BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Palo Alto school board member Ken Dauber slammed Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian Tuesday (May 15) for “killing” Stanford’s $138 million offer to fund the school district as part of the university’s 3.5 million-square-foot expansion.
Dauber said that if the school district ends up getting less funding from Stanford, Simitian will be blamed — “and properly, in my opinion.”
Simitian, himself a former Palo Alto school board member, previously criticized the side agreement as an attempt by Stanford to manipulate the county supervisors, who are ultimately responsible for approving the university’s expansion.
Stanford’s offer was conditioned on the requirement that the county reach a development agreement with the university over dealing with the impacts of the expansion. Usually, a county development proposal is subject to scrutiny by a planning commission and final approval by the board of supervisors, who would mitigate the impacts of the development through a list of conditions of approval. The conditions are discussed and approved in public. A development agreement, on the other hand, is typically negotiated behind closed doors, where the applicant and the county get into horse trading.
Simitian was concerned that if the school board accepted Stanford’s offer, he would be forced to deal with Stanford on the expansion project through a development agreement.
Simitian also accused Stanford of violating the ground rules of the development agreement process by making a side deal with the school board.
Stanford had offered to give the school district $121.9 million over 40 years, an average of $3.05 million a year.
Those fees would have started at $5,800 per student, ramped up and then ramped back down to $5,800 over 40 years. The starting and ending amount would have amounted to 30% of the $19,200 that the district currently spends per student.
Up to 500 additional students
Stanford expects to generate about 500 new K-12 students in the housing it plans to build for students and employees. University housing is tax-exempt, so the district won’t get any property taxes to pay for the education of the hundreds of new students.
The university is only required by law to pay the school district $4.2 million in developer fees.
Dauber and board Vice President Todd Collins both disagreed with Simitian’s assessment.
It was the first time Collins and Dauber had spoken publicly about Stanford’s offer. Both previously recused themselves because their wives work at the university, but were speaking last night because Stanford had withdrawn its offer.
Dauber called Simitian’s statements “inaccurate and ill-advised,” particularly objecting to the supervisor’s claim that Stanford’s offer to the school district amounted to the university holding a gun to the head of the county.
“I strongly suspect that Supervisor Simitian will himself regret having killed this agreement,” Dauber said. “The existence of this work took a major issue off his desk, and now it’s back on his desk.”
Dauber also contested Simitian’s claim that Stanford broke the development agreement ground rules.
Ground rules dispute
Under the ground rules, both Stanford and the county agreed not to “engage in discussions resulting in a deal between the party and the interested party that would be presented as a proposal during the negotiations period.”
The negotiations period was defined in those ground rules as between Nov. 30 and April 15. Stanford officials announced the side deal with the school district on April 15.
Dauber said that the side deal was in agreement with those ground rules, since there was “no agreement before April 15.”
“After April 15, there was only a proposed agreement. There is still no agreement,” Dauber said.
And Dauber pointed out that Simitian knew about and publicly encouraged the agreement between Stanford and the school district.
Simitian said last month that while he knew about the talks between Stanford and the school district, Superintendent Don Austin told him that the side deal was not conditional on any action by the county.
In fact, it was conditional on a development agreement.
Austin denied that to the Post last month, stating that it was likely a miscommunication between him and Simitian.
Collins said the district had done a good job of “establishing our need” for funding from Stanford and that the board needed to “stay firm and focused on what’s important.”
Austin said the district had entered “good-faith negotiations with Stanford very, very publicly” and that the university’s withdrawal of the offer amounted to a “pause.”
“I’m confident that Stanford is going to honor the work that we did together in good faith,” Austin said.