Ellison's tax break hurts local schools

March 31, 2008 9:16:02 AM PDT
The CEO of Oracle, Larry Ellison, is getting a $3 million dollar tax break on his property in Woodside. It's money that would have gone to local schools, and the county's general fund.

Ellison challenged his property value and he won. That means some schools in Portola Valley will lose some staff members. But Larry Ellison is not receiving a lot of grief from the parents in the district.

It's never good to hear that your children's school is losing money.

"It will hurt yes," said Kathy Fitzgerald, Portola Valley.

But many of the parents in Portola Valley are also homeowners and have trouble finding fault with their neighbor, Larry Ellison, for challenging his property value.

"I understand his position, because if it should be reassessed, and it should lowered, than I totally agree with that, but it's a hardship for the schools," said Fitzgerald.

"In terms of being a parent it saddens me to see the implications of that for the school, but democracy is messy and he had the right to do it, I understand," said Steve Mara, Portola Valley.

San Mateo County assessed Ellison's 23 acre Woodside property at $163 million dollars, but he thought it was worth $64 million; claiming among other things that the 16th century Japanese architecture limits its appeal. The county agreed with him and will give him a $3 million dollar tax refund. In Portola Valley, about $300,000 dollars of that will come from the schools.

"There are some people through attrition who are going to lose their jobs, people who are in district office type positions and support positions, not in the classrooms," said Tim Hanretty, Asst. Superintendent.

It cuts especially deep here because this is a Basic Aid district - meaning most of the school's money comes from property taxes. So while the district will lose about $100,000 dollars from the cuts coming out of Sacramento, the loss from Ellison's property taxes is three times that amount.

But Ellison isn't the only one challenging the county; Steve Mara did it too, and he didn't feel guilty at all for taking money from the schools.

"It worked out in our favor the value went down, but so did our property tax and Portola Valley is a very expensive place to live," said Steve Mara.

Countywide all of the San Mateo County schools will lose about $1.4 million dollars from one man's property tax refund, of course that one man is worth about $25 billion dollars.

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