OUSD Measure Z Accounting - The Cost of Success
Donations have been made, campaigning is complete, and the ballots cast and counted. What did OUSD’s Measure Z cost and what has been gained?
The measure won with 5,018 yes-votes (77%) and 1,545 no votes. A total of 6,563 votes in this special March 7th election that OUSD paid a premium for.
The 5,018 yes-votes, while exceeding the 2/3 majority required, only represent 33% of the registered voters because of the low (44%) turnout. This low turnout was to be expected and was probably the reason OUSD paid a premium to hold a special election.
If the measure had been put on the November 8th general election ballot, It would have required 7,200 yes votes which is still less than 50% of the registered voters because this off-year election also had a relatively low turnout for Orinda (72%). In the general election of 2020 the turnout was 90%, twice the turnout for the special March 7 election.
The election cost the district $217,467. This is compared to the $23,000 Orinda paid for the November 2020 election for both Measure R and the City Council race combined; about $11,500 each.
An additional $206,000 for the special election. Money well spent? The new parcel tax is supposed to generate $2 million a year; $14 million over its 7 seven year life. A good return on its investment? Even considering that the Yes-on-Z PAC spent an additional $77,000 on advertising. Total cost, over $295,000; $59 for every yes-vote.
Where did the PAC’s money come from? The parents’ clubs (of all five OUSD schools plus Miramonte) donated $27,000. Did the parents who donated this money for their kids know some of it would be to fund a new tax on themselves? Only 13 individuals made donations to the PAC, totaling $6,400 ($2,000 from Steve Glazer). The Orinda Network for Education (ONE) put in $10,000 up front but the PAC ended up with $11,000 of unspent funds which it donated back to ONE, so ONE also got a good return on its “investment”. Outside interests donated a total of $12,600. The single largest source of funds, $33,000, were funds left over from the 2020 school bond campaign. $89,000 raised. $78,000 spent.
Would the parcel tax have passed if OUSD had put it on the General Election ballot and taken a chance that it could get the 2/3 majority (7,200 votes)? The 2020 bond measure, which only required a 55% majority, received a 68% yes-vote. So, the parcel tax probably could have passed in November. But OUSD took the “safe” but expensive route, spending $59 per yes vote for a positive outcome. A good lesson for the kids; you need to spend money to make money.
A further question to ask is “how was the parcel tax sold?”
The only “hard fact” in the $77,000 of ads and the MOFD Fact Sheet (see below) was the statement: “out of over 1,000 school districts in California, Orinda Union School District ranks in the bottom ten in per student funding”. Is this true?
The district’s “Measure Z Fact Sheet” contains this statement and adds that the “bottom ten” is funding from the state, not total funding. It also includes some hard numbers, most significantly that the state funding per student is only $8,500 while the state average is $10,500.
But looking at the district’s audited financial statement, a different picture emerges.
Total revenue for fiscal year ending June 30, 2022 was $41 million. That equates to $16,200 for each of OUSD’s 2,500 students. This is almost twice the $8,500 the “fact” sheet shows. How can there be such a huge discrepancy?
The $8,500 (it is actually $8,600) is what is called the LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula). This $21.5 million is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to this there is another $3.6 million from the state and $1.1 million from the federal government. Total government funding, $26.3 million; $10,500 per student. On top of this there is another $14.8 million ($5,900 per student) in “local” funding. This is made up of $9.5 million in additional property tax revenue from bonds and parcel taxes voted on in the past plus $5.3 million in “other” local funding, mostly donations from the Orinda Network for Education (ONE) and the school parents clubs.
In other words Orinda property owners are already paying $34.6 million of property taxes alone ($5,000 per household) to OUSD, combining $25.1 million from the state (returning part of the $45 of "basic" (1%) property taxes allocated to education) and $9.5 million in additional local property taxes (parcel taxes and bond payments). With the passage of Measure Z, each child receives an additional $800 a year in funding and each property owner pays an addition $300 in tax ($5,300 total). Could the parents have afforded an additional $4.40 a day?
So adding up all of these sources shows OUSD is receiving $16,200 per student, not $8,500. Is this still a horribly low amount or is it a lot for a public school? And this does not include the donations from ONE and the parents clubs directly to the five schools in the district.
What lesson does this teach the kids? That you can fool some of the people all of the time or all of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time?
Note: If you are a Senior (over 65; no income restriction) or low income, you can apply for exemption from the tax. But you have to do it before May 1 for next year. See the OUSD website for details
PAC (Orinda Community for Excellent Schools Yes on Z) Financial Statements