LASD Parcel Tax Survey Gives Green Light

LASD expected to share Nov . 2016 parcel tax with Bullis Charter School
A survey gives LASD the Green light to share the Nov. 2016 parcel tax with Bullis Charter School
Written by lalahpolitico


Last spring the  LASD Trustees commissioned a new parcel tax survey to test support for a parcel tax that would raise the existing  $193 parcel tax by $30 and include sharing the total revenue with Bullis Charter School.  By now, most readers know that the survey gave a green light to the parcel tax as revised.  However readers will want to compare and contrast the media coverage of the LASD Trustees reaction to  the “green light”.

Look  at Mountain View Voice vs. Los Altos Town Crier. The Voice article seems balanced; but the Crier headline says “Voters are receptive to tax rise”, while the article seems to say that Editor/author Bruce Barton is NOT receptive.

Legally it appears that the Los Altos School District must move towards sharing  all its parcel taxes. Legal precedents are piling up. Local Tax “Sharing” will ultimately happen here whether this parcel tax passes or not. The other larger LASD parcel tax — the $597 one —  is also likely to be shared eventually.

At the July 14 Board Meeting, where the Trustees heard the the surprising “green light” survey findings, the Trustees discussion afterwards was “great theater.” Their  belligerent anti-charter remarks and sabre-rattling must have  played well with super-minoirty of  “activist LASD parents.” The Mountain View Voice article captures the lowlights of the Trustee discussion.

You can view the July 14 meeting video on granicus. Click on item D1. Drag the playhead to time 31:15 for the start of Trustee comments on the survey results slide presentation.


Beyond the fluff above, lets look at the survey results: The Consultant TBWB did a great job of leading the District to a winning parcel tax marketing strategy. As usual a large part of their job is testing what messages will get a tax passed. Let’s take a look.

Lalahpolitico attended the Trustees meeting and heard the consultants presentation. I have selected their important slides and added annotations to aid your comprehension.

To summarize the findings of the consultant’s presentation… this is a major election where more occasional voters will be voting. [People who only vote in U.S.presidential elections]  They tend to be less informed about everything, including of course school affairs.  Therefore, going to the voters with very high level messages and placing details in the 5 page booklet is the way to insure passage of this parcel tax to pay for operational expenses for LASD and BCS.  {The District followed this high level message strategy with the 2014 Measure N, which pays for capital expenses. It passed. }

The TBWB tax consultants and EMC Research have done tax surveys and analysis for the LASD Trustees since 2010.   All these surveys have had sample sizes between ~400 to 500 respondents and margins of error around Plus-Minus 5%. This latest one had 400 respondents and was delivered in English and Chinese. It was fielded  June 10-15.

1) Need for funds? Less NEED Now after Great Recession

Now that the Great recession is over fewer likely voters believe the need for operational funds is great

Now that the Great recession is over, fewer likely voters believe their is NEED for operation funds


Around 45% see NEED today in 2015-16. But that’s down from 2010 – 2012,  when over ~60% saw NEED.

2) 47% of likely voters in Nov. have heard nothing about LASD

Likely voters this year include voters who vote only every 4 years

Likely voters this year include voters who vote only every 4 years in a presidential election. Therefore, slightly more respondents are low information voters now  (47%) than 2 years ago for the Measure N capital bond election (34%).

It is fortunate this local tax election is being held in a presidential election year.  Almost half the voters are uninformed today, whereas in 2014 only a third were uninformed. Low information helps tax passage.

3) Of Who Heard… 42% recall “school sites”; only 17% recall “conflict”

Heard about sites 42%; Conflict 17%

Heard about school sites 42%; Conflict 17%

It is great news that negative emotions about Bullis Charter School bubbled up UNAIDED among only 17% of respondents.

4) 13% hardcore NO; 79% YES on School Quality Message

Test of anti-tax sentiment for ANY REASON

This is an interesting measure of  anti-tax sentiment for ANY REASON. Only 13% hardcore NO.

A very general message about” maintaining quality of schools” is very appealing to voters.  Takeaway: Keep messages simple and high level– “Maintaining Quality of Our Schools….” That was a 79% YES.

5) Initial Support for Ballot Language is 76%, 10 percent over the 66% PASS

The survey read the ballot statement and asks how the respondent would vote.

For these results, the survey worker read the carefully crafted ballot statement and asked how the respondent would vote. The so-called Initial Support is 76%, way more than the needed 66.7% to pass.

The consultant put a lot of work into crafting this critical ballot statement. The consultant, District staff and some Trustees (?) conferred to come up with this EXACT language.  During the presentation the consultant STRESSED THAT STAYING VERY CLOSE TO THIS MESSAGE WAS KEY TO PASSAGE.

Apparently lots of voters won’t read the rest of the ballot. These voters will make their decision based on these few words.  Lalahpolitico hopes the District will not “mess with success.”

6) Republicans

Republicans offer slightly less support.

Republicans offer slightly less Initial support. Statistically Significant at plus-minus 5%.


Yes, some Republicans tend to have strong  Anti-Tax sentiment.

7) “Know nothings” have higher support

People hearing NOTHING have higher support. THerefore, tell people nothing.

People hearing NOTHING have higher support.  Lalahpolitico: Therefore, tell people nothing.

It is interesting that people who heard nothing recently, aka know nothing, are much more inclined to vote yes. And it is interesting that reading the Town Crier frequently makes no difference to Parcel Tax support. So is there no point to placing propaganda stories and paid or gratis ads in the Crier? Lalahpolitco would say it is pointless. In fact, chances of passage will increase, if the Trustees ask the Town Crier to stop covering the District till after the election!!!

