Ready for a New Local Parcel Tax, Moraga?

Superintendent Bruce Burns lays out the argument for a new local parcel tax in the latest issue of MSD School News.

Moraga School Superintendent Bruce Burns states pretty clearly that Moragans are facing a parcel tax in their future as cuts in education funding take their toll on local schools.

In a message titled: "The Time Has Come for a New Local Parcel Tax," Burns makes his case in the most straightforward possible manner in the January issue of the school district newsletter.

"The MSD has reached a crossroad where an ever increasing gap between revenue and expenditures necessitates taking local control to ensure we can continue to provide our students a quality educational experience," Burns writes. And it is to that end, he continues, that the district's governing board intends to vote on a parcel tax resolution for a May 2012 parcel tax election at its January 10 meeting.

Burns bases the district's rationale for calling for a new tax on three main factors:

  • State reduction of per-student funding (more than $1,200 per student over the past three years)
  • More than $1.2 million in district wide cuts since the 2007/08 school year
  • District dependence on support from the Moraga Education Foundation and school PTAs to fund valued programs

"The quality education we are so proud of has become more challenging to provide," Burns wrote. "The State's structural deficit has significantly impacted our schools and is chipping away at the quality we strive for in educting our future surgeons, judges, engineers, teachers, musicians, software developers, and community leaders."

