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SRVUSD refinances bond, saves homeowners $17 million

Original post made on Jun 25, 2012

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District recently refinanced and restructured its Measure A general obligation bond, a move projected to save property owners more than $17 million in taxes.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 25, 2012, 4:18 PM

Comments (27)

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Posted by tim
a resident of Alamo
on Jun 25, 2012 at 5:19 pm

And exactly how will this save taxpayers money? Can I expect this bond to be paid off early and then the line item on my tax bill to disappear? Sorry to be a realist, but I can't imagine the SRVSD doing any taxpayers a favor. I'm glad they got the reduction in interest, but I will bet you that they will try to use that money for something else.


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Posted by Quizzical
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 26, 2012 at 6:43 am

Or, is this a way for the SRVSD to "plant the seed" for the upcoming Bond they are trying to pass come November? Paying less for the Measure A bond will make more people willing the vote "yes" in November? NOT ME... I'm a solid no.


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Posted by Ditto
a resident of Montair Elementary School
on Jun 26, 2012 at 7:50 am

You are both right on the mark. I have a few more questions. Why did SRV build a gym with 400 fewer seats? How can the SRV swimming pool, even changing its configuration, cost $3.5 million AND take well over 2 years to start? Why does each 5th grader at Montair school need their own iPad?


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Posted by tiredofthewhiners
a resident of Danville
on Jun 26, 2012 at 8:24 am

Want some cheese to go with your incessant whining, folks? If you're so knowledgable about school finance, why don't you review the district budget, line by line, and help find additional savings? Or are you just irritated because you've been asked to share the community's responsibility to educate youth, and are prepared to complain about everything without bothering to actually understand anything?


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Posted by Ihavequestions2
a resident of Danville
on Jun 26, 2012 at 8:31 am

Really?.....Tireofthewhiners... I have to agree with "Ditto"...."Why does each 5th grader at Montair school need their own iPad?" In today's economic climate, a lot of people need to cut corners. That includes the school district. Glad that you're do so well!


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Posted by dual
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 26, 2012 at 9:02 am

A resounding NO to November ballot!


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Posted by Ann
a resident of Danville
on Jun 26, 2012 at 9:06 am

OK so the district saved some money due to lower interest rates. They had no choice but to take the lower rates available in the marketplace. They make it sound like they are giving taxpayers the $17M but they are not. They will find other ways to spend it. And, last time I checked, there are 2 bonds on my property tax bill that goes to schools in the district. I wonder how much of that really goes to students and how much goes into buildings, pet projects, etc. Students learn inspite of having ipads and swimming pools. Let's get real folks.


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Posted by Douglas
a resident of Danville
on Jun 26, 2012 at 9:47 am

Good move to refinance the bonds to take advantage of a lower interest rate. It would have been helpful to understand the period over which the $17 million in savings will occur - I presume it's over the term of the new bonds, but this is not stated in the article or the district's press release. I guess it would have less dramatic effect if the amount of savings was expressed in an annual amount rather than the estimated grand total.

This article would have been all good news except for the last two paragraphs which, as others noted, make it seem as if the district is just laying more groundwork to ask for another parcel tax. I expect to see more discussion of a new parcel tax proposal once the state budget gets finalized.


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Posted by Citizen Paine
a resident of Danville
on Jun 26, 2012 at 10:02 am

LOL, Tired! Your post is a breath of fresh air in the fetid swamp of this forum.

Thanks for the insightful comment, the chuckle it gave me, and the slight restoration of my faith and ardent hope that there are sane inhabitants of this beautiful valley.


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Danville
on Jun 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

The lack of knowledge on school budgets is both discouraging and sad. The District made a decision to save the taxpayers money by taking advantage of reduced interest rates on its bonds. The cynical people who believe the District will take that savings and just spend it are dead wrong. The savings are from the property tax bills of the citizens and not from the District's budget. It is a true savings to the taxpayers. True, given the number of property owners in the Valley, the savings per house are relatively low. However, would the cynical ones on this forum have preferred the District not do it, since the per house savings are not that great? Or, would you have preferred to have the taxpayers save $17,000,000? I vote for saving the money, regardless of the amount per household.

The District is not spending General Fund money (read taxpayer money) on iPads. The vast majority of computers and iPads being used in classrooms is because of parent donations from individual parents, groups of parents, and foundations.

