The Arguments Against Measure F by the Ballot Measure Opponents about Branson’s finances and operations are factually inaccurate.
BRANSON’S LONG TERM FINANCIAL MODELING SHOWS THAT THE SCHOOL CANNOT SUCCESSFULLY OPERATE IN ROSS IF IT IS UNABLE TO GROW BEYOND 320 STUDENTS.
HERE ARE THE FACTS:
FACT: The argument against Measure F makes inaccurate statements about the financial health of Branson. The 1978 enrollment cap of 320 students is preventing the school from thriving in Ross. The inability to grow has increased operating expenses per student that are far higher than any of its peer independent schools, and all but one are 100 or more students larger than Branson.
FACT: Branson cannot raise tuition more than the 4-5% it does annually and remain competitive with other independent schools. Even with these material annual tuition increases, tuition revenue is insufficient to meet rising operational expenses.
FACT: Applications are not increasing. In 2017/18 Branson received 409 applications. In 2018/19, Branson received 361. Many students, including Ross residents, who do not choose Branson cite its small size as a deterrent.
FACT: Branson has lost talented teachers to larger schools because they offer higher compensation packages.The 3-4% cost of living adjustment that Branson has been able to provide to faculty and staff in recent years is not sufficient to enable them to afford to live in the Bay Area. Branson needs to significantly increase salaries to match the salaries at our larger peer schools - all of which have increased their enrollment periodically as a means of remaining financially viable.
FACT: Branson’s 990 tax filings, available on Guidestar, show operating revenue deficits in 4 of the last 6 years (2013-18, Part 1, line 19).
FACT: Branson pays property taxes. In 2019/20, Branson’s property taxes are $75,050. These taxes reflect the school’s nonprofit status just like other local nonprofit schools, churches, and organizations.
FACT: Branson’s endowment is $26 million. The annual draw on endowment is 4-5%; about $1 million per year depending on the investment returns. 68% of the endowment is restricted by donors for special purposes, primarily financial aid and professional development for teachers. Branson has $21 million in debt.
FACT: Branson cannot secure its financial future simply by raising its endowment. Given the 4-5% draw, an additional $5 million in annual revenue from the endowment would require raising an additional $120 million in endowment funds. That is not realistic. Endowments of our Bay Area peer schools range from $3 million to $54 million. Moreover, endowments are vulnerable to economic downturns.
FACT: The existing and voluntary traffic management plan around the Branson campus is a highly successful transportation model that keeps weekday traffic flow moving during morning and afternoon peak times.
FACT: Branson’s traffic engineers have determined that by adding an additional bus route, increasing bus and carpool ridership and creating remote parent drop-offs, Branson will be able to keep traffic net neutral with the addition of 100 students. No new parking will be added.
FACT: 5 traffic studies from 1996 through 2019 indicate that the school traffic has been steady for the last 24 years at approximately 500 cars (or 1,000 vehicle trips when counting in and out of campus) over the course of a day.
FACT: On weekends, three separate traffic studies over the last 4 years found an average of only 100-200 cars in and out of campus spread over a 24-hour period, based on 8 Saturdays studied. On four special event weekends per year, Branson might generate up to 500 cars in and out of campus: three Admission Open Houses and Parents’ Day. For graduation, Branson rents parking from the College of Marin and people are bused to and from campus.
FACT: Currently, 29 students from Ross are enrolled at Branson (9% of students). In the last 3 years, the average number of Ross residents who applied to Branson is 16 and the number accepted is 8. Ross residents’ average admit rate is 50%, compared to the overall admit rate of 26%. Ross School has been among the top 5 feeder schools to Branson (out of 30+ middle schools). Passing Measure F will only allow more opportunity for students from Ross to attend Branson. Over the last 100 years, Branson has educated thousands of children from Ross.