Claire January 04, 2012 at 12:50 AM
And who would you be selling your home to in the event that "the schools can no longer operate as they have in prior years"?
CJ January 04, 2012 at 01:06 AM
As a former Oaktown resident who owned in Montclair. I saw what goes on there,and escaped before our kids went to school. All of my neighbors did as well and all chose private schools if they stay. Your tantrum about the school funding and your reasons for coming here is understandable. But your expectations are a bit presumptuous. Did you expect Lamorinda to be excempt from the funding crisis affecting the World/Country/State? Gross mismanagement of taxpayer revenues combined with awol government ethics have led us to this discussion. There is no easy way out and the tired idea of reaching into our already fleeced pockets is no longer acceptable. Bummer for the status quo. Until I see major changes in accountability in long term cost containment (tenure/pension/benefits), I will not donate another penny. Any Parcel Tax increases will be deducted from my voluntary donations. As we just raise taxes to solve the problems and taxes never go away, who will pay for the future generations? The very kids you are so concerned about. The line in the sand has to be drawn, now is the time.
2nd Generation Moraga January 04, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Yeah, I'm not even sure where to begin. I'll try this: If you would pay $1,200, would you pay $2,400 or $3,600 -- because these amounts are still significantly cheaper than a private school -- which is exactly the point. Parents who want more than the schools currently provide should look within - BEFORE looking to an additional tax. Believe me, I've got/had kids in the MSD, and there are plenty of parents who don't give at all, and plenty who give the minimum (who could give more). This takes nothing away from those parents (and grandparents and neighbors) who give generously, it is simply a statement of fact (versus opinion).
TMoraga January 04, 2012 at 01:16 AM
And if you still own in Moraga wouldn't you be fine paying a little parcel tax knowing that your home value is secure? That knife cuts both ways number 2
TMoraga January 04, 2012 at 01:26 AM
A parcel tax does multiple things. #1 it makes budget planning for the schools far far FAR easier than going to a Palm Reader to find out what money might be given to the schools. #2 A parcel tax involves everyone who benefits from good schools that being both parents and home owners who sell their homes at some point in the future. #3 It eliminates the who paid what or didn't pay issue Which case back to the original comment I made - if you see no value in supporting the schools ie you do not have kids in school it might be time to sell your home now while you can still take advantage of the good school top price it will command. This will do a number of things. One it will generate more tax money - two open up the opportunity for a young family to that wants to take advantage of the good schools and values them to move in. When the issue of street repair costs and a parcel tax is proposed in Moraga yes its in the works and is needed I suggest you also view it in the same manner - either pay up or move some place you feel offers a value you agree with. The lack of planning and waiting till its a problem attitude in Moraga is ending folks given in the case of the school funding and the roads there is no longer any way to avoid it they both need funding and all property owners gain from these two things.
Shon Sherwood January 04, 2012 at 01:34 AM
It doesn't really matter to me, parcel tax, no parcel tax... my only concern is the end result of good quality schools. However protesting bad management by refusing to pay more into the system is ridiculous: you'll get a broken system because you never removed the bad managers. Go actively fix the system instead, before it's completely broken, otherwise we'll all regret it. Example: - Parcel tax: $X per month per parcel raises or lowers automatically as necessary to fund MSD tied out to comprehensive MSD PNL model. - MSD school district barred from employing Union employees - No pension - No tenure - Teacher salaries set to $Y per position multiplied by experience and rises or lowers with California CPI All enshrined in a single balloted proposal so it's tied together. If the current system doesn't work, build a new one. Do you think that you should pay nothing at all for public schools perhaps? Go picket with a big sign that says "Shut down the public schools!". Instead it's withdraw and ignore? Really?
Chris Nicholson January 04, 2012 at 02:02 AM
The flaw in your logic is your #2. I agree that "everyone benefits" from good schools, but THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE BENEFIT goes to the *PARENTS*, and yet you would have parents and non-parents pay the same. If I remodel my house, my neighbor benefits. Should he pay half?
TMoraga January 04, 2012 at 02:03 AM
Folks the get rid of prop 13 movement is pick up momentum the in ability for local towns to pass local taxes to fill gaps on GOV funding simply further enhances the need for prop 13 to go away. The down side is local parcel taxes stay local with locals controlling it. State tax - LOL well it goes to the state and what gets sent back to the locals may not be what the locals need or want. I would rather have local tax funds stay local than go to our State GOV and I can't think of anyone who would argue against that.
TMoraga January 04, 2012 at 02:13 AM
You can't hire non union teachers in CA for a public school Sherwood. Nor would Moraga want to be on the hook for retirement funding and the benefits that the CA Teachers Union provides. CA Teachers Union Retirement Fund is managed by a highly respected fund manager she also taught a class at Berkeley Business school my wife had her as a professor. No teachers union teachers Moraga would need to offer some type of money to make up for the lack of Lawyer representation which the Union provides. In effect Moraga would not be able to hire top level teachers. As for everyone benefiting from good schools yes the seller of the house we bought got a top dollar premium value all thanks to the schools. Had Moraga schools been even the level of say Mill Valley public schools which we looked there for over a year - we would have simply stayed in SF or move to the peninsula paid private schooling and kept our employer and potential employer list far far bigger. You don't get it - Moraga is the EAST BAY! Other than fantastic schools there isn't a huge reason for new families to move here housing prices will drop sure- but why not move to WC or - Pleasant Hill or say get a great house in the Berkeley hills with a view and great places to eat.
