Larry Ellison managed to reduce his tax bill by $3 Million last month, arguing with the County Assessor that his $170 Million (cost) Japanese replica home wouldn't be worth more than $70 Million in resale value. Woodside schools and fire/police protection services are the losers, although in this rarified community, the tax base is sufficiently high, and the student population for the gentry who inhabit the community low enough that one suspects that somehow things will work out even with this penurious attitude by the tenth richest American, reputedly worth $14 Billion.
Meanwhile, over at the Los Altos Museum, Lucile Packard's scrapbook is on display, with a remarkable sequence of three letters from November and December 1963. The first, from HP's attorney, said that the assessor had advised that they could probably qualify for a very large tax reduction with the Williamson Act agricultural exemption for their new 33 acre Los Altos Hills property. The second, from Dave Packard, said "we won't file for that, since most of the taxes go to local schools, and we want to carry our fair share of the load". The third, from the attorney, reported that when he talked to the county assessor, the response was "well, THAT makes my day!" thus beating Clint Eastwood to the words.
Packard, like Ellison, made the Top Ten list for richest Americans. But they differed greatly in their view of who helped them get there, and what they owe their fellow citizens, employees, and community. Silicon Valley is fortunate for the David Packard example. No community can take much pride in the other approach.