For those who automatically oppose a facility bond measure, they need to understand the need. Most states fund public education at huge levels compared to California. The SRVUSD gets about the same amount per child from the state as New York gave its schools in the late 1970's. When a school district in another state gets $20,000 or more per student, the District can afford to modernize, maintain and construct new schools using existing general fund revenue. California schools cannot due to the low funding levels. The updating of 25, 30 and 40 year old schools must happen with facility bond money. San Ramon Valley gets about $5,200 per student, while neighboring districts get as much as $10,500 per student in revenues per student. Most states fund schools at 300% the level of this school district. Next year, the state could cut additional support for schools and put San Ramon Valley as low as $4,700 per student. And yet, SRVUSD schools are rated some of the best in the state and nationally. Apparently for some that is not good enough.

The greatest thing one generation can give to another is the gift of education. This District has proven that it provides a high quality education in spite of being starved for money when compared to other districts within California and nationally. To also ask that schools be modernized out of the few dollars the District gets for education is impossible. So, the alternative is to either ask the taxpayeers to support facility bonds that help to keep the schools maintained, or let them fall into disrepair and fall further and further behind in terms of modern facilities, electrical systems, roofs, etc. Those who automatically oppose spending any money on schools would probably hate to live in a house built in 1915 (the opening of San Ramon Valley High) that had never been updated with electricity, indoor plumbing, etc. Schools are no different. With thousands of students using the classrooms and buildings every year, wear and tear is normal. Roofs have to be replaced, old leaky pipes need upgrading, etc. That is what a facility bond is all about.

Realtors in town tell us that the primary reason that the San Ramon Valley did not see the steep decline in property values compared to other communities in the county is the reputation and quality of the public schools. That requires investments. No one wants to pay more in taxes. However, when viewed as an investment in the future of the next generation, an investment in our own kids, and an investment that assures continued high property values in our communities, a small facility bond is a small price to pay.

I normally don't comment in these forums. However, I just couldn't let these comments pass without inserting my thoughts. I am on the school board and I am a fiscal conservative. I also support additional taxes to public agencies that have proven their abilities to use the taxpayers money wisely and effectively. By any reasonable measure, the SRVUSD had done just that. We negotiated with developers to save the taxpayers well over a billion dollars in the construction of new schools with no taxpayer funds (that includes the money to build the schools and the avoided interest payments on the bonds that were not issued). Our last facility bond money was spent to modernize dozens of school projects and the overall facility bond projects came in at or under budget and on time. The schools are ranked some of the highest in the state and nation academically, with 96% of our graduating seniors going on to colleges. By every reasonable measure, the District is meeting the needs and expectations of students, parents and taxpayers. I would expect reasonable people to support a facility bond if the District makes an appropriate case for why it is needed. I understand that some in this forum will oppose spending any money at any time for any reason on public education. However, I have faith that the reasonable majority will do what is right for the kids of this Valley. The icing on the cake will be the schools will continue to be viewed as great by those looking to move into the East Bay, and our property values will continue to be supported by the high quality reputation of our schools.

Sorry for being so long winded. Hopefully, this will help dispel some of the misconceptions and rumors.


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Posted by Beaten Down
a resident of Danville
on Jun 26, 2012 at 11:56 am

Can someone explain to me why our district gets so much less money per student than other districts in the state of CA, and why this can't be changed? And why it is impossible to remove teachers who are unsuccessful in the classroom? And why principals are not allowed to release API data as it relates to individual teachers? And why anyone who asks these questions is made out to feel like they are anti-education, anti-teacher and anti-student? Over the last 8 years I have sat on PTA Boards, Booster Boards and every other board I can find to try to figure this out. I think I've just come to the conclusion that the system is designed to protect the adults it has come to serve, and not the children. The powers that be can wait out the involved parents; they know we'll be moving on in a finite amount of time. While it's great that $17M will be saved, I know from experience that the money will be wasted one way or another. Sadly, I'm done.


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Posted by Sue
a resident of Danville
on Jun 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm

The state reimbusement per student is based on a factor assigned when SRV was classified as an agricultural area ... it hasn't been changed (though I've been told that some have tried). I think it's well beyond time for camping out on the Capitol steps in Sacramento - to have this corrected. I've been told it's "too hard to change" the factor. Squeaky wheel theory ... keep squeaking!!! Make it a priority.


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Posted by C. R. Mudgeon
a resident of Danville
on Jun 26, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I have a fairly straightforward question. The Express article said that the current property tax payment for Measure A was $44.80 per $100k of assessed valuation (per year). But the article didn't say what this was projected to be as a result of the savings. Surely an estimate was generated during the refinancing process?