2nd Generation Moraga January 04, 2012 at 02:23 AM
So in order: I'm already paying (1) parcel tax and (4) bonds related to the local schools Which is great, I'm just not in favor of any additional education parcel taxes at this time. To answer your numbers 1,2,3 above: 1) budget with what you have, roll the fund raising funds into the next year 2) Exactly, which is why a parcel tax would be great for roads that are used by 100%, 3) we all already pay taxes, assessments, etc... towards the schools. Finally, I have and do support the schools, every year via my income and property taxes. This is not about supporting schools -- it is about levels of support. If you want to support the schools more because your kids are attending, or because you are convinced that your property values will plummet if you don't, then you should. I'm perfectly fine with a tax to cover street repairs -
Chris Nicholson January 04, 2012 at 02:59 AM
TMoraga: Google "Serrano v. Preist," which pre-dates Prop 13. The issue is complicated. Who would argue AGAINST keeping local taxes local? Easy: those who get more than they give. Hint: this does NOT include Lamorinda, but DOES include districts in So. Cal who educate about 1M kids of illegal immigrants at a cost of about $9B/year. Their local taxes would never cover this expense, so ours do. But for this extra burden, the per pupil state spending in CA would be on par with the rest of the country (in contrast to being near the bottom) and we would not be having these funding debates locally.
Therese Meuel January 04, 2012 at 04:02 AM
.I grew up in Orinda and decided to move from Concord to Moraga when my daughter was school age for many of the reason stated above(not all of Concord is horrible but my neighborhood was not the best). I immediately wondered why we have 3 elementary school districts and many of my friends can attest to the fact that I have been pondering this since my daughter was in Kindergarten. The only thing I can think of is the bragging rights. All of the schools in Lamorinda have the same values in terms of education so it seems like a no brainer to me
Therese Meuel January 04, 2012 at 04:28 AM
As I told the person who called my last time they put a parcel tax on the ballol, don't call me or send me something in the mail DAILY and I might consider voting yes. Instead take the money for the daily mailer and put it in the schools first! Also the last parcel tax has no sunset and that was not made clear(except I'm sure in the fine print of the bill). When I discovered this I felt like I'd been lied to and am not feeling very generous towards the district as a result. Most of the school parcel taxes have an out for people over a certain age(to help generate support among the older voter) so the 80 yr old your future neighbors purchase from will benefit from the great schools(and increased property values) without carrying the burden of the parcel tax. I personally will vote no and give as generously as I can to MEF and my PTA. Is the district going to repeal all of the parcel taxes if State funding increases? I think not!
Tony Rodriguez January 04, 2012 at 06:23 AM
I think the no-sunset provision was disclosed and was discussed openly. I could swear the CC Times editorial endorsing the measure noted the no-sunset provision. In any event, I clearly recall that the no-sunset provision was the subject of many a letter to the editor, etc. Nobody lied to you.
Eastofthehills January 04, 2012 at 06:54 AM
I grew up in Lamorinda and my wife and I bought a house here. We have 0 kids; while I am all for funding schools I'd like to see some cost cutting going on. I know for a fact that our schools have spent some rather large amounts of money on sports facilities and have started to offer a variety of programs to "enrich" the student "experience". I tend to agree with the point of a minimal level of education, but I think my defination of minimal is probably different than his. I expect kids to leave our schools ready for math, science, and written composition at or above a first year (real) college level. Any class with "studies" after it or non essential for UC requirements should be dropped if we don't have the budget or are running short of funds. I can say going to UC was much easier than high school and I credit the teachers around here with giving me the basics
Tony Rodriguez January 04, 2012 at 07:24 AM
Can't speak to the high school, but I haven't seen any spending of large amounts on sports facilities in MSD. In fact, I don't even know what sports facilities MSD has, other than the 40+ year old gymnasium at JM, the baseball fields at JM that MBA pours a bunch of money into, and the faded four square boxes at CP. The focus of your comment (the UC requirement thread) seems to be on the high school.
TMoraga January 04, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Find the wasted money the schools are spending on so called sports facilities and I'm sure they will throw a big party for you. I think you will find that the sports facilities are primarily funded by funds outside of the schools budgets ie PTA etc. And just so you know good grades and basics no longer get you on the acceptance lists at the good UC's you need to show through actions and your involvement in various things that you have a life and contribute to society in other ways besides sitting in a classroom regurgitating SAT answers. Only if it were that easy Whats going to be interesting is to see how the dynamic regarding the current kids and new young kids and younger parents changes the schools. You have the current HS kids with parents who have gone through their top earning years during some of the biggest jumps in professional wealth we have seen in a long time. Vs the younger professionals who are just starting families who have had to fight with everything they can to keep jobs and succeed. I think you will find the attitude regarding schooling and how things are handled will change as these new younger professionals become involved in the schools as their kids hit that age. The success my Age group has had professionally is directly linked to top schooling all of us have had and we know it and expect the same of our kids. Very different crowd than the parents who came here 15yrs ago.
