CA Public School Districts Asks for $475 Donation Per Child

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: CA Public School Districts Asks for $475 Donation Per Child
By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 01:30 pm: Edit

How would you feel about request?

By Chinaman (Chinaman) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 01:35 pm: Edit

Mom however bad it sounds, you may have to do it. My kids till junior high attended public school so we have to pay not 400 but rougly 50-60 dollsrs for incidentary expanses.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 01:36 pm: Edit


By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 01:42 pm: Edit

Wording mistake above, it is only 1 district that is asking.

By Kluge (Kluge) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 01:48 pm: Edit

We've been asked for from $160 to around $400 per kid every year in our public schools, plus extra for any EC activities like sports or music (Generally $125 - $200.) Not mandatory, but expected.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 01:55 pm: Edit

Still bad. I know that CA school districts are struggling, but donations are not the way to go to fill what looks like a large budgetary gap. Might as well raise taxes.
We do raise funds for our schools (on a school by school basis), but not for basic services. Our k-8 schools had fundraisers to subsidize trips for free/reduced lunch kids, and also to provide a couple of hundred dollars to teachers to use in their classroom as a lot of projects required specific resources above and beyond what the district supplied (for example fabric for the classroom quilt for 3/4 graders).
The fundraisers, however, are part of the community-building effort and families are free to donate as little or as much as they wish.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:00 pm: Edit

It's the downside of prop 13 and dysfunctional state government, IMHO. It's one reason I've avoided moving back to California!

Of course, this situation is not unique to the west coast. Around here, we've had sad stories of athletic fees of hundreds of dollars per sport, band fees in the hundreds etc.

It's pretty sad when we start viewing education as a private good and don't want to pay for it. Maybe more folks will realize what continuing tax cuts really mean. I suspect not, though. Too many political conservatives have a darwinian veiw toward society - dominance of the "successful". It's ironic that these same folks often don't even like Darwin and evolution!

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:04 pm: Edit

Massdad, as a former Californian, you know the the huge problem is how low property tax is. Do you pay much more in MA as I did when I lived in NY and CT? Do you prefer paying for schools that way?

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:19 pm: Edit

"Of course, this situation is not unique to the west coast. Around here, we've had sad stories of athletic fees of hundreds of dollars per sport, band fees in the hundreds etc."

I hear a lot of outrage that the schools charge money to participate in sports or band. But: the question I have to ask is: why not charge for those things INSTEAD of degrading the overall quality of academics. Choices must be made when the taxpayers can't (won't) fully fund everything the schools want to do.

Personally, I would like to see sports--all sports--removed from the schools. PE, yes, and make it lifelong PE activities, and make it daily. Competitive sports, no--especially those that aren't open to EVERY kid. Move those into the community.

Elite bands/orchestras/etc.--out of the schools and into the community. Either you take every kid--as you do for other academic processes--or you're out.

I know many people disagree with me. Have fun: tell me WHY it shouldn't happen this way, WHY you think these things are a good way to spend limited tax dollars.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:29 pm: Edit


What do you think the reaction would be if instead of asking for donations of $475 per child, the district raised taxes by %475-- or less since I suspect that the figure of $475 was arrived at on the assumption that not everyone would contribute? Would it be more or less palatable to the residents of the district?

I also think that sports and band should be district-based activities rather than school-based. This works for soccer teams at the k-8 level; I don't understand why it can't be made to work at the high school level.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:32 pm: Edit

Mom101, actually, property taxes here are not that bad. They were actually FAR higher when we lived in Texas in the mid 1990s.

I don't know what the fairest system of school finance would be. Finance through property tax has the (IMHO) huge advantage of a degree of local control. We, as a community, decide how much to spend on education. If I'm not happy about the collective decision, I can always vote with my feet. OTOH, this approach to education finance has been under challenge nationwide as unfair to poor communities, which is kinda funny when you see the alternative - a low baseline rate of state funding and voluntary or private fundraising for everything from band to art to languages.

The alternative to local property tax financing appears to be state funding of local ed, like you have in California, funded by income tax, sales tax , or a statewide property tax as formally exists in New Hampshire and informally in Texas.

I don't know what the best approach is, but I can tell you we made a difficult decision 7 years ago to pay a fortune to live in a community with good schools. This is an interesting topic, and even more complicated when you note the connection between home prices and apparent (note word choice) quality of local schools. In many ways, that's the biggest tax of all, isn't it?

By Massdad (Massdad) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:35 pm: Edit


It's an interesting debate whether things like sports should be core parts of an education. Certainly, others have argued that athletics and the arts are just as important. Not everyone agrees, but if one looks at the practice of elite schools, though, I think we see the answer: It's the MOST important part. Their athletes have the easiest time getting in, and are treated like royalty once accepted.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:36 pm: Edit

Marite, in CA we can vote for a tax, by town, to put extra money into the schools. It requires a 2/3 majority to win. In most towns around here, only about 7% of residents have school aged kids. For years, many of these measures were defeated in all but the most enlightened towns. Palo Alto, the highly educated community asking for this money, does already have money coming from school bonds. The problems, however, are getting worse by the day and for taxes to address the problem would mean a change in property taxes, such as eliminating prop 13. Hard to imagine that happening.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:41 pm: Edit

I have to disagree. Many truly elite schools make competitive sports a minor part of the education they provide, do not offer athletic scholarships, and do not give preference to athletes.... MIT, CalTech, Sarah Lawrence, Bryn Mawr, Smith, Reed...

Oh, wait, you mean the Ivies? Well, I guess. But how many more students would be accepted from the same schools if academics were emphasized instead?

For example, the Bellevue (WA) school district has one high school that offers NO competitive teams (although some students compete on teams at other schools). Is it just coincidence that that school has the highest SAT average for its graduating class--not just in the district, but in the state?

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:48 pm: Edit


Thanks for the info. It's rather mind-boggling that this is happening in Palo Alto. What likelihood do you think there is of actually getting the $475 per child that is being asked? I assume as well that this is not a one-off problem and that it will occur again, forcing the district to issue similar appeals.

I also want to echo Massdad. For years, Massachusetts was derided as Taxachusetts but the reality is that taxes are actually lower than in many parts of the country. Of course, property prices are quite high, so districts can raise quite a bit of money without breaking Prop 2 1/2 (our version of Prop 13). A look at school financing will show that MA school districts per student expenditures are well above the national average.

By Mstee (Mstee) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:50 pm: Edit

I would pay the fee, if it meant that some things could be offered at our middle school that aren't-- such as chorus and a foreign language. But our district (in CA) has a large low income population and sizeable English as a second language population, and I doubt that such a request would get much of a response here. The middle school PTA, which asks for a $20 donation, gets around 100 members. Not talking major bucks here!-- Which is part of the reason our district hasn't tried that approach, I guess. There are a few requests here and there for money, e.g., $20 for art supplies if you take art at high school and such. Some neighboring, more affluent districts ask for a $200 donation and I believe that in one district it pays for a computer lab and science curriculum in the elementary schools there. Anyway, these types of donations can do a lot in districts with the type of populations that can afford to pay them. Not a solution for the low-income areas, though.

