Property Taxes and Permanent School closures in Cupertino – We need to SAVE our schools.

Property Taxes and Permanent School closures in Cupertino - We need to SAVE our schools.

Ravi Sethi

Silicon Valley is one of the most expensive real estate in the nation, and the property taxes collected here are in tens of Billions of dollars per year. Santa Clara County is one of the wealthiest county around the Valley, and has over $551 Billion of assessed property value, with about $6B collected in property taxes per year. Only forty four percent of these taxes go towards funding our K-12 schools. Rest is consumed in the county, city, special districts, and other services, including debt payments. Cupertino is one of the high priced cities within Santa Clara County, with about 60K residents, and is home to Apple Corporation.

Despite these apparent riches, Cupertino schools are in financial trouble, and the School Board is proposing to close schools to meet a $5M annual shortfall in about $180M annual operating budget with roughly 16K students.

This is a travesty that needs serious attention, as this phenomenon will not just be limited to Cupertino – it is likely going to happen to many other cities around the Bay area. Funding for schools has often come up in state propositions, and this year it is Prop 15 that will take commercial buildings out from under the prop 13 protections and is estimated to raise $6-7Billion. Our property tax system and the government’s forever bloating expenses are a chronic problem.

For example, the annual budget of Santa Clara County is whopping $8B – 4 times that of Alameda county. Population of Santa Clara is roughly the same as that of Alameda. Four Billion, or twice the total annual budget of Alameda, is spent on employee slaries and benefits. About $660M of property tax collected in the county goes to a redevelopment trust – education is obviously less important than spending money on redevelopment!

Of the $1.5B of the property taxes that go to the county to perform its services, Cupertino contributes over $300M! How about negotiating with the county to balance the priorities such that education for Cupertino kids becomes a top priority instead of multiple other county programs? Unfortunately, our school boards have not been strong enough to renegotiate allocation formulas such that both the county and the state funding are increased to match the school operating costs in expensive areas like Cupertino. Instead, they want to take the decision they can at the local level, which is to close schools and create overcrowding. It is really shameful!

Long term solution for funding our schools need to be where the locals can have a larger control of their future. Property taxes need to be 100% controlled by the cities – not the counties! County services should be negotiated and paid for by the city’s residents per their needs. Much of the bloated county budget needs to be pared. It is feasible that we can even reduce the property tax bills with proper allocation and paring down of unnecessary and duplicated programs. Additionally, we need to have more school choices that will create competition within the school district to ensure the schools’ quality and accountability.

Today, our school system and community colleges, are not up to speed with the needs of the next-generation technology jobs. In the next century, we will see innovation in areas below:
• Artificial Intelligence
• Quantum Computing
• Advanced Manufacturing
• Robotics and
• Advanced Medicine

Quote from Ritesh Tandon, US Congressional Candidate, CA17:

“I strongly oppose the closure of any schools in my district, including Cupertino, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Fremont, Newark, and Alviso. Children are our future, and we need to invest more in children

We need to sow the educational seeds of the next-generation technology needs in high school, and at the community college level. We need to train our teachers, and help invest more in training and upgrading school/college materials. We cannot close schools, and squeeze the quality of education because of a small $5M budget shortfall. County has a lot of money and must revise its allocation to the Cupertino school district and the school board must negotiate hard with the county to future proof its allocation and expenditure formulas for schools, as education is the highest priority, not other county programs”