Frequently Asked Questions:

What You Need To Know About Palo Alto Measure Z

How is Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) doing?

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and is well known for its deep tradition of educational excellence. Thanks to our supportive community and dedicated parents, teachers and staff, student achievement is among the top in the state and the nation. Our outstanding schools help maintain our quality of life and keep Palo Alto a desirable place to live.

What is the current condition of PAUSD classrooms and school facilities?

Thanks to the support from local voters for the Palo Alto Strong Schools Bond ten years ago, PAUSD has been able to fund many important improvements to PAUSD schools. Classrooms, science labs and student support facilities have been built or modernized at many schools. A seven-member independent citizens’ oversight committee has consistently reported that bond projects were completed on time and on budget.

What school facility improvements still remain to be completed?

When the Palo Alto Strong Schools Bond was approved ten years ago, it was only estimated to address approximately half of the facility needs identified at that time. Since that time, new projects have been identified resulting from changes in learning technology, educational curriculum and student enrollment trends. As the Strong Schools Bond upgrades are being completed, PAUSD is planning the next phase of improvements to enhance school security and upgrade classrooms and labs to meet 21st-century instructional standards.

What types of classroom and school improvements would be completed in this next phase of work?

After completing a thorough assessment of each school and receiving input from parents, teachers, staff and members of the community, PAUSD has developed a detailed list of improvements needed at each campus. Top priority projects would include ensuring schools are accessible for students with disabilities, upgrading schools to current earthquake safety standards, providing classrooms and labs for current science and technology instruction, and improving school security with up-to-date door locks, alarms and emergency communication systems.

How would the next phase of school improvements be funded?

The PAUSD Board of Education voted unanimously to place a $460 million bond measure, Measure Z, on the November 6, 2018 ballot. Palo Alto Measure Z will provide locally-controlled funding for school improvements. Bond measures are the mechanism used by all school districts to make periodic investments in school facility modernization and improvements. Limited state funding is available for school facility upgrades, and most state funding requires local matching funds. Palo Alto Measure Z will provide resources to complete the necessary improvements to keep our Palo Alto schools strong.

What projects will Palo Alto Measure Z fund?

Palo Alto Measure Z will provide funding for school improvements, including:

  • Ensuring school facilities are accessible for students with disabilities and equitable for all
  • Upgrading schools to current seismic safety standards to keep students safe in the event of an earthquake
  • Completing needed repairs at school facilities
  • Increasing school safety and security, such as fire alarms, door locks and emergency communications systems to bring security systems up to current standards
  • Providing classrooms and labs to support up-to-date science, technology, engineering and robotics instruction
  • Providing up-to-date facilities to maintain outstanding performing and visual art programs

Where can I find a listing of projects intended to be completed at each school site?

Click here to view PAUSD’s Preliminary Bond Project List, detailing the current prioritization for use of bond funds at each school site based on current project cost estimates. These preliminary priorities were developed with input from students, parents, teachers and staff at each school while also seeking to meet PAUSD’s goal of achieving an equally high standard of classrooms, labs, student support facilities and grounds across all campuses. While these preliminary priorities are designed to provide a conceptual roadmap for the execution of the next phase of school facility improvements, the plan is designed to allow sufficient flexibility to accommodate changing needs and priorities over the approximately ten-year duration of this facility improvement program. As such, before work commences on any project, specific plans and cost estimates will be presented to the Board of Education for review discussion and feedback. We expect this Preliminary Bond Project List to be revisited and updated frequently during the implementation of this facility improvement program to ensure it evolves to align with changes in student enrollment trends as well as advancements in learning technology, career technical education, instructional standards, student safety and security standards and other factors.

How much will Palo Alto Measure Z cost?

Palo Alto Measure Z will provide $460 million in locally controlled funding to repair and upgrade local schools at a cost to property owners of $39 per $100,000 of assessed value (not market value). Assessed values are based on the original purchase price of a property and are typically much lower than the market value. This helps limit the cost of Palo Alto Measure Z for homeowners who have lived their homes for many years and may be on fixed incomes.

Don’t bond measures like Measure Z result in significant interest costs?

While most school districts use 30-year bonds to fund school facility improvements, PAUSD uses shorter term bonds that last no more than 20 years in order to substantially reduce interest costs for local taxpayers. This responsible strategy to repay bonds over a shorter time horizon, combined with PAUSD’s outstanding credit rating, allow PAUSD to repair and upgrade school facilities at a lower total cost.

Are fiscal accountability protections required?

Yes, Measure Z requires strict fiscal accountability provisions, including:

  • By law, all funds must stay local and no money could be taken away by the State or go to other school districts
  • No funds may be used for administrators’ salaries, pensions or benefits
  • An independent citizens’ oversight committee is required to ensure funds are spent as voters intended

Didn’t we just pass a local ballot measure for PAUSD schools?

In 2015, local voters passed a measure to renew local parcel tax funding to protect academic programs and attract and retain qualified teachers in local schools. While the parcel tax measure can support academic programs and teachers, it does not fund our facility improvements. Similarly, by law, bond measures may only fund facility, technology and equipment needs. Each respective source of funding is dedicated to a specific use and strict accountability requirements ensure funds are only used for those purposes.

What has PAUSD done to improve financial management and avoid a repeat of recent missteps?

PAUSD has taken seriously the missteps that caused it to have budget shortfalls the previous two years. The board has brought in a new superintendent, Chief Business Official (CBO), and head of human resources chosen specifically to provide detailed management of finances, compliance and operations. PAUSD has just hired a new Chief Business Official with over 20 years of successful experience in school districts around the state and an impeccable record of fiscal management.

The bond program and its budget are managed separately from the District’s general fund, with a dedicated bond program manager, and has a 10 year track record of successful, on-budget project completion. The bond program has been a model of transparent, accountable, and responsible management, delivering over 15 individual major projects with no financial surprises.

What are PAUSD’s credit ratings and how do they impact the bond measure?

PAUSD’s credit ratings are regularly updated and the District’s record of financial management is a key criteria impacting these ratings. In May 2018, both Moody’s and Standard & Poors rated PAUSD AAA, the highest rating available to a public agency. Only seven other California school districts have achieved this highest possible rating from both agencies. A strong credit rating will allow PAUSD to secure the lowest available interest rates when selling school improvement bonds, which will decrease the cost of these bonds to local taxpayers.

How do we know the District will manage this bond money responsibly?

It is important to note that all bond measure monies are managed separately from the District’s general fund budget and are held to strict accountability protections. All spending of school improvement bond proceeds is subject to annual independent performance and financial audits. The results of these audits are presented to the public. Additionally, an independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee (COC) is required to review the use of funds and report their findings to the public to ensure funds are only used for the projects identified in the measure. Over the past ten years, annual audits and reports of the COC have consistently shown that funds from the 2008 Strong Schools Bond have been spent properly.

How is the independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee formed, and who selects the members?

By California law, a school district has 60 days from the passage of a bond measure to form the oversight committee. It must be comprised of seven volunteer members who serve a term of two years each. Composition of the committee must include representatives from the business community, a senior organization and a taxpayer organization, as well as parents with children in the District. In addition, no employee or vendor of the District can be a member of the committee.

When can I vote on Measure Z?

The Board of Education voted to place the school improvement bond measure, Measure Z, on the November 6, 2018 ballot. All registered voters within PAUSD are eligible to vote on Measure Z and it must receive support from 55% of those who vote on the measure in order to pass.

How can I register to vote or learn more about voting?

You can register to vote at www.registertovote.ca.gov. To find out more about voting in this election, please contact the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters at (408) 299-8683 or visit www.SCCVote.org.