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 02:59 pm: Edit

I live in a town with relatively high property taxes and good schools. (I moved here from CA.) Even as a parent, I sometimes raise my eyebrows at things the district spends money on. I can only imagine how older residents on fixed incomes feel as our taxes go up 5-10% year after year. I can see some justification for a "user's tax".

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 03:15 pm: Edit

I think Palo Alto will get a high percentage of families willing to make the donation, but I think it would be a low percentage in most other towns. PA being highly educated, highly liberal and filled with intelligent parents who believe in public education, is unusual. There are several wealthier towns surrounding it. They would have a harder time getting the money because so many have left the public schools in those towns. The poorer communities clearly bristle at being asked for money. And I have to hand it to Palo Alto, they have maintained reasonable quality in their schools while CA schools in general have been on one long downhill slide.

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 03:19 pm: Edit

Our local k-8 school has a "friends of the schools" committee that raises $40,000-$50,000 a year through various fund raising events. For a small district, it makes a big difference, allowing us to keep art classes in the schools, for instance, and make modest updates to classrooms.

However, the school district itself also holds fund raisers throughout the year --- the kids are asked to go out and sell things like magazines, wrapping paper and candy. This in a rural area where we don't really have neighbors to go door to door. I usually end up buying way more stuff than I could ever use just to meet the minimums the kids are asked to sell. I'd much rather just give the same dollar amount to the school itself in cash so they could use the whole amount.

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 03:45 pm: Edit

Our former k-8 school also has a "friends of" committee that is specific to that school (some others in the district have a similar committee but not all do). Contributions are tax deductible. The big fieldtrip to DC has its own fundraising committee. The general committee holds a silent auction at Arts night featuring anything from cakes to catered meals to services (e.g. an hour's worth of an architect's consultation); it also has some fund-raising dinners which I used to like to attend in order to meet other families. Last year, the school (with 450 students) raised something in the order of $10+k. Last spring, it also published a cookbook featuring recipes from around the world provided by families in the school. It sounds like another community-building activity, not just a fund-raising one. In the spring, there is a book swap. Some of the books go to the school's library or to individual classrooms, but others are picked up by families (lots of mysteries get recycled this way). There is nothing like that at the high school and I rather miss it.

By 1moremom (1moremom) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 04:14 pm: Edit

Carolyn, a friend of mine actually did write a check to her PTA and said she would rather not participate in their fundraisers. They were more than happy with that.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 04:28 pm: Edit

We had an interesting fundraising controversy here not long ago. It seems some parents at one of the "poorer" elementary schools pushed to have all fundraising banned. Why? They said that their school's parents could not afford to raise as much money as other schools in the town, that this was unfair to their kids, so ban it for everyone. PC gone to an extreme? The town did not buy the argument, so the "huge" disparity cintinues.

By Txtaximom (Txtaximom) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 05:26 pm: Edit

Massdad--when we lived in IL there was the same fundraising controversy. Of course there was quite a disparity, with several schools generating over 40K per year, and others less than 2K. The main problem was the overall shortchanging of the schools, however. Fundraisers were used to buy reams of paper, copy machines, etc...things the district should have bought in ample supply for each school.

About the property tax funding in TX, there are now over 200 schools that have filed against the state over "Robin Hood" funding legislation enacted in the 1990s. Between property tax caps and the "rich" districts having to give to the "poor" districts, neither the property rich or poor districts can fund their schools. I don't know how many special legislative sessions have side-stepped this problem. According to the TX Attn. General it is constitutional. Perhaps. But it isn't getting the job done.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 05:52 pm: Edit

CA goes out of it's way to keep things level. We are equaliztion of funding which limits the wealthiest school districts from spending much more per pupil than the poorest, and even when private money is raised it's for the district as a whole, so the schools in less affluent areas get a full share. However, parents always seem to find way around the rules. When my son was in an affluent public school here that could not afford picture books (so instead gave Xeroxed copies!) I was guilty of getting parents together to directly buy what the teachers needed. I'm rooting for PA getting the money, too many people like myself just gave up on CA public schools and maybe we didn't need to.

By Lefthandofdog (Lefthandofdog) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 06:12 pm: Edit

Regarding the proposal to move all extra curriculars out of the schools (or to have universal participation): I think it would be a sad, sad day when kids who excel in music or sports are kept from participating in groups with try outs or auditions (and meeting a set standard) because they aren't open to everyone. We already limit access to academic courses (honors, AP, etc.) I understand that a system that is stressed financially has to consider that the first role of schools is academic. I sometimes wonder though if that means a public education will always be inferior. I know a lot of parents on this board have the chance to send their kids to privates and participate in many e.c.s but we can't really want public schools to be nothing more than "readin', writin' & 'rithmetic". Students who put in years of practice on an instrument should have the chance to perform in elite musical groups in public schools (likewise for athletes & other artists). If you look at the average spent per child in a public school, and think of it as a menu, some kids use the resources of reading or math remediation, some kids get one-on-one aids in classrooms due to their needs, and some kids make use of music or coaching staffs. Too bad we don't recognize talent (academic, artistic or athletic) as a need - those students need to be nurtured, resources spent on them and society will reap the rewards.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 06:26 pm: Edit

I couldn't agree more lefthandofdog. I have two kids on the opposit ends of the spectrum in terms of strengths. To me, public school should allow them both to shine. Music and sports have every bit as much reason for being as AP classes IMHO. That said, I am glad that I have had the option to pay for specific types of education in private schools when it met my children's needs. But to me, public schools are there to serve the full range that exists in society.

By Mini (Mini) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 07:11 pm: Edit

I'd eliminate the AP classes all together and let the inmates out at the end of 10th, if they're ready. Or reserve 11th and 12th for sports and music and sex. (for the majority of kids, they are anyway.) And I wouldn't let them in until they are at least age 7 -- this would, however, put a real dent in the pharmaceutical and furniture industries.

Why have advanced placement when you could actually have the real thing?

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 07:14 pm: Edit

Why not open honors and AP to anyone who wants to try? In many school districts, that's the rule anyway.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 07:15 pm: Edit

Mini- HOORAY! esp pharmaceutical LOL

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 07:35 pm: Edit

In CA, AP classes are open to all. I thought this was the case in the whole country. No? It's the honors classes beneath them that require certain grades!

