School district mailer has incorrect information about parcel tax renewal; second mailer planned

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto school Superintendent Don Austin sent a letter to voters saying that the district’s parcel tax makes up 17% of the district’s budget when it actually only makes up 7%.

The error is significant since some voters might be more reluctant to deprive the district of 17% of its funding than 7%.

Resident Keith Ferrell sent a letter to the district complaining about the error.

“This would appear to be a material misrepresentation of the facts,” he wrote.

Currently, the tax brings in about $15 million annually, which is 7% of the district’s budget. The district is asking voters to approve Measure O, which will renew the parcel tax.

Austin sent a letter to residents (see below) explaining the need of the parcel tax measure.

“Today this funding provides $16 million each year, which is 17% of the district’s annual budget,” reads the letter. “This funding is set to expire next year.”

Carolyn Chow, the district’s chief business officer, said the percentage was a typo. She said the district is preparing a corrected version of the mailer to send out and post online with a correction.

“We have consistently stated that the parcel tax represents nearly 7% of our budget, but this is not what appeared in the mailer,” said Chow. “Our parcel tax consultant is preparing a corrected version which we will post on the district’s information page along with a statement acknowledging the error. There will also be another informational mailer with the corrected info.”

The mailer with the typo was still online as of last night.

Measure O will initially cost $836-per-parcel but will increase by 2% each year for the six years of its duration. Two-thirds of voters must approve the tax for it to continue.

Part of the mailer Palo Alto school Superintendent Don Austin sent to parents.


  1. I don’t want to think that our superintendent is that dumb. You might be right, but I hope you’re wrong. Here are the possibilities:

    1. This is just a typo and nobody caught it. That would confirm my bias that the Central Office doesn’t pay close attention to details.

    2. This was intentional, knowing that if they were caught, there would be no consequences. After all, the school board never holds its administrators to account.

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