http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2009/02/06/residents-share-concern-over-parcel-tax


Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 6, 2009

Residents share concern over parcel tax

School board needs to cut $8.7 million despite special election outcome

by Emily West

As the state continues to negotiate its budget, the Pleasanton Unified School District board is listening to residents' concerns over the program cuts and a possible parcel tax.

In an effort to be transparent, the district held a special workshop meeting was held Tuesday night, and was followed by the second of two budget forums Wednesday night at Foothill High School.

Tuesday night, Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services, said there wasn't much to report on the state's $41.6-billion deficit, but had anticipated news in the coming days. The federal government's passage of the stimulus plan may be helpful for the district, however, it doesn't appear to be much help to their current situation.

According to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget proposal, PUSD would need to cut $8.7 million in order to maintain a balanced budget. With the 2008-09 school year halfway over, the cuts would directly impact the 2009-10 school year. A list of potential reductions has been released by the district, and includes cuts to counseling and specialist staff, administration and the elimination of class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade as well as ninth grade.

While a parcel tax could gain substantial revenue to help alleviate the state's funding shortfall, the idea has been hotly debated in recent weeks. At the first budget forum Jan. 26 and the Jan. 27 regular board meeting, participating audience members appeared to favor a parcel tax.

Yet, Tuesday night's public speakers were more concerned about the burden of another tax. Some suggested using business strategies in looking at cutting expenses. Board member Jamie Yee Hintzke said she wishes regular business practices could apply to the current situation.

"People say, 'Well, just reduce your workforce by 10 percent,'" she said. "It just doesn't work that easily in public education, unfortunately."

Trustee Pat Kernan said there isn't enough information to go forward on a parcel tax at this time.

"Until we know [the final state] budget, we can't go to the public because we don't know what we're asking for," he said. "We do know it's going to be a shared sacrifice."

Despite the debate over the parcel tax, the district still needs to submit a balanced budget to the county before the special election would be held. That means the board would still need to identify $8.7 million in reductions at this coming Tuesday's regular board meeting. By Feb. 24, it will need to consider identifying which positions would be cut. Notices of possible layoffs would be sent March 15 and final layoff notices would be sent May 15.

Should the board decide to pursue a parcel tax initiative, they would need to finalize the ballot language and call for an election by Feb. 24 to be held in June. The deadline to file with the county by March 5.

Board meetings are at 7 p.m. at the district offices, located at 4665 Bernal Ave., and are open to the public. For more information regarding the district's response to the budget crisis, visit www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us or call 462-5500.

PTA Council President Joan Laursen said they have put together an online petition to legislatures to oppose cuts to education funding. To sign, visit www.pleasantonpta.org by Feb. 15.

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