By Dstark (Dstark) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 07:54 pm: Edit

AP classes are not open for all at my son's school. I doubt that is a unique case. Many people are taking college classes instead of AP classes. I personally think that is the way to go if possible. You learn the material at a college and at a faster pace. You don't have to study for an AP test.
I must be the only person on this BB that was and is in favor of Prop 13.
I don't think anybody should lose his house because of rising property taxes.
I actually think it is more fair to tax property based on what home owners actually paid for their property rather than what the neightbors paid.
I also have a hard time telling some 70 year old person that you have to leave so we can educate this 10 year old person.
I am in favor of donations, rebates from stores that go to the schools, regattas, higher property taxes if voted for locally, and that has protection for home owners that just can't pay the increase.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 09:27 pm: Edit

I don't think anyone doubts that there were real reasons for Prop 13, people would have really lost their homes in great numbers. But when Prop 13 was passed, CA led the country in public education and today we trail the vast majority of the country. What would you do?

By Dstark (Dstark) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 09:54 pm: Edit

What is the population growth of Cal in the last twenty years?
Money received from property taxes has risen 5% a year since prop 13 has passed if I remember right.
I don't have the info to make policy. But I am not taking anybody's home away.
I have a feeling between state income taxes, prop taxes, sales taxes, and every other fee and tax, the revenue coming into the state has not been the been the problem. Poor government is the problem.
The state made a ton of money during the nineties. They spent it all plus more.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 10:07 pm: Edit

I had this discussion today with a group of friends over lunch, all but me native Californians. I asked if they understood how low out property taxes were compared to most of the country. Even those that just bought. The answer was no. There is no way that homes would appreciate here at the rate they do if property taxes were not so low. I lived in a much better house in what is considered a super expensive part of Westchester NY than the CA house I live in valued at more than twice as much. The taxes on the house in NY were multiples of what I pay in CA and the difference between the schools is vast. Whoever it was above that said the true tax in CA is on house price gets the medal, but little (a tax on newly constructed homes only) filters down to the schools. It's a huge problem.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 10:18 pm: Edit

I agree that if you change the prop tax system and raise prop taxes real estate will not appreciate as much.
Prices may even plummet, putting banks and whoever owns the loans at risk. This will permeate throughout the economy.
This will lead to lower revenues from the prop tax rise than the politicians project.
But the politicians will spend the projected revenue and then find out the money didn't come in. This will put us back where we started...revenue less than expenses. Big deficits.
We are not going to solve any problems until we change the way government works.
We have high state income taxes and sales taxes.
I don't know why we have to have high real estate taxes too.
Does NY have any protection for home owners who have lived in their houses for many years, or does everything get reassessed and everyone pays the same rates?

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 10:29 pm: Edit

From what I understand, it is only CA that pays proprety taxes depending on purchase price. In NY, annual appraisals are the fact.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 10:41 pm: Edit

Dstark, there are other ways to avoid the problems you mention, such as exemptions for seniors, or even outright caps. Other localities limit the rate of growth of taxes. In MA for instance, the overall revenue growth rate for property taxes cannot exceed 2.5% for existing property. So we face the curious situation where our gross tax payments each year rise slightly as our tax rate declines dramatically as our assessment goes up.

Tax experts fault prop 13 for its huge tax disparities, where neighbors in the same neighborhood may pay hugely different amounts. Economically, its just unsound.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 10:49 pm: Edit

Massdad, how does it work?
Give me an example, is it like this... somebody that bought his house twenty years ago for 100,000 paid 1,000 in taxes. Now somebody pays 500,000 for a similar house next door. The guy who paid 100,000 can only be raised 2.5% a year so he now pays around 1,600 (I'm estimating).
So now the guy who pays $500,000 can only be charged 1600 a year?
Am I close? Is that the concept?

By Massdad (Massdad) on Friday, August 13, 2004 - 11:20 pm: Edit

Dstark, pretty close. Actually, right on!

Our house has just about doubled in price since we bought 7 years ago. Our taxes have not changed. Our tax rate has gone way down.

Essentially what it means is that our local government cannot just ride the rising tide of property value. If they want to spend more, they must ask for an override. Some we've approved. Some we've rejected. Outside our town, most get rejected.

I lived in CA during the prop 13 revolt. It was, to a great extent, a result of local government keeping a tax rate constant as inflation and market pressures took home prices up dramatically. I've always wondered how local government got away with it pre prop 13?

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:11 am: Edit

Massdad, I would prefer the Mass system. I don't know if it is because of incompetence, immigration or what, but we can't.
Mass prop tax revenues go up 2.5% a year and Mass has a great reputation in education.
If our prop taxes went up 2.5% a year we would be in so much trouble we wouldn't even have an educational system.
Our prop tax system did not generate 2.5% increases. We generated 5% increases. It still is not enough.
To copy Mass. we couldn't have a 2.5% cap. We would have to have a cap over 5% a year.
In the example I used you end up paying 1600 a year.
Using the Cal system we would generate on average $2400 a year. And yet we still don't have enough money.
So our alternative isn't between the Mass system and the Cal system.
We are out of control.
Therefore, I prefer the system where you base what you pay on what you paid for your house. Otherwise, all but the very rich would live here.
There aren't enough rich people.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:29 am: Edit

Just curious... is the problem the amount of money available to the Public Schools, or is the problem the way the money is allocated? Do federal requirements for specific educational programming, for example, overwhelm the budgets such that arts, sports, etc, are the targets of cutback- or is this more a philosophical issue as to whether these programs should be "publicly funded" at the elite HS level? And should these decisions be made at a federal level or should there be more local input? Should the mission of public education be to meet all needs at an optimal level or a sufficient level?


By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:40 am: Edit

All of the above. Testing has become a huge budgetary drain. With the passing of NCLB, high stakes tests have become mandatory, so districts cannot avoid holding them. While the federal government is spending more money on education than ever before, the cost of mandated testing is not fully funded. Special education is also an expense that districts must cover, though the quality of services varies enormously.
Sports are also a large expenditure and in fact, are less vulnerable to cost-cutting measures than music and the arts. As well, districts and whole states are facing new demographic challenges. In our district, for example, there are 27 languages spoken; it's far harder to address the needs of all the students than in district with an equally large minority population but fewer languages.
That's not to say that districts spend wisely. Our seems to have a really top-heavy adminsitration and spends a huge amount per child.
MA has largely ignored the needs of the gifted students. The paltry allocation (less than $500,000) was cut from this year's budget. Not having gifted ed may not be such a bad thing. But it shoes that the state has different priorities than supporting high achieving students.

By Mini (Mini) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:49 am: Edit

Quite appropo -- here's the doctoral dissertation upon which my friend's book is based. Some of you might find it as "aweful" as I do:

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:59 am: Edit

As you said on another thread, Marite, everything in education is cyclical. I guess that those whose child is benefited by the priorities of the moment in time aren't complaining and Mini's citation (title alone) is fightening, no matter the cycle!

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:02 am: Edit

Oh my, what can I say. Thanks Mini, this will be passed on to many.

By Mini (Mini) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:13 am: Edit

Here's the link for the popularized verseion:

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 08:48 am: Edit

Mini, I will take time to read this.

