No Last Minute Miracle for Measure Y 🙁

Measure Y has failed…

UPDATE added 4/7/17 at 4:50:  Last scheduled count has been posted and the percent Yes remains at 65.2%.  Official certification comes 30 days after the election, but the measure is clearly dead in the water, falling short of the required two thirds majority.  The article below was posted on 4/5/17 and is still of interest due to the comments that followed it.


The third results set was posted online Monday afternoon (4/3/17), and Measure Y was still “just short” at 65.2%.  2/3rds or 66.67% approval was needed.

However, to illustrate how big of a chasm 65.2% is compared to the required 66.67%, let’s do a little algebra. The following example will illustrate that algebra really does have practical uses in real life, contrary to the opinion of some math skeptics one occasionally encounters!

The March 30th results release added about 2200 ballots to the total that was announced just after the close of polling on March 28th. Of these late ballots 72.5% were Yes votes which raised some hopes for a last minute turnaround.

I stopped by the Elections Office on Tower Road Friday afternoon and was told that the ballots included in the March 30th release were either received in the mail or submitted to the Elections Office ballot dropoff box or others at, e.g., city halls. I asked them if they had any idea how many additional ballots they might receive in the week after the March 28th deadline, and was told that in the 2016 presidential election they received about 6000. They highly doubted that this local election would approach that number.

This led to the following algebra problem. Let’s assume the late Yes vote percentage stayed high at the 72.5% rate (0.725). We will define the variable x as the number of ballots still outstanding (not yet counted).

As of March 30th, there were 12,977 Yes votes, so the final Yes total would be approximated by 12,977 + 0.725x. The total number of cast ballots by the 30th was 19,914, so the final total would be 19,914 + x.

Make a Yes Votes / Total Votes fraction and set it equal to 2/3rds:

(12,977+0.725x)/(19,914+x) = 2/3

Cross-multiply and solve for x. One gets that at least 5126 votes must be still outstanding if the late vote Yes rate stays at 72.5%. That over 5000 additional votes would still be received seemed very unlikely given that about 6,000 votes were received after close of polls in the Nov. 2016 election.

Nonetheless there was still a small chance that the percentage might shift up?!? Hope springs eternal…

As of yesterday’s data release, only an additional ***80*** votes had been added to the total. 53 were Yes for a 66.25% approval rate ( < 2/3rds 🙁) in this late subset.

This may be my “Dewey beats Truman” “fake news” moment, but it sure looks that, sadly, Measure Y has failed, and our local schools now face budget cuts in a time of economic growth. Turnout remains at a dismal 28% of registered voters.

Final results will be posted on Friday, April 7th at 4:30 PM, but I, for one, will not be holding my breath.

Score yet another victory for activist minorities like the libertarian tax opponents of Measure Y, possibly because too many people did not bother to vote. I thought that perhaps we had learned a lesson after last November, but it sure doesn’t look like it…

Author: David Kristofferson

Retired Ph.D. scientist, teacher (after retiring from industry, taught in private and public high schools and then worked a decade in my own private tutoring business), bioinformatician (managed both the NIH-funded GenBank National Nucleic Acid Sequence Databank and the BIONET National Computer Resource for Molecular Biology), IT director at Eos and Raven Biotechnologies, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist, and backpacker!

3 thoughts on “No Last Minute Miracle for Measure Y 🙁”

  1. Perhaps if the District had settled with the teachers they would have had a lot more help in getting the measure passed. The District is sitting on over $60 million dollars in unrestricted funds. The loss of this election will not result any cuts unless the District chooses not to fund a particular program.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Kelly.

      I first learned about the district reserve fund while meeting some time ago with Julie MacArthur, president of the San Mateo Elementary Teachers Association (SMETA). The size of this fund raised the question of why teachers can’t be better paid. One can see Julie’s detailed public comments at SMETA’s website:

      Naturally when I later first met with Superintendent Rosas I asked for her point of view on this issue, and was told that the money was an emergency reserve fund to help maintain school services should another economic downturn hit. Using it on salaries would rapidly deplete the safety cushion.

      I am not an expert on school funding practices. Clearly, it would be interesting to know how SMFCSD’s reserves compare to those of other districts (Julie MacArthur claimed that they are “FAR, FAR above the state requirement”), but in this age of chronic school underfunding and mismanagement, simply saying that our local reserves are higher than average would not necessarily imply that they should be drawn down to the average. Instead one might commend the district for their fiscal prudence. I just don’t know the answer to this question and would welcome input from experts.

      As to the size of the fund, Kelly says that there are $60 million dollars in unrestricted money. My only information source is the SMFCSD budget posted on the web at

      On the 5th page of that document there is a section F entitled “Fund Balance, Reserves” which on 6/30/2016 had a balance of $58 million. Am I correct in assuming that this is the source of Kelly’s $60 million dollar “unrestricted” figure? If so, I would quickly note that the document states that only half of that money is unrestricted.

      Furthermore, when one looks at the 2016-2017 budget year, the reserve fund is drawn down by 22.8% during the current school year. The reasons for this large fluctuation in the reserve fund from last year to this year are not readily apparent to me without extensive additional digging through this detailed 221 page document which I do not have time to do this evening!!

      Measure Y money would have been an ongoing source of funding for another nine years. Dipping into district reserves can sustain some programs in the short run, but it would seem to me to be highly imprudent management to fund ongoing programs or ongoing teacher salary increases out of a reserve fund. If one can convincingly argue that the reserve fund is too high, then it might be reasonable for teachers to request a one-time bonus payment, but definitely not a salary scale increase in perpetuity. I am working on other ideas to reach this last goal as indicated in some of my earlier blog articles, e.g., I set this initiative aside temporarily during the Measure Y campaign, but will revisit it soon.

      However, if the teachers’ union dragged its feet in supporting Measure Y and used that support as some kind of “bargaining chip” in salary negotiations, I personally would find that tactic completely reprehensible. I fail to see how losing that funding helps anyone. I realize that some of the more senior teachers may own homes in the district and that they may personally save the cited $210 annually by no longer paying that parcel tax, but this is a very small savings compared to the loss of $7 million dollars each year to the district. I am also sure that Measure Y’s failure does nothing to help new teachers who are low on the salary schedule and may be, e.g., sharing rented living quarters with other colleagues.

      Please tell me that the unions are not being so petty!!!


      1. my comment above: On pages 206-207 of the SMFCSD budget, it appears that the state reserve level is set at 3% of total expenditures according to the form which appears to come from the CA Dept. of Education. SMFCSD currently sets it reserve level at 10% of expenditures for this school year and next, and at 8% for two years out. I’d love to know the reasons that these levels were chosen instead of the 3% state figure.


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