While no reductions were made at Tuesday night's school board meeting, the deadline to make cuts and put a parcel tax on the ballot are nearing.
The Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) has identified about $9.7 million in potential budget cuts. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget calls for $8.7 million in reductions, however, it has yet to be finalized and the district's shortfall could change.
Since the reductions directly impact staff, the board would need to identify what is on the chopping block in order to hand out potential layoff notices by March 15. Final pink slips would be given by May 15.
Several members of the public spoke out in support of PUSD programs and services at the budget workshop as well as the regular board meeting that followed. Parents and educators especially showed concern over losing reading specialists and counselors, which was similar to the comments made last year when the board had to make $2 million in cuts. The audience also seemed to overwhelmingly support a parcel tax.
Despite the pleas to save programs and positions, the outlook isn't good.
"We have fought and fought for everything on the [potential cut list," board member Pat Kernan said. "At the end of the day, we're going to have to make these cuts to balance the budget. We have no choice."
Kernan also added that PUSD has reason to be grateful amidst the budget crisis affecting California schools.
"As weak as it is, we're still fortunate that we can balance a budget," he said, adding that about 200 districts are unable to balance the budget and could be assumed by the county.
To help the board gain perspective, the Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) ranked the list on what items to cut before others. The committee--comprised of two board members, two business community members, a representative from the Parent Teacher Association Council and the Parent Faculty Association/Parent Faculty Club, four California School Employees Association members, four Association of Pleasanton Teachers members, three site administrators from each elementary, middle and high school levels, two students from each comprehensive high school, and three district office administrators--has discussed the list at meetings on Jan. 8, 22, Feb. 5 and 12.
The process, according to BAC member Peggy Carpenter who spoke at Tuesday's meeting, has been overwhelming because there isn't "fat" to trim.
"We're not cutting fluff," she said. "We're cutting the guts of our school to some degree."
While the board hasn't decided to put the parcel tax on the ballot, they did request a sample ballot language. The language would be discussed and reviewed at the Feb. 17 meeting. It was also decided that board president Chris Grant and trustee Jim Ott would form a subcommittee to look into details regarding a parcel tax.
Previously the board had made general statements regarding a per-parcel rate would be, but Tuesday Grant suggested a $197 rate, which would cover about half of the $8.7 million shortfall.
The decision to go ahead with the parcel tax would be made by Feb. 24, in order to meet the county's deadline. Superintendent John Casey estimated that a special election could cost $150,000, however, it may be a shared burden as the state may put an item on the June ballot.
Trustees continued to encourage the community to contact legislators regarding the budget crisis. The PTA Council has put together an online petition to legislatures to oppose cuts to education funding. To sign, visit www.pleasantonpta.org by Feb. 15.
Resources about the district budget, including a frequently asked questions page, can be found at www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us.