It DOES stink that our district gets a lower apportioning of funds due to the allocation formula used by the state, since it is based on outmoded data. My understanding is that the state assembly and senate reps from districts that benefit from the current allocation basically have blocked any attempts to re-do the formula. In our modern era of lawsuits for anything and everything, you'd think that it would be possible for the underfunded districts to band together to file a lawsuit that would seek to re-do the state funding allocation formula.


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Posted by tim
a resident of Alamo
on Jun 26, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Greg: You obviously are knowledgeable about the topic. Why though, does the issue ALWAYS come back to money? The tone of what you write is that anyone who dare question the SRVUSD about finances need to really check themselves, because funding schools is always the best use of money. More money, more money, more money.

Without getting into anyone's politics, perhaps you should think of things a little bit less "deep". I would bet that most people would gladly fund a school district for the reasons you mention (home values and the argument of educating youth) provided that we felt that there was real transparency in the money discussion. There isn't much transparency, so we don't.

If you add up the money that has been "given" to the school district via these bond issues, it's an enormous amount of money. But I have no confidence that the district is run as efficiently as it should be. And therein lies the problem. The district is top heavy, and there is no good way to measure the value received from the money spent. It's not a one-to-one correlation of money to results. Especially since most families in this district have two college graduates heading up the family, and push their kids to achieve. Figure out a way to measure the effect of the money, and you'll have more acceptance of the money discussion.

With all due respect, the perspective that everyone who disagrees with your position is whining is pretty ignorant. There are two sides to every issue.

Just so you know, I have had a child in the SRVUSD, so I have experience with the district.


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Posted by 2cents
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 27, 2012 at 7:30 am

Need to add my two cents... I have to agree with several of the posters above. Every Montair 5th grader has to have their own iPad? Really? How about we make sure the kids can write cursive first? Does everything have to be about technology? What about the basics?

As for the Bond-- I, too, will vote no. How many bonds does the district expect us to pay for?

I have children who have been through the system. I've seen some good teachesr and some (several) really, really terrible teachers. The administration is top heavy.... Let's look at some of these things. Why work on the "outside" when the "inside" needs work...


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Posted by Treebeard
a resident of Danville
on Jun 27, 2012 at 7:49 am

Good going, Greg.

You hit the nail on the head when you noted that, "some in this forum will oppose spending any money at any time for any reason on public education."

And I know why this is true. It's because Ignorance is easy.


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Danville
on Jun 27, 2012 at 8:52 am

Greg Marvel: What efforts have you personally done to get more funding from the state for our school district, and to change the outdated formulas? You wasted thousands of OUR dollars in paying an outside firm to do market research to see if and when you should throw another parcel tax at us. You treat us parents and taxpayers as though we are the enemy whenever we challenge your constant running to us for more parcel taxes. Ever heard of a recession, unemployment, as it is affected so many of us in Danville, like everywhere else. You should have taken that money that you wasted to hire that outside firm to do market research, and hired a law firm to sue the state over the outdated formulas use to calculate state funding to our district. Until you do that, I, and many others, will NEVER vote for any more parcel taxes, period.


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Posted by tiredofthewhining
a resident of Danville
on Jun 27, 2012 at 10:34 am

"Can someone explain to me why our district gets so much less money per student than other districts in the state of CA, and why this can't be changed?"
-- This is due to Prop. 13 and the tax adjustments that were made back then to deal with it. (Not that the Jarvis-ites and Tea Partiers will admit it.) Change it? Do you want to make the pitch to the Legislature in this economy that money should be taken from schools with poor and non-English speaking kids from disadvantaged homes and given to high-performing schools in an affluent are? Or that extra tax dollars be raised to increase the amount of money we get from the State? Good luck with that.

"And why it is impossible to remove teachers who are unsuccessful in the classroom?"
--When you come up with a means of objectively identifying "unsuccessful" teachers this will be possible. In the meantime, subjective assessment and objective standards which don't correllate directly with teaching performance is all we've got. Somehow we end up with very good teachers in SRVUSD anyway.

"And why principals are not allowed to release API data as it relates to individual teachers?"
-- Because API scores are not statistically significant for groups that small. My daughter scored in the 99th% on her ACT test but missed STAR testing because she was sick. Does that mean her teachers were incompetent?

