On June 5, Milpitas Voters will be asked to vote on a $95 Million Bond Measure. Below is my analysis that I used to decide whether this is a good thing for me and my community. As I have been asked by various folks "is this Measure E really worth it or not", I'm posting my analysis here.
What's the Issue:
The school district is asking Milpitas voters to approve a $95 Million Bond to address primarily three things:
- its aging schools,
- its out of date infrastructure and safety
- and plan for the growth of students in Milpitas
The detailed measure can be found at:
Why is this needed?
Visit any of the district's facilities and it is clear that the buildings are in need of repair. There are many examples at each school site from air conditioning / heating not working for classrooms to leaky roofs.
The full list of projects at each site is listed here: https://musd-ca.schoolloop.com/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1334479717534
But, probably not as evident, especially, if you visit a school that hasn't been impacted by the growth in Milpitas, is the fact that our community is growing, and projected to grow significantly. But, if you visit Zanker elementary school, you can find evidence that overcrowding is an issue and it will only spread to our other schools. In the regional plan from Plan Bay Area (they are responsible for projecting and planning out regional growth for the Bay Area), they show that Milpitas is projected to grow 49% over the next 28 years. Whether that number is accurate or not, it is safe to say that Milpitas will grow significantly. If we don't have a plan and funds in place to deal with this, overcrowding at our schools will be the norm, which negatively impacts the quality of education for your children. This, then impacts the community (housing prices, attractiveness as a place to live, etc.).
For those interested, the Plan Bay Area draft report can be found here: (see page 48): http://www.onebayarea.org/pdf/SCS_Preferred_Scenario_Jobs_Housing_Connection_3-9-12.pdf)
So, for me, I can find evidence that the district sorely has these needs.
So, what will this cost me?
The proposed tax is $50 per $100,000 of assessed value. Given the average sales price in Milpitas is roughly $400,000, the average cost will be less than $200 a year (assessed value is generally less than the sales price). Translated to a monthly basis, that is roughly $17/month. Unfortunately for me, it will be higher.
But, why doesn't the district has a reserve or some fund to pay for this?
The district budget does have a a building fund to deal with maintenance, emergency repairs, etc. However, with the continual cuts from the state, the board had to take money from the building fund to balance the budget (which is an annual requirement). So, the building reserve is severely depleted and left to deal with emergencies.
But, a key point to understand is that the building fund was never set up to deal with population growth.
And historically, the board has cut nearly $10 Million from 2003-2010, so we are getting to the point that the choice is down to cutting instruction to kids or things like the building fund. And potential cuts are still being considered if the state continues to reduce education funding.
So, why should I add to my tax bill? Things are already tough.
Here's the "me versus the community that I live in" question.
Well, simply, I like to believe that Milpitas is a up and coming town. It is reasonably priced and we have good schools, a very convenient location, and a family friendly community. It is for those same reasons, Milpitas has the potential to grow quicker than our neighbors. (Not to mention that the planners think that Milpitas will grow significantly as well).
So, if I believe that, then my property value will go up. So, if I take on this additional tax, I believe that our schools will get upgraded, my kids will be able to have a more real-world exposure to today's technology, and that teachers will focus on providing my kids the best possible education.
This then becomes an investment. The economy is looking like its beginning to turn around, as evidenced by an increase in local hiring, multiple offers on existing home sales, and increased business spending. So, then it would be safe to assume housing prices will go up 5% over the next year (a very conservative estimate), which means for an annual increase of $200, my property will go up $10,000. For the higher end homes, this means a $500 investment could yield a $50,000 property value increase.
Ok, how do I know that this will not be mis-used?
First of all, the bond has a defined purpose. It specifically states that it cannot be used for teacher and administrator salaries or school operating expenses.
Second, there will be an independent citizen's oversight committee to review and ensure that funds are expended appropriately.
If I was concerned, I would probably volunteer to be on the committee. Or, at least attend their meetings. At this point, I don't have any cause for concern.
So, what does the opponents of the measure say? Do they bring up anything that I should be concerned with?
From the ballot measure, the No argument centers around the fact we are still paying for a $65 Million Bond Measure, which ended up to be $100 Million with state matching funds. They are asking that how that money was spent and why the district needs another $95 Million now.
Ok, the list of projects the $100 Million was used for is available at: https://musd-ca.schoolloop.com/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1334479717534
There was a citizen's committee to oversee that the funds were spent appropriately and from what I can find, they approved all of the projects.
So, for me, the request has been met, and from what I can tell, there were no misappropriations.
Ok, so far, no red flags here.
Let's see if there's anything else out there.
From the blog: http://votenomeasuree.blogspot.com, the NO argument seems to center around perpherial points:
- Milpitas school spending per student went up by 15% since year 2006 and it's not enough
For me, while this is interesting, it has nothing to do with this Measure as it does not impact spending per student. But, as my interest has been teased, a bit of research yielded an interesting fact (which I replied their conversation):
Milpitas spending per student has gone up 15% since 2006. That translates to approx $7250/student. But, did you know that that is still under the average spending per student in California ($7571/student in 2009)? And, significantly under the average in the US (which is $9963/student in 2009)? And, that puts us (CA) 47th in the nation in spending per student (based on 2009)?
For me, that is a major issue, as this sort of implies that we are not preparing our kids for the future. There is not a linear correlation that for each additional dollar spent, you get X better education (as it is difficult to measure), but there are studies out that point that districts and countries who spend more generally result in higher grades and better outcomes. It also stands to reason that more money allows more opportunities that the kids are exposed to and therefore, they are more experienced.
sorry for the digression... this doesn't explain why I should vote no.
- Their second point revolves around how the previous bond was used.
For me, this is covered with the initial NO argument.
- Their next point is that there was $84/year parcel tax that was passed in 2010 and why does the district need more.
For me, again, what does this have to do with money to fix up the schools and plan for new students? I'll admit I digressed and responded, but in the end, for me, this doesn't explain why I should vote no.
I guess what they are trying to point out is that the district keeps asking for money and they don't want to pay any more taxes. Ok, that's fair, as I'm not in favor of paying more taxes than I have to. But, they seem to ignore the fact that the state has continually cut funding to public education over the last ten years so our schools are barely surviving. The tax increases by no way make up for the losses. They are enough to get the district to keep our schools improving, but nothing more. I'm more concerned that if our schools can't properly prepare our kids, then what kind of community will we have in the future? Or, selfishly, who's taking care of us as we grow older?
I would encourage the opponents to bring their energy to their elected officials who can impact the major cause of this issue: the dis-investment of public education. It is crazy to have to run local measures for something that the state should be funding, but with the deadlock in Sacramento, it is the only way to directly affect our kids and their education here.
A continual argument that seems to be brought up is the concern that teachers and administrators are overpaid and we should cut their salaries. Well, a cursory check at salary.com yielded that our superintendent's salary is approximately at the 75% of the range for a superintendent in our area, and our average elementary school teacher salary is also at 75% of the range for teachers in the area. So, for me, it doesn't seem like we're overpaying them.
So, from this analysis, I ended up with a YES vote.
I hope that this was useful, and I hope you exercise your right to vote.
I'm an actively involved parent of two kids in the district, and do not work for the district. I have been in the school district for 9 years. I have served as PTA President and VP over the last 6 years at 5 different schools. I also have served as School Site Council Chair and Vice Chair over that time. In 2009, I founded the Milpitas Community Educational Endowment to help raise funds for the district and encourage community involvement in our public schools.