By Lefthandofdog (Lefthandofdog) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 09:16 am: Edit

I live in NY state and know that it's possible to receive relief from the school portion of your real estate taxes if you are either a veteran (don't think you had to be in combat, but I'm not sure about that) or are over a certain age and below certain income (not sure of numbers). I don't know if these programs are specific to my area or statewide. There's also something called "STARS" where you simply had to sign up to get relief on the education portion of your tax bill. I called our school when this program was announced a few years back to see if our school would suffer if we opted in (there are no income, age or any other requirements; you simply have to be a homeowner. There are bigger STAR discounts given to seniors, though). I was told the amount of money a school received from state and local sources would remain the same. I asked if this was "political sleight of hand" and was basically told it was. Does anyone out there have experience in the state that decided to fund schools through income taxes (Minn. or Michigan, I think). Also, I remember an outcry when Vermont decided to equalize funding, essentially requiring towns w/ high tax base (resort areas, for ex.) to subsidize poorer areas. The author John Irving was trashed in the media for referring indelicately to his lower-income neighbors. How have things worked out in Vermont?
It occurred to me, in thinking about the "menu" of programs a public school offers, that it is the "talented" group of students that are, in effect, subsidizing things like speech pathology and reading and math specialists, etc. in our schools. If all the kids who take classes without accomodation or help of any kind (using only the resources of the class room teacher, librarian, science or language lab facilities, and a portion of the administration) were to leave the public schools, the cost to educate the remaining children would be much higher than what we're seeing today. In my area, we spend an average of about $12,000 per year per child (the high end, nationally). In a kindergarten classroom with one certified teacher, one certified special ed. teacher and one full-time teachers aid and an enrollment of 18, I can see where the money is being spent (that describes what we call an inclusion class - kids who previously were segregated into a special ed. classroom and now mainstreamed in most cases, with support in the classroom.) When you look at an honors section of a high school class (Eng. or soc. studies) with one teacher and no labs, etc. you see where the money is being saved.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:07 am: Edit


I believe your property tax burden in CA is quite a bit lower than ours here, directly due to prop 13. No one in CA will pay more than 1% for property taxes. We can pay more here. The difference is that here, everyone contributes equally, based on home value. In CA, that's not true, and in aging communities, where no one has moved for years, it really hurts the town.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:10 am: Edit

What is the property tax on a $500,000 home in Mass?

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:18 am: Edit

Massdad, Cal income tax top rate is 9.3% against Mass 5.3%.
Our sales tax rate is 7.25 vs 5%.
I don't think anybody should just look at real estate taxes and not look at the other two big taxes in the state.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:35 am: Edit


Each town assesses differently, I believe. Cambridge, MA:
$190,676 residential exemption
Assessment at 100% of full and fair market value (in other words, if my neighbor sells his house for more money, my assessment goes up).

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:47 am: Edit

So in Cambridge, a 500,000 house is taxed like this ...
500,000-190,000 (I'm rounding off)= 310,000.
310,000 X .763 =2,365.
prop tax is 2,365.
Is this right?

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:51 am: Edit

It sounds about right. But there are not a whole lot of houses that can be bought for that price any more.

By Simba (Simba) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:59 am: Edit

Move to Houston. For 500,000 you can live in a lake front mansion. Of course your property taxes would be higher. I thin the total tax bill in Houston would be about 2.5%. But no state taxes.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:01 pm: Edit

OK, for some people in Cal the prop tax burden is lower. For many higher.
Massdad, if Cal could live with increases of 2.5% a year, I might be in favor of switching. Since Cal can't live with 5% increases a year, I don't think it is likely.
Mass prop tax reform was what... Prop 2 1/2?
Ours would have to be prop 6?
Forget it.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:02 pm: Edit

Simba, yeah but you would have to live in Houston.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:13 pm: Edit

Marite, if your neighbor sells his house for a bundle, your assessment might go up, but your tax rate would go down. Actually, it is more complicated than that. One sale does not have any impact on assessments. It is the trend from multiple sales in a community. I acually spoke to a Brookline assessor on this topic Friday.


What CA has done is shift the burden of financing local government from local revenues, property tax, to state revenues, income and sales tax. On top of this, your overall burden is higher. Why, I do not know, as we are not suffering from the lower state wide revenue, although some would argue that we've starved public higher ed for generations here.

To me, the downside of state revenue financing local expenditures is a loss of local control. And yet, it is curious that here in MA, local government only has such powers as are specifically granted by the legislature. Your town wants to change its employee retirement plan? Takes an act in the legislature. Yet revenue and spending decisions are largely local. Go figure.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:13 pm: Edit

it sounds like Cambridge is cheaper than Seattle at least for property taxes our taxes for a $325 assessed value house are $3,400 with 8.9% sales tax. We don't have state income tax however, it had been talked about since sales tax can't be deducted from federal and state can, but never more than talk.

Housing is doubling in price about every ten years, we paid $72,000 for our house 20 years ago now we have real estate agents knocking on our door to buy it for $300,000, and the assessment will keep going up as long as former CA residents keep buying up property and paying the full asking price and more.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:23 pm: Edit

Massdad, I agree that we have lost local control and that is a very bad thing.
After 20 years of prop 2 1/2, CA prop taxes are higher than Mass. Some do pay lower in Ca, but overall are prop taxes are higher. Remember, even the people that have lived in their homes for 25 years have seen their prop taxes go up at least 2% a year, not much lower than Massachusettes' 2 1/2%.
So we pay higher income, sales taxes and real estate taxes than Mass.
We still have huge financial problems.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 12:35 pm: Edit

Emeraldkity4,how much of that 8.9% is a local sales tax? I thought the sales tax in Washington was 6.5%. Is there a lid on how high prop taxes can go in Washington? Or can us Californians just come into Wa and wreck havoc?

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:09 pm: Edit

I think most Washingtonians would say Californians have already done the damage. As would people in Oregon and Navada! So here's a question Dstark, as you seem OK with Prop 13. What if people paid the State fair back taxes upon sale of the home or death of all owners? Anyone who has owned a CA home since 1978 made a mint.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:12 pm: Edit

Mom101, I disagree with your premise that anyone who has owned a home since 1978 has made a mint and therefore should somehow pay higher property taxes sometime.
Do you want to lower the tax burden on people who have bought homes recently and raise them for people who have owned them for 25 years? Or do you want to raise everybody up?

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:25 pm: Edit

you're right the state sales tax is 6.5% but I think just about everywhere local sales taxes have added a bit to that.

The state sales-tax rate has been 6.5 percent for nearly two decades. But as local governments have grown more reliant on sales taxes, the average local rate (which is added to the state rate) has risen from 1.235 percent to 1.889 percent over that same period.

Since education funding is not adequate and since the legislature is not willing to do anything about it, this fall a new measure will be on the ballot to raise 1% for schools which will bump the sales tax in Seattle and other King county cities to 9.8%
The latte tax didn't pass though last fall, which would have raised money for early childhood education, but maybe voters will see this as moore equitable

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:28 pm: Edit

No, I think property taxes are too low for all in CA. My thought is that upon "exiting" the property, back taxes based on what everyone e;se was paying (the equitable system used in most States) would be owed.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:29 pm: Edit

And how could you have owned a home in this State since 1978 and not made considerable money?