"And why anyone who asks these questions is made out to feel like they are anti-education, anti-teacher and anti-student?"
--Because the answers are readily available to anyone who is actually interested in them. Which makes people wonder why the person who asks them didn't just figure it out instead of complaining to strangers about it.

"Over the last 8 years I have sat on PTA Boards, Booster Boards and every other board I can find to try to figure this out."
--If you've really been trying to figure this out for 8 years and still have no clue as to the answers, either you haven't been trying very hard or simply don't like the answers and prefer to ignore them.

"Every Montair 5th grader has to have their own iPad? Really? How about we make sure the kids can write cursive first? Does everything have to be about technology? What about the basics?"
---Cursive? Are you serious? When was the last time you wrote in cursive? When was the last time you **saw** anything written in cursive? A thank you note from your grandmother, maybe? What next, complaining about the lack of chimneysweep training in the schools? Technology is the cursive of the 21st Century. That's why the privately-funded foundation which buys IPads for the schools does it, and God bless them.

"With all due respect, the perspective that everyone who disagrees with your position is whining is pretty ignorant. There are two sides to every issue."
--I agree with this. But sometimes, one side **is** just whining out of ignorance. And ignorant whining is on stellar display in this thread. I'm sure there's room for improvement in the SRVUSD. But you're not going to find anything helpful in the comments posted by the whiners in this thread, who complain about everything, but don't seem to have bothered to lift a finger to actually educate themselves about the things they're complaining about.

My kids all graduated years ago, but at least I bothered to look into some of the facts behind the funding and operation of the District instead of just complaining about stuff I didn't understand.


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Posted by Louie
a resident of Danville
on Jun 27, 2012 at 11:47 am

Education is a socio-political beast. I speak as a retired teacher and as a parent of children who succeeded in SRVUSD k-12. (btw: in spite of public outcry re. teacher earnings/retirement, I worked two jobs for over 30 years in order to live next door to you.)

Vote "No" on the Bond. The SRVUSD has demonstrated the inability to manage construction projects. Citing many of the egregious errors would be laughable- if not such a tragic waste of your/my money.

The expensive technology mantra chanted by the out-going Superintendent was competitive showboating. The ability to use data produced by gifted software writers is different than thinking. The primary factor in a child's ability to learn is the attitude with which that child arrives at school. (re. the contributor who mentioned cursive: Fine motor skills and the ability to repetitively practice cursive is soooo yesterday. If for no other reason, cursive and printing should be included in curriculum as an exercise in staying focused on a specific fine motor task. Kudos to those parents who provide music lessons for their children. A student who had mastered practice and concentration was ALWAYS immediately evident in my classroom.)

As teachers we were brow beaten to make our curriculum "interesting" and to encourage student "buy in." r u kding me? A nine year old will complain to parents that the teacher is mean because the curriculum isn't fun? My young friends teaching in all grade levels complain that many parents determine the quality of a teacher by the grade that teacher "gives" their child.

The quality of the district's schools will not be determined by facilities. The number of students admitted to four year colleges will not be determined by the purchase of poorly designed and executed buildings or technological toys that are outdated as soon as they are "driven off the lot." The quality of the district's schools will be determined by parental attitude toward learning versus grades. The quality of the district's schools will be determined by parental attitude toward the behavior of their children in the classroom. Send children to school who are well fed, well mannered and ready to learn. Then, your property values will remain in tact.


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Posted by Anne
a resident of Diablo
on Jun 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm

tiredofthewhining is incorrect.

Prop 13 was a STATEWIDE initiative. The question asked was specifically LOCAL. Many people using their new found technological skills scan and don't "get" the information/question. Without the ability to understand primary source information, lots of misinformation is passed off as fact. (Primary source reading is important. For example, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights were written in cursive. Frankly, I'd like to be able to read THOSE documents rather than have someone with inaccurate reading or interpretative skills tell me about the content.)

tiredofthewhining needs to go back farther than Prop 13 for primary source information.


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Posted by 2cents
a resident of San Ramon
on Jun 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Per tiredofthewhiners:

---Cursive? Are you serious? When was the last time you wrote in cursive? When was the last time you **saw** anything written in cursive? A thank you note from your grandmother, maybe? What next, complaining about the lack of chimneysweep training in the schools? Technology is the cursive of the 21st Century. That's why the privately-funded foundation which buys IPads for the schools does it, and God bless them.

...you must be very, very young...I read cursive every day! Do you want cursive to become a "dead" form? What a shame... SHAME ON YOU!


