District holds first of two forums regarding state budget, educational funding
Emily West / Pleasanton Weekly
School Supt. John Casey
Tonight the school board will discuss the budget crisis and take action on whether to employ a survey firm to conduct a parcel tax feasibility study.
This comes one night after the first of two budget forums held at the district high schools.
Last night, Amador Valley High School's multipurpose room was abuzz with the words "parcel tax" as Pleasanton Unified School District staff addressed questions from dozens of concerned residents.
Superintendent John Casey began the evening discussing the impact of the $41.6-billion deficit facing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed state budget, which has yet to be approved. It would require PUSD to cut $8.7 million over the next 18 months. Going into the current school year, the district was already required to cut $2 million from their budget.
To make up for the $8.7 million, the district has drafted a list of potential reductions in programs and staff. On the list is the possibility of ending class-size reductions in the kindergarten through third grades and similar reductions for freshmen math and language classes in high school. Other proposed cuts could include some certified teaching positions, counselors, administraators and classified personnel. Cuts in athletics, academic intervention programs and operational functions are also on the list of possible reductions.
Given the short time frame and drastic need, Casey said it would be a waste of time to consider other options (besides a parcel tax) to maintain good schools and balance the budget. Many residents in attendance seemed to support a parcel tax that they believe could ensure a quality education for their children.
A parcel tax had previously been considered a couple of years ago. The funding, however, was to be used to enhance program offerings outlined in the Excellence Committee's recommendations. When there wasn't much support, the board decided not to take it to the voters. (See related story here.)
Discussions for using parcel tax dollars now center on keeping programs, especially class-size reduction and counseling. In order for the tax to pass on the June ballot, as suggested, it would need a two-thirds majority vote. If passed, the tax dollars would be available for the 2009-10 school year.
Neighboring districts, including Dublin, Livermore and San Ramon, have parcel taxes. Livermore residents approved theirs in November.
Questions that weren't able to be directly answered at the forum are expected to be answered in the FAQ (frequently asked questions) portion of the district's website, which can be found here.
The school board's meeting begins at 7 p.m. tonight at the district office, 4665 Bernal Ave.
These meetings are open to the general public and are televised on Channel 28. The public is also encouraged to speak before the board at the meetings or call or email board trustees beforehand. Contact information for board members can be found here.