Pleasanton Weekly

News - September 25, 2009

School district starts year with $350,000 deficit

Board approves borrowing after shortfalls in developer fee, cafeteria funds

by Emily West

It's early in the school year, but the Pleasanton Unified School District is already talking about budget cuts.

In the regular board meeting Tuesday night, the trustees looked over the 2009-10 budget that will soon be looked over by independent auditors and then passed on to the county and state for review and approval.

This budget was approved in June, but shortly afterward a revision from the state led to a $350,000 deficit. This resulted in the school district having less than the required 3 percent reserves.

With the standard rollover from year to year being about $2 million, including increases such as payroll and utilities, and likely no increased cost of living adjustment funding from the state, it looks as if there will be at least $2.3 million in reductions to the 2010-11 school budget. The financial picture over the next couple of years doesn't look too rosy either, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Luz Cazares.

This amount could be increased to $3.6 million if the board would hope to continue to fund the reading specialists, counselors and vice principals that were spared late in the school year. These positions were funded by various one-time sources, such as management givebacks, a delayed payment and the I Love Pleasanton Schools fundraising campaign.

Using the fiscal year 2008-09 as a guide, Cazares said mid-year reductions from the state could be likely.

She added that while only 20 percent of the promised federal stimulus for special education has been received, it is all earmarked and is therefore not "new money." Another federal funding source, Race to the Top, could be headed towards California, but Cazares said the qualification progress is stalled at the state level.

In closing out the 2008-09 school year, there were two funds that did not meet the required levels. The board voted unanimously to borrow from the Sycamore Property Fund. As of January of this year, it had $5.6 million from the sale of a potential high school site near Happy Valley and typically funds technology for the schools.

The first loan, which is to be paid in four years but would likely come in earlier, would cover the $103,117 not made up in the Cafeteria Fund. Cazares cited the need for more free/reduced cost lunches and the state only funding 2 cents for instead of 22 cents that was projected last year.

The board also voted to approve a $1,106,972 loan after that amount wasn't received through the Capital Facilities Fund. This was expected, Cazares said, as these usually are funded through developer fees. These haven't been collected because of the lack of new development in Pleasanton, which has been blamed on the economy.

Superintendent John Casey mentioned a loan source that was offered by the city last school year, but said the district would prefer to use its own resources first.

Board to move on finding new superintendent

Last month, Casey announced his plans to retire at the end of the school year. On Tuesday night he described the general process to finding a replacement, which could include hiring a firm for about $25,000.

The ideal firm, Casey said, would gauge the community and involve stakeholders in the initial interviewing process, in addition to advertising and finding qualified candidates. The goal would be for the board to choose a replacement in May.

Board president Chris Grant said the board should look ahead about 10 years from now and decide "what characteristics of that superintendent that will set the right tone, the right culture and have the right hiring criteria and discipline" to achieve the district's goals.

Comments

Posted by Sean Lemoine, a resident of Lemoine Ranch
on Sep 24, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Maybe we should embrace developers and their "school fees"???


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Canyon Creek
on Sep 24, 2009 at 10:11 pm

And your point is?

"This budget was approved in June, but shortly afterward a revision from the state led to a $350,000 deficit. This resulted in the school district having less than the required 3 percent reserves."

The school has to set a budget sometime and the state - well, they pretty much do whatever they want apparently. The district is not getting as much money as they thought when the budget was approved, so there is a shortfall.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Sep 27, 2009 at 7:42 pm

It will get worse. Prop 98 mandates that 40% of the state budget be spent on schools. Our income is down therefore the amount that goes to schools will be down. The number of students is not decreasing.


Posted by paul, a resident of Foothill Place
on Oct 12, 2009 at 12:19 pm

The pressure that has been applied to Pleasanton School Athletics has caused an unhealthy situation for the average kid who just wants to play a sport in High School.
The budget shortfall requires the coaches to raise money and this form of support leads to friends helping friends and the kid who does not have the luxury to give money or his parents both work hard and can't be at all the fund raising events suffer.
Look around your high school and you will find over 60% of the sport programs have a leadership structure that is designed to serve the few who are in the "silent club".
This subjective behavior will cost our school system dearly and will derange the kids who are in the program because Mommy or Daddy has deep pockets and they too think this is the approach to prosperity.
Sports can be a great spring board to the kid who earns his/her way by performance. When coaches don't understand the point of this memo, the kids and system suffers and becomes dysfunctional.
Look around your Pleasanton High School, especially the coaches that are relativity new, they think this is the way it is supposed to be in Pleasanton.
Help the kid who can add value to our society but can't compete with the Pleasanton Parents Silent Club.


Posted by Honest, a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 12, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Paul,

Fill us in on the details or the background of the recent developments. My kids all played sports at the high schools in town going back to the late 1980's and coaches fundraisers were always part of the program and the Amador Boosters and Foothill Boosters were always raising money through barbecues and such.


Posted by Michael, a resident of Livermore
on Oct 12, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Wasn't $300,000 flushed on measure G? We sure could use that money now but I bet the consultants we paid need the money much more.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Nov 16, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Paul,

I appreciate your comments about the average kid who just wants to play a sport in HS. I think the funding should be there but lets not throw insults at the parents who are going out of their way to fundraise to help school sports survive during this budget mayhem. Not everyone who gives money is rich or looking for favours.


Posted by Chris, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Nov 16, 2009 at 2:28 pm

What's your point Michael? How long would that $300k last in this budget crisis? Yes, shoot the consultant. Is it their fault that the people who said they supported our schools took the day off when it was time to vote? Let's just get it right this time. There is no question of how important it is to keep our schools from deteriorating. You may not feel it yet but aftershocks hurt the most.


Posted by Michael, a resident of Livermore
on Nov 16, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Chris,

The consultants told us before the vote that it would not pass and we chose to go forward anyway and wasted all of that money. It failed at a time when the economy was not as bad as it currently is.


Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Nov 17, 2009 at 10:36 am

My understanding is that the district paid consultants to conduct a poll in early 2007 about a different possible use for a parcel tax (to support recommendations of the Excellence Committee, I believe). I don't think it cost nearly the amount of money that Michael is referring to. There was significant debate about whether that poll had relevance nearly 2 years later when the designated uses of the parcel tax were different.

I don't think any district funds went to a consulting firm in 2008-2009. The district did have to pay the county board of elections the cost of holding a special election. That was about $250k, if I remember correctly.

Like Kathleen, I think it's worth paying $30K or so to conduct a poll of the community about the uses of a parcel tax that they would be willing to support. (e.g., $2 million to bring 9th grade English and Math classes down to 20 students per teacher, costing about $50 per parcel per year.... $4 million to provide guaranteed funding of elementary science specialists, to cost about $100 per parcel per year)

I don't think it's worth doing this before we have a district strategic plan in place, and a new superintendent named. I don't think community trust in the district leadership will recover in the next six months. A longer period of community dialogue is needed.


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