School district ups property-tax growth projections

Courtesy of LASD
The Los Altos School District hiked its property-tax growth projection for 2013-2014, exceeding expectations calculated in June (blue line) by nearly 4 percent.

Projections for property-tax growth, the Los Altos School District’s major revenue source, are rising, district officials said at a board meeting earlier this month.

Reporting numbers from the 2012-2013 district budget, Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services, said the property-tax projections for the current school year stand at 8.7 percent, a significant jump from the 5 percent growth rate estimated in June.

Kenyon said property-tax growth is based primarily on housing turnover, which boosts the assessed value of the property.

The average assessed value of local homes is $1.18 million, with 55 percent of parcels assessed lower than the average. Eighteen percent of the parcels in the district are assessed at less than $200,000. Seven years ago, 26 percent of homes were assessed at less than $200,000, and 60 percent were assessed at less than the $834,000 average.

With the growth larger than predicted and the district’s current reserve fund 5 percent higher than its target level, the district may have funds to add to its educational offerings.

“Property-tax growth is a foreseeable ongoing revenue source for funding items with an ongoing cost,” Kenyon said.

Kenyon used graphs at the Sept. 9 board meeting to illustrate the costs of restoring certain programs. The numbers showed that programs with ongoing costs become extremely difficult for the district to carry – for example, adding $500,000 a year for facilities projects.

“Ongoing commitments without assurance of ongoing revenue leads to a financial death spiral,” he said.

Kenyon said property-tax growth and projections are important moving forward, but many “moving parts” are key to determining the future of the budget.

With the unexpected revenue, Superintendent Jeff Baier asked trustees to consider the possibility of rolling out full-day kindergarten across the district. The district currently offers full-day kindergarten only at Gardner Bullis School.

Introducing a full-day program throughout district would be a one-time cost of $450,000 for additional facilities and an ongoing cost of $230,000 per year for additional staff.

“The decision on full-day kindergarten is one that as a district we need to make soon if the intent is to install it next year,” Baier said. “We begin (promoting our program at) preschools in early November.”

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