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:32 pm: Edit

Mom101, so you are only a financial conservative when it comes to income tax rates?
OK, how would you figure out the taxes owed?
Emeraldkity4, the sales tax is a regressive tax that hits the poor harder. The income tax is a progressive tax. Funny how progressive taxes keep going lower and regressive taxes keep going higher.
I would be very tempted to vote no.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:33 pm: Edit


You can only make money on a house if you sell it. If you live in a house that has appreciated in value but your income has not grown by much, higher property taxes based on increased value will cause hardship. If you sell your house at the higher price and try to purchase another property, chances are you would have to scale down considerably to buy the new house and still make "considerable money" since every house must have appreciated in value like your own.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:34 pm: Edit

I'm no economist, but here's how it works in my mind. We pay property taxes here closer to what I paid in NY, where my school district spent $18K per kid as opposed to the $4K spent here. With those taxes, home appreciation won't be what it is here, resulting in lower home prices. It's shifting the money to schools now as opposed to someone's inheritence later.

By Mattman (Mattman) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:35 pm: Edit

When I was in high school band and we didn't go on a trip that year (such as to Hawaii), the band budget was around $1200. Our sales tax rate in Tennessee is around 9.75% too. If you want good things like police, schooling, or road improvements, someone has to pay for it.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:39 pm: Edit

Dstark, everyone should pay their fair share of taxes IMHO. Along with the financially challenged who got to keep their homes as a result of Prop 13, there are scores of people in towns like my own who giggle all the way to Paris at what they pay in taxes on their multi million dollar homes!

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:45 pm: Edit

I agree totally with Marite. That is why we have prop 13.
I keep hearing our prop taxes are low.
They are not low.
You can spend $4,000 a kid compared to $18,000 a kid and still have high property taxes. It depends on the number of kids you support. You are comparing apples and oranges when you are looking at how much we spend per kid and then stating our prop taxes are too low.
If we taxed everything 100% we wouldn't have enough money to do all the things we want.
We have to prioritize.
I am not kicking anybody out of homes.
Property taxes have risen across the state even in the last 5 years.
Capital gains taxes have plummeted.
We need to find a better way to match revenues with expenses in this state.

Why hasn't a 5% increase in property taxes a year not been enough to keep the schools going?

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:51 pm: Edit

Mom101, you can't take what is going on in your small community and project it across the state.
As for the people living in multi million dollar homes, raise their income taxes.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 01:59 pm: Edit

But Dstark, the people in my town paying almost nothing in property tax because they've owned the homes since '78 are old. They made their money a long time ago and don't pay income tax either! This is when I wish I understood more about economics. I'm not saying I have the answer but I know there is a fatal flaw in what we've done here. I have this stark comparison of school districts--the unbelievable difference between those in Westchester NY and the ones here. Very similar demographics. Home prices lower (people spending much lower % of net worth on home), property taxes higher, schools work.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 02:07 pm: Edit

Mom101, if these people aren't paying much in income tax, they aren't making much income right?
You can not make policies in Cal based on Woodside, Atherton, Belvedere, Tiburon.
Westchester NY is not the same as these towns in CA. We have huge immigration in Ca that NY doesn't have. California has problems that NY doesn't have.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 02:11 pm: Edit

I have a friend that is actually dealing with these issues with the state.
He doesn't have a magic answer.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 02:15 pm: Edit

There are many people in CA making no income and paying incredibly low taxes with very high net worths. Do you really think Prop 13, across the board, was a good answer?

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 02:18 pm: Edit

In Washington and especially the Seattle area it cracks me up that proponents of new taxes always cite that the increase will always be $_. per for a $100,000 home. They never remind people how much they are already paying per $100,000 as I don't think you could find a $290,000 home let alone one for $100K Our home which is 100 years old in an industrial neighborhood and less than 1000 sq feet is assessed at $325,000. If we did anything to it ,like we are thinking to increase living space, it could easily be worth $500,000.
I dread retirement, as the property value will be increasing while our income is decreasing.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 02:19 pm: Edit

I keep saying the same thing.
I do.
Prop 13 is not the problem.
It is a smoke screen to cover the real problem. The state spends more than it makes.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 02:24 pm: Edit

I hardly know the economic behind why CA is in the mess we are in, but I don't think any economist opinion I've read thinks that Prop 13 was not a mistake. But it's one we will clearly live with and may your friend find some answers! A whole generation of kids in the State have been ripped off incredibly by our schools. I just don't understand how we let it happen!

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 02:33 pm: Edit

Emeraldkity4, thanks for the link.
I will read it more thoroughly later, but breezing through I see that Washington has the same problem we have in Cal...the state spends more than it makes.
I see that there have been many revolts against increases in property taxes in that state.
Do you think the latest passage of laws restricting property tax increases is going to lessen the chance of people being forced to move?

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 03:41 pm: Edit

Eh, Tim Eyman is such a a$$. I don't see people being forced to move if they still have jobs.
There is also cost reduction factors if you are over 65 or disabled. Many of my neighbors are elderly and on limited income, but the only ones that have moved have done so cause they want to be closer to family.
I do know people who are moving out of state to find work, but not anyone who is having to move because they can't pay property taxes. What they are doing is petitioning increases in assessments, and defering needed maintainance on their homes to save money. Of course that doesn't lower property taxes any cause they never come out to see what the property actually looks like, they just look at the computer that says what houses in area are going for. We are refinancing our house so that we can have funds to do some upgrades but I beleive that there is a process so that your property taxes won't be increased if you do so.

By Momto2 (Momto2) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 04:06 pm: Edit

Let me give you a crazy example in Califoria. I know someone well who bought a house 25 years ago for $70K. It was built before 1920 and is not in perfect condition. It is a nice modest home of about 1600 ft2 with 3 bedrooms and 1 & 3/4 baths. No attic, 10 X 10 leaky basement, no garage, no driveway even on a lot probably less than 1/4 acre.

The housing market is crazy though and the house next door just went for $950,000 and it needs major work - new foundation, new roof etc. It seems reasonable that this little 1600 ft2 house is worth about the same.

The person who bought the house for $70K could never ever afford to buy in this neighborhood again. Their income could not come anywhere close to purchasing here. Maybe there is a lot of equity in the house, but it is not really usable. You can't take out a loan on the house when you have no way of paying it. (Also there are no cheap houses they could move to nearby - all have gone up in price something crazy.)

What do you propose for these folks? That their taxes be the same as the house that sold for a million? They could never afford it and would have to move out of the area and their home of many years.

I agree prop 13 was NOT the answer, but neither is expecting someone who happens to live in a house there the value has gone through the roof to pay taxes on something worth a million now. Unless you are living in an area where this has happened you probably just don't get what this is like. They can't even consider moving to a different house in the area. The prices are insane. Moving to a smaller house would be even more expensive than staying put.