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Posted by tim
a resident of Alamo
on Jun 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

What I find very interesting is that there are some very smart people who are taxpayers in the SRVUSD, and also on this board. The fact that there is not consensus about something that you would think is as basic as food and shelter indicates to me that the SRVUSD has a problem. Perhaps it's just a perception problem, but a problem none the less.

Enough of the characterization that anyone opposed to having to spend more money is against education, a whiner, or ignorant. That's simply not true.

Think instead about why there isn't almost unanimous agreement...and then you'll start to get it. It boils down to a lack of trust that the SRVUSD demonstrates. As taxpayers, we have been generous already. Now, we want the SRVUSD to do what everyone else has done...be frugal.

There is no reason why a teacher can't teach more than 18 kids in a classroom, unless the goal is to be able to hire more teachers. Frankly, if you moved that number up to 27 kids, you'd potentially free up 33% if what is being paid out today for salaries, benefits, and the unspoken about retirement benefits.

If the SRVUSD REALLY cared about being good stewards of our money, then they would consider that suggestion, and not brand it as being the beginning of the end of civilization.


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Posted by Treebeard
a resident of Danville
on Jun 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Ridiculous! Where are you going to find consensus on any local issue?
You will never see unanimous agreement on ANYTHING dealing with education, transportation, representative government, or any other broad spectrum issue.

The fact that you want/demand/expect unanimous agreement on such issues indicates to me that you want everyone to agree WITH YOU.

Sorry to disappoint, but ain't going to happen, pal.


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Posted by Big Daddy
a resident of San Ramon Valley High School
on Jun 28, 2012 at 8:17 am

Greg/Tiredofthewhiners:
How dare those ignorant district taxpayers and parents question anything the board does? Who do they think they are? They are like me, who has donated 10's of thousands of dollars and over 1000 volunteer hours to SRVUSD schools. We have all seen the district horribly mismanage capital projects, especially at the HS level. The SRV gym and pool fiasco are only the latest example. And Greg, you didn't negotiate with the developers - they negotiated with you, because they knew if they didn't build the schools themselves the board would piss the money away on sub-standard projects that would be over budget and past deadline. And Tiredofthewhiners: you really ought to run for the board, you have the attitude for it...wait, maybe you already have?


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Posted by Louie
a resident of Danville
on Jun 28, 2012 at 10:30 am

[Tim- a teacher can handle twice the number of students- but not an increase in the number of parents. A larger part of teacher time is being consumed by parental demands(not requests) for conferences, email time, and negotiations for grades at every grade level.]

Parents who bully teachers have changed the tenor of the our much maligned profession. Younger teachers are learning to practice "defensive" teaching.

If you are a parent who doesn't "like" teachers, you REALLY should investigate options other than the traditional classroom. There are many programs available through SRVUSD and the State that will support you in taking responsibility for the learnin' of your child. Of course, that would require time and effort from YOU. And that would leave you accountable- no one else to blame. Most home school students do very well academically. Available materials are excellent.

Unfortunately, the concept of child care and academics have been blurred. If you do not think you could leave, let's say, a 14 year old at home from 8-3 to work on home school materials while you are at work, then you are asking the school to provide more than an education. You are asking for extended social services.

Teachers choose to teach. We enjoy our course content and most like young people. HOWEVER, if you don't like teachers and think they are overpaid, etc. etc. why would you hand over your truly precious child to be raised by these strangers? There ARE other options.

That's why this is a slippery socio-political slope. Teachers are required to do much more than cover course content.

Vote "NO" on capital improvement bonds. That money is about sticks and mud- structures. The district has proven an inability to manage construction for small to large jobs. Vote "NO."

My message will always be the same: Send decently behaved kids to school. (Most students will make errors in judgment that we respectfully handle- that is part of childhood development.) I mean send ETHICALLY grounded, academically motivated students with prior experience in common courtesy. Most teachers love your children and will work in physical conditions that you would not. The buildings and technologies don't matter.

The behaviors and attitudes of YOUR CHILDREN are, however, undeniable determinants of the quality of every child's classroom experience. YOU are responsible for the quality of education in this valley.



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Posted by Jack
a resident of Los Cerros Middle School
on Jun 28, 2012 at 10:43 am

tiredofthewhining- Done your homework yet? Hint: The answer predates 1978.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Danville
on Jun 29, 2012 at 2:36 pm

18 students per classroom? Not sure what universe Tim is living in. He seems to be just pulling these numbers out of his butt. Last time I checked, my elementary school child had 30 students in his classroom.


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