teacher would like this not to be spin, but it is. The budget problem is based upon what PUSD's full costs are, not the net income of each and every teacher.

6- Yes, please ignore the "teachers make too much" argument. PUSD salaries are competitive.

Posted by AVHS Dad, a resident of Stoneridge Park
on Mar 23, 2009 at 10:09 am

AVHS Dad is a registered user.

@PUSD Teacher: Great Post!

@Stacey: Great Link!

The $233/year looks well spent to me.
By the way, I would be subject to the parcel tax and my son graduates AVHS next year.

Posted by Teresa.C., a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 24, 2009 at 9:11 am

Teresa.C. is a registered user.

Thank you for writing this last entry. There are many uninformed angry and confused people out there.

You need to know that it is common to have taxes as these for our children's education and it is a small cost for a child's future. The taxes are exempt to the elderly. Those who cannot afford the tax are living beyond their budget and need to adjust their needs. and the comments above this posting has the rest of the info you need... It is a simple Vote Yes and that is all...

it's very simple...

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 24, 2009 at 9:45 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Teresa wrote: "Those who cannot afford the tax are living beyond their budget and need to adjust their needs."

That's the best thing I read so far! If PUSD can't afford their current budget, they need to adjust their needs. More money does not improve education. If that were true, Dublin would have higher quality schools than Pleasanton.

Posted by AVHS Dad, a resident of Stoneridge Park
on Mar 24, 2009 at 9:59 am

AVHS Dad is a registered user.

Stacey wrote "More money does not improve education."

Okay, would you also say that less money improves education?

I for one believe the extra money would be well spent based on the link you provided previously. That the value to the community in general is more than the $233/year it will cost me long after my son graduates. If enough people feel that way, the parcel tax will pass. If not, it won't.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 24, 2009 at 10:54 am

Stacey is a registered user.

AVHS Dad wrote: "Okay, would you also say that less money improves education?"

Of course not. What is missing here is an understanding of how much money is enough and how those funds are being spent on effective programs. Property owners are being asked to pay for programs from which they derive no direct benefit in the form of higher property values. I have yet to find the supporting evidence for how keeping more counselors at the schools, longer library hours, technology instruction, custodial services or having an elementary string band improves property values. The only program on the list that could be linked with higher property values is K-3 CSR (not ninth grade). K-3 CSR costs the district $1.6MM out of the General Fund. The district could pay for that program without a parcel tax.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 24, 2009 at 11:37 am

Stacey is a registered user.


I should add that I understand the perspective perhaps you and others share regarding this and why you're voting yes. These may all be wonderful programs for children. For example, the elementary band is a great enrichment program. I'm trying to remove that emotional aspect and parental attachment and look at this from an analytical angle. This is a tax that supposedly benefits the entire community through higher property values. The housing market though could care less about an elementary string band or how many counselors a district has. Those are all value-added programs that don't benefit the entire community.

Posted by Parent of Two, a resident of Val Vista
on Mar 24, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Parent of Two is a registered user.

My biggest issue with the parcel tax is that it is a knee-jerk response: "We're short on funds from various sources, let's raise taxes!"

I work in HR for a large Tri-Valley company. Everyone worldwide has been told that (a) no raises this year, (b) some salaries/bonuses will be cut this year, and (c) some jobs have been "lost" due to the economic downturn. Has the possibility of salary cuts (to stave off job cuts) been proposed? Has the possibility of administrator salary freezes been proposed (maybe a three-year freeze with any shortfalls in 2010 to be covered by future budgets)?

Seems like the first reaction to lower revenue should be belt-tightening, not higher taxes. Or at least a little of both. Make the administration and union give a little also... Or else, every time they need some money, rather than finding ways to save money, they'll just raise taxes. Reactionary taxation doesn't work. Never has. Never will. Teach fiscal responsibility instead.

Posted by mflanagin, a resident of Donlon Elementary School
on Mar 24, 2009 at 2:00 pm

mflanagin is a registered user.

Response to Parent of Two:

Hello- Please take a look at the TV shows listed to see what money is going and why. (See new topic under Kids and Schools- Great Information about School Budget - for dates and times).

We need a stable source of income for our school system as it won't come from the state. Hopefully Measure G will pass and that stability for the 7 items that are addressed on the ballot will still exist or will not be diminished.

Posted by LCG, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 24, 2009 at 2:15 pm

LCG is a registered user.

I have to say that it is refreshing to read some thoughtful, calm posts after the past few weeks' worth of messages. I also find it very interesting that many of the more vociferous posters from recent weeks have mysteriously disappeared from the discussion once we were asked to register. I hope this is a good sign of the discussions to come.