By the way I think they would be willing to pay that extra fee for the public school.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 04:17 pm: Edit

Momto, what is the answer?
Emeraldkity, read your link.
I agree with Bill Gates Sr, lower sales and property tax rates, have an income tax rate.
Ore gon has a personal property tax for business and Washinton has a BO tax which is like a value added tax.

By Mini (Mini) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 05:03 pm: Edit

First of all, and I'm going to take on the most extreme example I can think of, which is the one above: if the person who purchased a house for $70k which is now worth $1 million were taxed at the new rate, they would NOT have to move out of their house. On the contrary, they have $1 million in equity, and an untaxed 1400% profit on an investment of $70k. Duh - that's exactly what reverse mortgages were designed for.

The problem is not that they couldn't afford the new taxes. They could - and relatively easily, without imperiling trips to Paris or anything. The problem is the the value of the 1400% untaxed profit is so unreasonable that no new owner would ever take it over at the rate it would be taxed at..

So -- good ol' "socialist" me says the only equitable solution is a wealth tax. Not an income tax, not a sales tax, not a property tax. A wealth tax. And the percentage it would have to be set at would be tiny, like in nano-tiny.

Fire away - I've got my Flash Gordon radiation shield up.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 05:15 pm: Edit

Mini, I am against wealth taxes. They destroy economies. They don't work. They add bureacracies.
People are buying houses all the time and paying the property tax on them. In the above example, somebody just bought an equivalent house for $950,000 and is going to pay the property tax on $950,000. It was the buyer's choice. He knows the property taxes going in and what they are going to be. If he thought the property taxes were too high, and couldn't afford it, he could have balked. But at least he knows what he is going to get into and isn't going to lose his house because of government's never ending need for more money.

By Mini (Mini) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 05:23 pm: Edit

Fair enough -- but I really don't pity the $70k purchaser of the million dollar house, and since he knows he can sell it at any time for a huge (much tax-sheltered) profit, I don't see any reason (other than a political one) that he can't be paying the taxes on it now.

I don't happen to believe wealth taxes destroy economies. In fact, I see no evidence of that, anywhere.

Government's never-endng need for more money reflects people's never-ending demand for more services, and private sector's ability to find ways out of paying their share. When Wal-Mart is relying on Medicaid to provide health insurance for its workers, we know there's a big problem.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 05:35 pm: Edit

Ok Mini, give me evidence that wealth taxes don't hurt economies.
Mini, people are always demanding and never satisfied. There is never enough money. If everything was taxed 90%, there wouldn't be enough money.
Why should someone who has saved and invested his money over the years be hit with wealth taxes while the guy next door spent all his money over the years on vacations, booze, drugs, and loose women gets a free ride?(OK I'm slightly extreme here).
Property taxes are a form of a wealth tax. Funny, after prop 13 passed, prices exploded.
In the example of the women above, why should she have to take out a reverse mortgage to keep her house? She bought the house. She paid for the house. She is going to be dead and not see the benefit of some 5 year old's education.
Now someone pays ten times higher next door and she has to get a mortgage so she can live in her own house?
I don't want to lose my house 30 years from now because someone who can afford it is going to buy a house down the street for 40 times what I paid.
What, I never get to retire?

By Mstee (Mstee) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 06:03 pm: Edit

I don't think anyone in CA wants to tax old people with very little income (or not so old people either!) out of their homes. (Well, no one reasonable, anyway!) But is it fair that two people with the same income (let's say they both make $200,000+) should pay vastly different property taxes just because one bought the house years ago and the other bought the one next door recently? One of the two is making a decent contribution to the schools and whatever other services are financed by the property tax and the other is not making much of a contribution. Depending on when they bought, one of them may be paying 10x more in property tax than the other, and yet their incomes are the same, their houses are the same, their local school is the same, etc.

As for an old person not receiving the benefit of five year old's education, so what? Does that mean that once one passes a certain age, there is no responsibility to future generations?

By Massdad (Massdad) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 06:12 pm: Edit


How is a wealth tax worse than an income tax? sales tax? property tax? I just don't see your objection.

This discussion of the 70K house now worth a million misses one key point: What affects property tax amount is the OVERALL property tax burden for a community AND how it is allocated among residents. If the overall amount a town raises has not skyrocketed, and the RELATIVE property values not changed, then it matters not what you paid many years ago relative to a neighbor that just paid a fortune. Your share would be the same. Unfortunately, this is not how prop 13 works. Instead, prop 13 creates huge disparities and, frankly allows towns to collect windfalls if large amounts of property change hands in a rising market. Worse, prop 13 actually traps elderly in housing they may no longer afford, but can't leave lest they be hit with unaffordable new property taxes.

The CA budget mess is a separate issue I don't really understand. There is no problem unique to CA. Immigrants? Look at Texas. Healthcare uninsured? Look anywhere else. Infrastructure expense? Look at any northern state, with freeze thaw damage to roads every winter and much more expensive building costs. No, CA is a very peculiar state!

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 06:19 pm: Edit

Mstee, to answer your last question, no, there is a responsiblity to future generations. But, not if you are going to lose your home.
You can always come up with situations where things are unfair under any system.
A system that tells you what property tax you are going to pay, now and into the future, when you buy a house seems more fair to me than a system where my taxes are determined by future buyers.
I do like the Mass system where everyone pays the same, but that system doesn't generate enough revenues for California's needs.
Not only does the tax system have to be fair, but it has to generate revenues.
California was swimming in money a few years ago, more money than it thought it would ever get.
What did the state do with all this money? Spent it and 25 billion more.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 06:40 pm: Edit

Interesting thoughts. Dstark, the point of Prop 13 was that people not lose their homes. As long as they can keep them, why is the idea of a reverse mortgage-like deal to pay taxes or having them paid after death offensive? Do you think it's fair that they get a tax pass and then benefit from gains with no adjustment?