8) When told the tax is a $30 increase, 68% still support it

68% support even after learning the tax would be a 15% increase.

When the survey mentions specifics that this tax is AN INCREASE, support declines but at 68% still is enough for passage.

One can hope that propaganda organs like the Los Altos Town Crier will choose NOT to stress that  the parcel tax involves a $30 increase.


9) When told additional info… messages that help or hurt

Here are the messages which help PASS the tax,

Here are the messages which help PASS the tax, and those that don’t help. The BCS message in the box is the best one.

TBWB consultants recommended using the top messages.

Looking at the numbers, it seems that starting to mention BCS stirs up emotion.  “Compelling” for a YES vote drops from 70% to 57% and lower.  Obviously the 5 page ballot will need to include a mention that Bullis Charter School is included as a beneficiary of the tax.  This is similar to the 2014 Measure N 5-page ballot that had two lines on page 3 mentioning that the monies could be used for providing BCS a school.

The most “compelling” BCS tax inclusion message is the very first, very general one in the purple box.  Therfore: Don’t remind people of so many details. Perhaps use that message verbatim in the final 5-page ballot.


10)  Of NO voters, 50% say it’s because they are Anti-Tax

Of the 89 respondents who would vote NO, 50% of them were just anti-tax. Only 22% of them were anti-charter. Therefore the consultant tested an anti-tax opposition argument.

Of the 89 respondents who would vote NO, 50% of them say it is because they are anti-tax. [Only 22% were voting No because they were anti-charter. That 22% of NOs is only 5% of the sample of 400. ] Therefore the consultant tested an anti-tax opposition argument. They had the good taste to not test a Anti-Charter argument.  Who in their right mind would organize an official NO on parcel tax campaign around an anti-charter message? They would be shamed mercilessly.

It is gratifying that only 5% of voters and probably less of the general population is so Anti-Charter that they would vote No on this parcel tax because the Bullis Charter School would get a dime from it. –Lalahpolitico

To Lalahpolitico, this means that the Trustees have been vastly OVERSTATING the size of “a certain portion of the community that has these perceptions” that the charter is full of greedy rich, it discriminates against less-privledged, it takes resources unfairly, etc.,” the usual lies.  So sorry Board Trustees, Huttlinger Alliance Alums, and CTA operatives,… but not many people are believing the mistatements any more..  Most people are paying NO ATTENTION, and when they do pay attention, they quietly spot you as extremists. They don’t overtly attack you, but in the privacy of the ballot box, they will ignore you and do the right thing.


11) After Hearing an Opposition Tax Cost Argument…YES drops to 62%

After hearing an oppostion argument that stresses total tax costs, YES support drops to 62%. It becomes necessary to woo the 4-5% undecided

After respondents hear an oppostion argument that stresses total tax costs, YES support drops to 62%. If a vigorous OPPOSITION effort emerges – it would become necessary for the SUPPORTER side  to woo the 4-5% undecided. Without the charter helping the OPPOSITION, Lalahpolitico doubts the opposition will be effective.

Lahlapolitco:  The consultants tested a “straw man” opposition that was about total tax cost.  The consultants did not create an opposition argument that was about quashing charter schools.  I suppose in their broad experience trying to pass school taxes, the anti-tax folks were the real problem during elections, not an anti-charter super-minority. And the hard-core anti-charter sentiment is a very, very low percentage of our neighbors.  5%.  They are outliers.

Lalahpolitico Takeaways from the Parcel Tax Survey

  1. Actual anti-charter sentiment is limited to 5% of voters. It’s a non-problem unless the Trustees want to fan flames for the fun of it.
  2. Don’t change the ballot statement language.
  3. Don’t remind people this is  $30 increase. Just say the tax is $223.
  4. Don’t remind people that BCS benefits.  Just say it is for all the children.
  5. The Parcel Tax Oversight Committee is a red herring. The citizens who comprise this committee are  not affiliated with the District. Their only job is to look at spending “receipts”  of the  expected $2.8 million. Spending has to be on confined to teachers salaries, books, etc. The do not look at the complete financials or enrollment documentation of LASD or BCS. Both LASD and BCS report that kind of detail to the Santa Clara County Dept. of Education.
  6. LASD should look for examples of how parcel tax sharing with charters is administered in Oakland Unified, San Francisco, Livermore Valley, Alameda Unified, West Contra Costa County. They all share with charters including even some of the “chains” like Rocketship. Don’t bore the public with the administrative details.
  7. The District should try to stay out of the news till after the election. Just do the mailings.


Next Steps

The Trustees will discuss an initial draft of the parcel tax ballot at a July 25 meeting.  It will be interesting to see if they try to “mess with the success” of the roadmap that TBWB laid out.  As the Town Crier emphasized …the Trustees have not yet voted to share with the charter or to ask for $223 or to even ask for a parcel tax .  So just like the alleged potential school site at 5150 El Camino, it’s not a done deal. However in this case, the board cannot just procrastinate, but actually has to hurry up. The District wants the parcel money.

At an August 8 meeting, the Trustees have to pass a resolution to call a tax election. The District has to deliver the entire final parcel tax ballot packet to the Registrar of Voters by August 12. Board watchers should pencil in Aug 11 for a potential meeting to see a “final” draft of the ballot.

About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past couple of years.

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