Just a comment on Stacey's post above-

I've read most of you numerous posts and while I believe you have made a concerted effort to refrain from name calling and to use calm and to-the-point language, I really have to disagree with your approach on the property values issue. First of all, just because there is not existing data on how the programs in the proposed parcel tax will affect property values, we cannot assume what that impact will be. We just need to take the information available and make an educated decision. The point of the argument about property values being tied to education quality is not about comparing to the past. It makes no sense to me to say that because Pleasanton had higher relative property values before many of these programs existed, the property values will be maintained after they are gone. You are comparing to a time when the surrounding communities also did not have such programs, and perhaps may have had even fewer programs than Pleasanton. Now we are talking about Pleasanton being at a disadvantage relative to neighboring communities. Larger class sizes and fewer programs and counselors. In order to get your data, you would need to look at a city like Pleasanton which initially had equal or higher property values which then reduced the quality of its schools relative to its neighbors.

Yes, the parcel tax is an emotional issue. And so is the decision of many parents (and non parents) when deciding where to purchase a home and how much to pay for that home.

Posted by Dave Walden, a resident of Verona
on Mar 24, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Dave Walden is a registered user.

Thank you all for your calm and intelligent discussion of this complicated issue. I sincerely appreciate your input and I am sure that other readers do as well.

I attended the Mayor's State of the City presentation today and received a lot of positive comments about this "thread" and how others would like to see more intelligent comments like yours.

Posted by Parent of Two, a resident of Val Vista
on Mar 24, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Parent of Two is a registered user.


I'm not questioning the value of programs or the teachers. I'm questioning whether TAXATION is the only way to deal with a budgetary shortfall. Surely you realize that some compromises can be made other than simply throwing money at the problem. And I'm also questioning why the youngest teachers with the least tenure are being targeted (well, i know the answer, but the question still needs to be asked). Why not axe the teachers with the lowest ratings, or the teachers with the most student complaints, or the teachers who refuse to use Zangle because they're technologically inept?

IF it's about the kids, and cuts are inevitable, why fire the young, bright ones that are more likely to understand the current teaching environment, and are more likely to connect with the kids?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 24, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Stacey is a registered user.


Thanks for the response. I didn't know these answers myself until I started looking at this back in January. Contrary to your statement regarding being unable to know what the impact would be, the research has been done already and yes, we can know the impact. It isn't just from stating that Pleasanton was known for quality schools before these programs. I'll direct your attention to a study published in the Journal of Real Estate Research called "Which Measures of School Quality does the Housing Market Value?" (Web Link) In it, proficiency test passage rates are determined to be the most highly valued.

You might also be interested in "Measuring the Value of Better Schools". The abstract again reinforces the idea that test scores are the driving determiner of high property values: "Controlling for neighborhood characteristics and school financial inputs, she finds that a 5 percent increase in the average test scores of an elementary school leads to a 2.1 percent increase in the price of houses in that school's attendance district. "

I understand that none of this will matter to some and that voters, especially parents with children currently in the system, will vote yes on this tax because they want the district to purchase whatever the best is that money can buy for the children. That's fine, but there are also many voters who are disinterested in the subject and are perhaps wondering exactly how a yes vote on Measure G affects property values. Through this research there are ways to know what those effects are.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 24, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Stacey is a registered user.


After rereading your post, I feel I should add (and you'll see if you take a look at the study) that smaller class sizes are one of the items valued by a housing market. Personally I think the jury is still out on CSR usefulness considering that the available research on the subject concludes that this highly expensive program is most effective for low-income, disadvantaged, and minority students and it can't be said that this is a majority demographic of PUSD students. But leaving that aside, the problem identified by Parent of Two above is that the solution proposed by the district is to levy a tax. CSR is a program that the district is quite capable of paying for without a tax, especially if it is one of the only programs not cut. It seems instead that PUSD has gone for the jugular, the program (CSR) possibly most valued by a majority of parents with children in the district.

Posted by LCG, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 24, 2009 at 4:22 pm

LCG is a registered user.

Thanks, Stacey, that was an interesting article, and it definitely shows how important test scores, spending per student and student/teacher ratio are to housing values. I guess it is typical of research to be interpreted by both sides of an issue in a way that supports their argument. After reading this study, I see that at least two of the three measures "most consistently positively related to house prices" are ones that will be affected by the educational losses if Measure G does not pass. Clearly, spending per student will decrease, both in the absolute and relative to neighboring communities. Additionally, class size will increase, again in the absolute and in relation to surrounding communities. Will test scores decrease? Who knows, but based on the research for class size reduction that I've seen, coupled with the input of teachers, principals, and lots of volunteer hours in K-2 classrooms myself, my bet is yes. I realize that teacher/principal input and my own observations are completely subjective, and will mean nothing to you and others, but opinions are rarely formed based solely on data, because, as we see with this study, data can be interpreted subjectively as well.