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 07:11 pm: Edit

Prop 13 was also put into place to control government spending. What is this benefit with gains?
If my folks bought a house for 25,000 and it is now worth 500,000, under your system they have to take out a reverse mortgage to pay the property taxes. I can see the banks gaining, and they will need to as real estate prices plummet. Where are my parents' gains?
If we get rid of inheritance taxes I would reconsider. Inheritance taxes take care of your scenario anyway.
Not too many people on this board think property taxes should be based on the purchase price of the owner.
Mom101, what are the safeguards in place to stop the government from spending all the money raised under your system and spending more?
How do you allocate property taxes?
How much do you want to raise property taxes?
Why should we just hit people who can't afford property taxes?
Why stop there?
Why not make property taxes high enough so everybody has to go to a bank and refinance?
There are many needs in this society that need to be met.
When you tax yourself enough so you have to go to the bank, I will support my parents going to the bank.
The wealth tax... if you want lower capital markets, lower bond prices, lower real estate prices, less investment in this country, capital flight, more government in your face, than wealth taxes are for you.
If you don't have much wealth I see the appeal. If you are not interested in ever accumulating wealth, I see the appeal.
If you would like to retire using wealth you accumulated, I don't see the appeal.
If you want the government taking care of you, I see the appeal.
If you want to work the rest of your life, I see the appeal.
I don't want government taking care of me.
I don't want to work the rest of my life.
I don't want anymore government intrusion in my life.
I don't care as much about the capital markets personally, but there would be damage to the economy which I do care about.
I might personally prefer lower real estate prices, but then what happens to real estate tax revenues, then?
Wealth taxes would not just happen and everything would be great, there would be consequences.
What will happen is the government will get less income tax revenue, less capital gains, the economy won't do as well, our kids and maybe ourselves will struggle in the job market,and more, but I wrote enough.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 07:26 pm: Edit

Again, economics in not my strength, but even Warren Buffet, who believes in wealth tax, thinks Prop 13 needs to be done away with. The bottom line to me is that we allowed Prop 13 to take huge amounts of money out of our schools without figuring out a way to replace those dollars. I will be the first to agree that overspending in CA is outrageous, but I've lived in enough places to know that we are truly underspending where public schools are concerned. So people like me will have to keep trying to create wealth to pay private school tuition because we want more for our kids. It makes no sense to me that there are no "tests" in place to access the need for an individual to get a property tax break.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 07:37 pm: Edit

Mom101, the public school sysem in Cal will never be as good as the boarding schools back east. Never. We would have to increase property taxes about eight fold to get there... for every property tax payer in the state.
It pisses you off that you pay 5 or ten times the property tax compared to some of your neighbors. But the bottom line is you can afford it. You can afford a lot of things but your policies would hurt people who can't.
Warren Buffett is so wealthy he could support any tax.
That is why it is not a good idea to have people so rich and wealthy make the tax policy for everyone else.
They don't feel the effects.
Mom101, when you find a real estate tax proposal that you like, that generates enough revenue, post it. Remember, California's needs are a little different than NY's or Nebraska's.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 07:45 pm: Edit

If you read my earlier post, I stated that I think everyone in CA pays too little real estate tax. It doesn't •••• me off that people pay less, I marvel at how little I pay compared to where I lived 3 years ago. What does •••• me off is that I live in one of the most educated, sophisticated places on earth and the public schools here are abismal. It is inexcusable to me. Makes no sense. A whole generation of kids, and probably more to follow, will pay a heavy price.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 07:47 pm: Edit

Mom101, give me an example. Don't use your own, just use similar houses from the area. Give me an example of housing costs elsewhere and the property taxes there compared to here?
(I am one bad typist).

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 08:07 pm: Edit

A friend was telling me today that her house in Westchester County NY, valued at about $2 million, comes with a $58K tax bill. That bill in a CA town would be just over $20K. It's important to add that the house in Westchester would be far superior to the house in an equally affluent CA town, I'd guess that a comparable house/town would cost twice as much in CA. And while they have what they think has been wild appreciation, it's nothing compared to what we've seen here. So when you accuse me of being mad that my neighbors pay less, realize that I've made some significant money buying and selling CA real estate that I couldn't have done many other places. I don't think affluent young people are complaining on that basis. And as you point out, there are few public schools anywhere that can compare to the education I'm prepared to buy for my kids. So maybe I should just do what most of my neighbors do--pretend we don't notice. There is a public elementary school located in my town which only enrolls 1 child who lives in the town. Until recently, when the neighborhood surrounding it realized they could raise property values by investing in it after taking a big value hit when the bubble burst (and because quality private schools have become increasingly hard to get into), did anyone acknowledge the problem. I am surrounded by incredible wealth and knowledge and it has all given up on CA public schools.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 08:11 pm: Edit

The public schools pretty much bite here too but I think that is the districts and the boards fault. They spend millions on a new district building furniture land etc, when the school buildings have lead in the water and they have for decades.
They spend thousands appealing court decisions to allow assignment to schools to even the minority /white populations when it has already been proven that it doesn't change the mix more than a few %. Whites are already only 44% of district and are dispersed throughout city. Where the difference lies is in economic disparity, not racial.
Transportation costs have increased per student by $$$ in the last few years and it is one of the biggest expenses. If they put effort into improving the schools instead of busing people all over the city they could build neighborhoods, but as it is there are a handful f schools that everyone wants to go to and other schools that are half empty.

When our former supe was up for the job in the twin cities minn, I saw that they have fewer students and a bigger budget. I heard that they have even higher property taxes than we do. I don't think they have the inflated housing costs, so is it that they have just voted in high taxes?

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 08:20 pm: Edit

I'm laughing Emerald because it's all relative. We can't complain about transportation expenses because we have no school transportation and most of our school buildings are barely standing.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 08:23 pm: Edit

If we had tax bills like NY, our real estate prices would never have reached the heights they have.
After California gets its fiscal act together, than taxes should be looked at.
I went to public schools. I never saw the wealthy kids at my schools. Didn't they always go to privates? Didn't they go to boarding schools thirty years ago?
Emeraldkity4, busing sucks.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 08:28 pm: Edit

Actually Dstark, you'd be amazed at who sends their kids to public schools when good ones are available. Westchester is a great example of this. I had to ask a parent to repeat herself three time when I first moved there. She was telling me that her daughter went to private school to get away from the intense academic pressure of the local public.

By Momto2 (Momto2) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 08:44 pm: Edit

Back to the $70K house now worth about a million. No, the owner doesn't make $200K or anywhere near that. Probably about half that. They are also not near retirement age. They have a son about to start his senior year in high school and a young one not yet in elementary school.

I can see the reasoning that the neighbor's shouldn't have to pay more, however the new owners are agreeing to the outrageous taxes and can take that into account in deciding to purchase the house. The people who bought their house years ago could not have forseen a tax increase like that and planned for it.

By the way, I don't think a reverse mortgage is appropriate for people in their late 40s.

By Momto2 (Momto2) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 09:01 pm: Edit

Why was there an assumption that the people who bought the house years ago have the same income as the people who purchased the house next door recently. And assume it is around $200K? This is absolutely incorrect!

The new people must be making much much more or else they wouldn't be able to buy the house. You can't buy a million dollar house on $100K/year for a family of four in the San Francisco Bay area. (Be clear - this a real example that I see happening all around me. It is NOT fictional or a rare situation.)

By Mstee (Mstee) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 09:57 pm: Edit

Momto2--OKay, someone paying 10x property tax and with same income as the neighbor is rare. Here is what is more likely. People I know my age (40's and early 50's) are buying houses in Danville or San Ramon for about 900,000 and have incomes of about 150 to 200k. They are trading up from their starter homes in San Lorenzo/Hayward/Castro Valley that they bought for 150 to 200k 10 to 15 years ago. They are bringing maybe 300k to 400k in equity to the trade (appreciation plus having paid down the mortgage for 10 or more years). Maybe they have inherited or saved 100k cash to supplement the equity. They are taking on mortgages of 400k, more or less. They are paying double the property taxes of their neighbors with similar incomes that bought their homes in Danville, San Ramon, etc. five to seven years ago (houses have doubled in value in the last five to seven years). Same income but double the property taxes. The new people on the block are not necessarily making more money than their Danville neighbors who have been there five or more years--could be making less, even.

