I have spent a lot of time looking at the school parcel tax on the June 2 ballot and I regret to say that I cannot support this tax at this time. While I am dedicated to our schools, I believe adding a tax should be a last resort. The school board's first objective should be to curtail expenses. The top items of concern to me are:
1. The district will be giving $15 million in raises during the four years of this proposed tax. The economy is in bad shape. Many in our own community are taking pay cuts or losing their jobs. That is reality. It does not seem reasonable for the district to ask taxpayers for $18 million over four years and during that same time give out $15 million in raises.
2. The district is rushing the community toward a parcel tax before knowing how much local support, if any, may be needed. We will be receiving $2.1 million from the federal stimulus package, and we are also eligible for additional federal money intended to prevent layoffs caused by state cuts.
3. PUSD's management team is the only local district to have enjoyed the luxury of raises in these difficult times. Two years ago, the PUSD board (myself included) was asked to approve a pay increase for the management team between 4.12 percent and 5.12 percent in order to keep PUSD salaries competitive with surrounding districts. Although the economy was starting to show signs of trouble, the raises were approved. A few weeks later, the state announced that raises were to be frozen unless required by contract. Other districts had not raised salaries. PUSD's management raises should be rolled back before other budget cuts.
4. The PUSD management team's auto allowances should be eliminated. While most companies have cut fringe benefits entirely, PUSD's management team continues to enjoy individual car allowances as large as $1,000 per month. This $120,000 per year budget item could pay the salary of two starting teachers. Which do you think is more important for your child's education?
While times are tough, the Pleasanton school district continues to receive significantly more money per student than San Ramon (a comparable, high-performing district), even after accounting for their parcel tax.
I find it disturbing that the district is holding a special election in June instead of the already scheduled election in May. This special, single-item election will cost the taxpayers around $300,000, enough to pay the salary of five teachers.
I support Pleasanton schools and our teachers, but I cannot support this parcel tax. It is the wrong tax, at the wrong time. For more information on the parcel tax, visit www.PleasantonParcelTaxInfo.com.