As for the point about the PUSD having "gone for the jugular," again I respectfully disagree. I believe that the district has cut and cut over the past few years. Our schools are paying for more and more programs on their own, with PTA funds and other parent donations and volunteer hours. Administration (including principals) have taken a pay cut already this year, and while I have heard posters cry that it is not enough, just ask a principal how they are paying their bills right now. I believe that the teachers union will come to the table with more. But even if they don't, I truly believe that it is time for the citizens of Pleasanton to step up and contribute.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 24, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Stacey is a registered user.


Moreover, that study displays how fickle the market is. High per pupil spending doesn't correlate with actual student performance, but the market thinks it does. The same goes with CSR. Certainly these items alone do not make for high property values because if that were true we'd see everyone scrambling to live in the district with the highest spending per pupil (Dublin?) or some rural schools with very small classes because there aren't enough people to attend. At the bottom of the list was value-added measurement, which detects improvement in student performance annually. Also at the bottom are graduation rates and teacher experience and education levels. That's the tragedy I think of our public education system in the US (a side topic). It is based upon perceived wants instead of what actually benefits students best. It shows how difficult it is for educational reformers.

Posted by Homeowner, a resident of Foothill High School
on Mar 25, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Homeowner is a registered user.

I am a Pleasanton homeowner who recently lost my job and I will definitely vote NO on the parcel tax (Measure G). At a time when people are loosing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet, this is not the time to add another tax. Why is it that just property owners are being targeted? I feel that every parent whose child or children attend school needs to be held responsible (property owners or not). There are people who are sacrificing to keep their jobs by taking a cut in pay, cutting back on hours, etc. Why isn't the Pleasanton Unified School District doing this as well?


Posted by Pleasanton Parent, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 25, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

I've stated in other postings, and I will state it again in here, I applaud the PUSD for recognizing a problem and taking the initiative to address it before it impacts our schools. I think the community as a whole recognizes the importance of investing in our school system and the return that it has on the quality of life in Pleasanton, the opportunities for our children, and the positive impact on our property values.
My personal opinion is that the PUSD should not ask the community for additional funds during an economic downturn where many are losing their jobs, being forced to take additional non paid days off, and having their salaries reduced without first pursuing all other avenues for cost reduction. The fact that the PUSD plans on paying out column and step increases is insulting. What I found more disturbing was the statement on the PUSD budget page stating that because of the strong relationship that the district held with the employee units they didn't want to approach any contract renegotiations at this time. To me, this suggests that the conversation between the two hasn't even been attempted.
I want to support the parcel tax, I think it is needed, and I want to invest in our children's education. However, I can not support a cause and allow myself to be taken advantage of in doing so. My vote of support for the parcel tax comes contingent on the PUSD acknowledging that the community they are asking for money from is experiencing economic hardships of their own. The acknowledgement comes in the form of postponing any salary increases for this year (and subsequent years until the economic outlook supports them).
The PUSD is coming to the community to support a measure that will invest money into our schools. The need is real, and the intent is good. It is up to the community to dictate to the PUSD the terms that we are willing to provide our funds, not the other way around.

Posted by Tim Shearer, a resident of Birdland
on Mar 25, 2009 at 5:11 pm

Tim Shearer is a registered user.

Private sector companies are enacting salary reductions to keep themselves viable thru these economic times. Why hasn't this been suggested by our school board in their quest to cut $9M from their budget?

If I read it right, '07-'08 PUSD budget lists Certificated Salaries at $70M and Classified Salaries at $16M, for a total of $86M. A 10% Salary reduction gets you right around $8.6M.

Our teachers do a great job, lets keep them ALL, let them return their pink slips - by trying a salary reduction, instead of asking others who have had <i>their</i> salaries reduced, to take another salary reduction in the guise of the parcel tax.

Posted by Morcy, a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Mar 25, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Morcy is a registered user.

I've read through the comments - they all have great auguement depending on where you are coming from. Just to give a different perspective - the average class size in China is about 40 to 50 students from K to 12 and that country produced the most of the Ph-D in the world. Class size does not correlate directly to the quality of education. A quality of education comes from the quality of the teachers. Increasing the tax at this economic downtown does not seem to be sensitive to those homeowners who also happened to lost a job or are going to lose a job. Remember the sales tax is going to be 9.75% starting April 1. I think most families live in Pleasanton probably do not qualify for any of the new administration's economic tax benefits. Back in Election, we also approved various bonds for Alameda county.

Posted by Jeb Bing, editor of the Pleasanton Weekly
on Apr 3, 2009 at 7:53 am

Jeb Bing is a registered user.

Just a reminder that we are restricting all posts related to the June 2 parcel tax measure to registered users of the Pleasanton Weekly Town Square forum. We have found that this keeps the conversations more civil and focused without any restriction on what posters say or the opinions they express.