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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Pondering school bonds in Pleasanton and Livermore

Uploaded: Oct 25, 2022
Livermore and Pleasanton voters will both consider school bond issues next month—although with mailed ballots already in homes, they’re doing it now. Such it is for “election month.”

The two communities have different histories with school measures. Livermore has passed a couple of bonds, the latest in 2016 and also has a parcel tax that has been renewed twice.
Pleasanton voters defeated the latest bond measure two years ago, after passing the first one in years in 2016. Pleasanton voters have twice rejected parcel taxes for schools. This is a correction from the earlier version. .

For whatever reason, bonds and tax increases in Pleasanton seem to face a higher hurdle than they do six miles east. For Pleasanton, a yes vote with a 55% majority for the $395 bond measure will mean a $49 per 100,000 in assessed valuation tax increase. For an average priced home, that will mean a tax increase of $470.

In Livermore, it’s a $450 million bond so that will mean about a $350 increase for the average assessed valuation of $580,000. Livermore superintendent Chris Van Shack wrote in an email that the 2016 bond proceeds have been spent or encumbered. The new gym and athletic facilities at Livermore High that replaced a repurposed gym from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory site and its World War II heritage.

One gym at Amador Valley High, which will celebrate its centennial in 2023, dates almost back to that time, while the “new” gym opened while I was in high school there—by class reunion organizers are putting together the 55th for next year.

It’s obvious that those ancient facilities, as well as the refurbished Amador Theater, another original structure, need to be replaced. They are an embarrassment for a community that provides itself on quality facilities and services.

Some people have criticized the district for not building another elementary or k-8 school as was anticipated in the 2016 bond. That’s a prudent decision because the district has dropped 800 students in the enrollment over the last few years. If that trend continues, then it could be looking at consolidating elementary schools at some point, while if it stabilizes the existing facilities will serve the students fine.

That said, the tax hits are not insignificant, particularly for those who have purchased homes in the Covid price runup that has moderated in the last few months. For a family that purchased the median priced home at $1.5 million, the additional tax would be $735. They’re already paying $15,000 plus all of the special assessments so likely more than $20k in property taxes. On a percentage basis, it’s not a big hit.

Interestingly, Todd Utikal, the co-chair of the Measure I supporters, shared with me a chart showing the bond tax rates for four bay area counties—Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara. The highest rate, $237.90, is in the sprawling western Contra Costa district. Neighboring Dublin, which has a second comprehensive high school under construction as well as other rehabilitation and construction, ranks fourth at $196.40. Pleasanton is fifth from the bottom at $43.50, while Livermore sits at $70.60 and San Ramon Valley is at $75.

Given the household income of Pleasanton that should leave capability to pay closer to the average. I am using numbers provided by Pleasanton finance director Susan Hsieh who noted that there are many senior citizens who are living in homes they purchased 30 or 40 years ago. I know many of them in my church. The measure will increase their taxes, but thanks to Proposition 13 in 1978, they’re paying on an assessed valuation way lower than neighbors who purchased in recent years.

I had asked what portion of the city’s property tax revenue came from residential and I was surprised at the result. I had figured, with Hacienda Business Park and other business parks plus retail shopping centers in the city that commercial and retail uses would provide the majority of the property tax.

Wrong. Residential property tax receipts account for 73.4% of revenue, while commercial is 17.2%. In this case, that’s appropriate since it’s residents who use the schools.

Given the rampant inflation unleased by the Democrats in Washington D.C. and the Federal Reserve coupled with the threat of a recession as the Fed raises interest rates to try to curb inflation and the dropping housing prices because of those interest rates and it’s a tough time to ask for more taxes.

It’s also long overdue, particularly for Pleasanton, to invest significantly in the school physical plants. The $395 measure only covers about 40% of the estimated need that the district’s facilities plan outlines so it’s an important down payment.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by V, a resident of Laguna Oaks,
on Oct 25, 2022 at 2:08 pm

V is a registered user.

"Given the rampant inflation unleased by the Democrats in Washington D.C." -- I'm surprised to see that Democrats also control the 10%+ inflation seen in Europe and the rest of the world too.

Your generally good analysis in one part of the article is made weaker by a poorly thought out jab in another.

You can do better Tim.

Posted by Jake Waters, a resident of Birdland,
on Oct 25, 2022 at 7:38 pm

Jake Waters is a registered user.

“I'm surprised to see that Democrats also control the 10%+ inflation seen in Europe and the rest of the world too.
Your generally good analysis in one part of the article is made weaker by a poorly thought out jab in another." What the heck are you talking about? And just what would you want Tim to do better? Obviously your a misguided Liberal so write slowly so we can all understand.

Posted by Sally Akers, a resident of Walnut Creek,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 8:53 am

Sally Akers is a registered user.

Why don't both school districts simply employ a novel lottery game with better odds?

The CA Lottery was supposed to benefit public education but only 3% of the proceeds actually go towards the public schools systems.

Posted by Melinda Dillon, a resident of Blackhawk,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 11:17 am

Melinda Dillon is a registered user.

"Given the rampant inflation unleased by the Democrats in Washington DC..."


Posted by Kevin, a resident of Castlewood,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 3:10 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

“Given the rampant inflation unleased by the Democrats in Washington D.C."

You ruined a good objective opinion piece by adding your biased political point.

Posted by pleasantonweekly.com, a DanvilleSanRamon.com blogger,
on Oct 26, 2022 at 6:13 pm

pleasantonweekly.com is a registered user.

@Kevin -- a blog is an opinion piece.

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