2nd Generation Moraga January 04, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Just when I try to get out of this thread - something drags me back in... The arrogance and presumption in your post above is unbelievable. This might be a bit dated, but go back to the Talking Heads lyrics -- "same as it ever was..." The "oh we are so different this time..." thinking expressed above is exactly how our country ends up in tech bubbles and real estate bubbles. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you and "your Age Group" are NO DIFFERENT -- then the group before you - and the group before you... And Mr. Rodriguez is correct -- the school fields at the MSD schools are horrible and haven't been updated (except for Camino Pablo which was recently updated by the Parks & Rec and JM which was updated by MBA) since I was a student back in the late 70's.
Zoe Claire January 04, 2012 at 05:30 PM
LEAVE these threads? No one ever LEAVES these threads! This place sucks you right in and keeps you typing. But it's all good, you learn some things and meet the nicest people! Nice GFather reference up there by the way....
CJ January 04, 2012 at 07:05 PM
TMoraga-If those things are really what you value. Then you are clearly living in the wrong place. Good schools or not.
CJ January 04, 2012 at 07:07 PM
SF is a dump. A way overpriced dump.
Moraga Resident January 05, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Ask the question, why does the money that is already collected NOT cover expenses??? Increases in teacher health and retirement benefits...same number of teachers (or less), less administrators, but still not enough money....how about asking the teachers to pay their own health benefits???? It is completly paid for by the district for the TEACHERS
Eastofthehills January 05, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Just an FYI both my wife and I are under 30 so we know the issues of getting into a "good" school. If you can hit "A" s in all of your basic AP classes and hit what used to be the high 1400's and low 1500's on the SAT you are pretty much still going to get into a top UC. As a teacher once told me extra stuff is nice to have, but it's only going to be a tie breaker. Furthermore going to a good school doesn't insure anything I know lots of people who went to a "good UC" who are working lousy jobs. Going to Harvard is nice, but it's what you make of it afterwards that counts. If I go to Harvard and end up working at Nation's it's a waste. Also if PTA and etc can raise money for pools and other facilities they can raise money for "critical" areas of the schools funding.
TMoraga January 06, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Not sure about Moraga teachers but if they get the same benefits that other teachers I have as family members in Northern CA their benefits are pretty much inline with what my wife and I have via our companies and it does come out of their pay check just like mine does. Same goes for a contribution into a retirement fund for the teachers. The only thing teachers do not pay is Social Security and they do not collect it either - unless! They had a previous life prior to teaching where they did pay into social security then if they qualified ie had enough quarters paying into Social Security they may have some money paid back to them.
TMoraga January 06, 2012 at 05:07 AM
The issue with costs - think about the costs of everything that have gone up. Cost of building materials and labor needed to keep the schools up. The costs of Insurance on the property. And yes the number of kids per room vs the number of teachers needed or in Moraga's case the low ratio of students to teacher which is known to be one of the largest things which impacts student performance in the classroom. The basic costs of supplies - and the result of litigious parents vs past years. A science teacher doing a very classic bone - lab using Owl Pellets use to simply go out and collect pellets during the summer break and use them in the lab. Cost was zero not counting the teachers time to gather the pellets. Any idea what it costs to buy them today? $450 for 6 classes! Any idea why a teacher would buy them vs collect them? If a teacher buys them if something is found in said pellet which is abnormal or something were to happen to the child the parents would sue the teacher and the teacher would simply sue the company that sold them the pellets etc. See where thats headed? Also the increases in teacher pay and keeping competitive pay and benefits like any other career path is the difference between having solid skilled and capable teachers ie workers and simply getting whatever warm body walks in the door. Should have seen my dads face when he found out the bus driver was paid more than he was! Clearly if kids never make it to school thats bad! But once at school who cares.
TMoraga January 06, 2012 at 05:10 AM
Lets talk books shall we? Schools have no way to recover funds for lost or damaged books this can total in the thousands of dollars in replacement costs for a single subject. If you have 4 teachers covering a subject and for the entire year the only money they have for supplies is $400 total - where exactly does the $1000 come from to replace the missing and damaged books so the next group of kids have a book? These are real issues! Talk to any teacher about them and the teacher will be more than happy to explain it to you.
TMoraga January 06, 2012 at 05:12 AM
Also how many of you spend $400 of your own money to supply your office with paper, and other basic supplies so when a kid walks into the room with nothing to work with - generally by design ie intentional you can at least get them busy and on track with paper and a pen?
Therese Meuel January 06, 2012 at 05:33 AM
TMoraga in our school disrict, and I'm sure all Lamorinda schools, we get a list of supplies and bring them to school. I can't speak to other districts but the proposed parcel tax only efffects us. As for books my recollection is you are expected to pay for any lost textbooks, hence my ragging at my child to make sure she doesn't lose or destroy hers. Another exmaple of the local parents already "supporting" our schools!
X January 06, 2012 at 07:57 AM
TMoraga - But they want to collect Social Security benefits. In fact, the union is constantly trying to get the Feds to repeal GPO and WEP.
TMoraga January 07, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Not all parents are like you Therese and till your actually the one looking at the budget for the class you have no idea - do you?


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