By Mstee (Mstee) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 10:23 pm: Edit

Anyway, don't know the answer. Don't know that more taxes would improve anything. Public schools do not seem to be a priority here in CA. Any extra tax money would probably get spent on other things. Have been here long enough and watched the school programs get cut time after time and have become cynical. Have seen the money get mismanaged by the school districts. Have seen scandal after scandal. But nothing changes. The accounting systems (if they have them) that the districts use are not accessible to the public or understandable. The public does not know where the money goes, does not trust the administrators. That's part of the problem, too. Came to light recently that SF mispent school bond money that was supposed to be used to fix buildings. That there was a sewing machine repair person on the payroll, yet the district had no machines to repair. Oakland school district was taken over by the state after going into the red 70 million dollars (or was it 30 million? Or was it 100million? Nobody seems to know exactly.) How does that happen without anyone knowing?

By Mimk6 (Mimk6) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 03:28 am: Edit

I live in CA and have written my share of fundraising letters as a parent and last year our school sent home a letter asking for help meeting a budget gap -- but we did not suggest a figure -- what we did do is say how much was being cut per pupil -- many parents took that as a cue. Our school has a huge socioeconomic range and it's not possible to find a reasonable figure for everyone and there are people who may not be able to give. But beyond that, I think it's inappropriate to state a figure. It's important that the language make it clear that it is optional even if you suggest a number (i.e. "if every family gave $100 we could make up the difference".) A lot of thought needs to be put into those kind of letters.

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 05:19 am: Edit

Sorry to join in late ....and I live on the East Coast not California.

Our elementary school PTA in a wealthy part of highly urban area asks for between 400-500 contribution per child. The money is used to subsidize school with equipment, teacher's aid, music teacher etc. We pay up without any complaint. Of course not everyone pays and that is expected. Good, no! But given the alternative ($15,000 in a private school), this is the best we can do. We also do some serious fundraising for the school to the tune of about $300,000 per year.

The correct solution would be to work to increase funding for the whole school district but this is never going to happen for many reasons. (1) The city is perpetually in a financial bind. (2) The school district is reknown for wasing money and mismanagement. (3) It is easier to work on raising money for one school than for 50 schools (afterall we will be the people paying higher taxes). (4) Even in our liberal ghetto, we leave our liberal ideologies at the door when it comes OUR children's education.

By Texdad (Texdad) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:22 pm: Edit

Well at least the people on this bbs realize the results of Republican economics.

I just wish the Republican politicians could be as honest about the effects of their policies on public education--- epecially when pushing to end inheritance taxes on estates over a couple of million or whatever the limit is.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:34 pm: Edit

Our assessment on our home went up over 30% this year, although it's not supposed to exceed that limit. Found some loophole. Rates per $100 are up at county, city, and school district. The article in the local paper this morning said that it was to keep the level of services the same. Teachers' pay is still horrendous, not enough textbooks, but the new $1.5m press box on the oldest stadium is still standing and the buildings full of administrators are still drawing their salaries. I would have described them as over-payed and under-worked, but the no child left behind has changed the under-worked to over-worked. We have to have a dedicated staff just to deal with the red tape on that. And I thought Republicans were for smaller government. The awful truth is that in our district, there would be a good number of people financially able and willing to pay the extra money if they didn't feel like it was pounding money down a rat hole.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:35 pm: Edit

Texdad, the problem is in the States, not with federal funding. Bush actually increased funding way above what Clinton had in place. CA just elected a Republican to try to fix the unbelievable overspending mess a Democratic left us in. That said, there seems to be no correlation between parties and where the best public schools exist.

By Massdad (Massdad) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:58 pm: Edit

"Bush actually increased funding way above what Clinton had in place."

This is pretty funny. An example of "new math" in action?

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 01:07 pm: Edit

So should we privitize education as so many seem to feel that the governments, either State or Fed, are mismanaging school funds?

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 01:15 pm: Edit

No, we should fix the problems.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 06:52 pm: Edit

We can't complain about transportation expenses because we have no school transportation and most of our school buildings are barely standing

I don't think they should be paying for busing. I think they should be fixing hte buildings and getting txtbooks and desks. The building that my daughter will be going to this fall was falling down when my mother attended school there a million years ago. But this is still one of the of most popular schools in the district.
We aren't going to move, as to move back to the suburbs would be more expensive than it is worth, plus we would have to live there. We may be going back to private school if this school doesn't work out which I suspect it won't.

By Mimk6 (Mimk6) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 08:40 pm: Edit

"Well at least the people on this bbs realize the results of Republican economics. "

Our problems are directly related to state, not federal, budget issues. And we've had problems with both kinds of leaders in the governor's office.

By Kluge (Kluge) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 03:25 pm: Edit

Okay, a few basic principles: Nitpicking over individual taxes - property, sales, income, is missing the point. There are valid policy reasons for adjusting the tax revenue mix between income based, consumption based, and asset value based taxes, which are worth discussing, but the bottom line is total taxes paid by the individuals, and total revenues available for government use. All the arguments over real estate property tax rates vis a vis money available for education or inapposite - there's no actual linkage there.

Next, if you all will look at the assumptions underlying your comments, you'll see a couple of things: First, you all assume the schools are doing too little with the money they have. How realistic is this? There are hundreds of school boards in California alone. Every one is pinched - no exceptions. If the issue is poor managment by the school boards, don't you think at least one or two would be doing it right? Maybe it's bite the bullet time, and we need to accept that we're just too cheap to pay what good quality public education costs - and we keep justifying it by complaining over every excess paperclip the school board buys.

Finally, the source of the problem is what I've been harping on for months (here) and was pointed out in yet another news story today: As a result of numerous complimentary governmental policies, for the past three decades the rich have been getting richer, the poor poorer, and the middle class getting fewer services and paying more for them. Schools are a service provided to all kids, rich or poor. The fiscal strangulation of the public school systems is simply another manifestation of the overall trand.

And as much as all your hearts are all in the right place, you've bought into the philosophy behind the trend, and fallen for the red herrings. You blame the governmental entity for inefficiency, which serves as a tacit justification for cutting the funding. Those who can afford to, pay "user" fees which make up for the gap. Those who can't lose out. Tax cuts are possible because funding levels are cut, and the bulk of that financial benefit goes to the richest of the rich. (See previous paragraph.)

By Dstark (Dstark) on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - 03:30 pm: Edit

Kluge, check out the Williams thread a little below this one.
I posted the link. The discussion has moved over there.

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