http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2011/04/15/letters


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - April 15, 2011

Letters

No on Measure E

Dear Editor,

Not many public agencies have the audacity to ask their constituents to triple tax themselves with three simultaneous tax measures.

First, Pleasanton Unified School District asked for a tax from 1988 until 2013 with Measure A and assurances they'd not come back to the taxpayers again until 2007. They said that Foothill High had "construction defects," and had to be rebuilt. Why Their district inspector had signed off on faulty construction, so claimed PUSD.

Then along came Tax No. 2, Measure B, another tax until 2020.

Was $155 million dollars enough? No.

Meanwhile, PUSD has had the nerve to propose three additional tax measures in 1996, 2009 and now. And it began siphoning off $7 million from bond refundings for a district slush fund, without voter approval. The Attorney General condemns this practice as unconstitutional.

Tax rates we actually pay exceed rates in the Measure B text. That means for us with an average house price, we're already taxed by PUSD about $800 a year.

Recent PUSD reports indicate we'll be paying existing taxes until 2024, with the bond principal still over a whopping $98 million.

It's time to rein in spending at PUSD. Please vote No on Measure E.

Anne Fox

Money will stay here

Dear Editor,

I am writing to encourage all Pleasanton residents to vote yes on Measure E. As a former teacher, I can tell you firsthand that we have outstanding schools in Pleasanton, and Measure E will help ensure we remain among the best by providing stable local funding that can't be taken by the state.

Measure E will protect our local schools and prevent deeper cuts to the classrooms. It will help support core academic instruction that improves math, science and reading skills, attracts and retains high quality teachers, and supports specialized science and reading instruction.

Plus, money raised by Measure E will stay here in Pleasanton and cannot be taken away by the state.

Please support tomorrow's leaders today and vote Yes on E.

Jennifer Minnite

No new parcel tax

Dear Editor,

I have lived in Pleasanton for over 25 years, our daughter graduating high school and subsequently college. She is now a professional within our community. The educational process has been and continues to be extremely important to us, especially since we now have grandchildren who will soon be attending K-12 in Pleasanton.

Issues: Over 60% of the public school funding comes mostly from the state's income taxes and sales taxes. Since we currently have such a high unemployment rate, our revenues from state income tax have been much less, as well as a decrease in sales tax revenues. This obviously means that we all must tighten our belts and sacrifice for the common good.

The public schools must live within a reasonable budget just like the rest of our town residents. That means, this is not the time to be focusing on raises for teachers, exorbitant pensions for retirees, class size reduction and programs that are not essential. Please understand, the majority of the citizenry can not absorb any more tax increases of any kind. We are all strapped to the max, and the public school system needs to understand this unfortunate reality and respond accordingly. No new parcel taxes.

Lynda Kinsman

Protect children's future

Dear Editor,

To prevent draconian cuts to basic education, we must pass Measure E. Measure E is $98/year for four years and the funds stay right here in Pleasanton. No money is given to the state -- it can't rob our children's future.

Measure E will support the following items. Nothing more, nothing less:

* Core academic instruction that improves math, science and reading skills

* Attract and retain highly qualified teachers

* Specialized science and reading instruction

* Keep school libraries open

* Minimize class size increases

Measure E also includes protection for all taxpayers. These protections include:

* All funds must stay in Pleasanton schools.

* No funds may be taken by the state or other school districts.

* No funds may be used to increase salaries or benefits.

* No funds may be used for administrator salaries or benefits.

* Measure E will expire in four years.

* Seniors are eligible for an exemption.

* An independent oversight committee must review fund use and report their findings.

Please protect the future of our children, our community, and our property values. Vote Yes on Measure E.

Michelle Flanagin

Parcel tax won't help

Dear Editor,

As a Realtor, I make a living dealing with people who are upside down on their house -- owing more than their house is worth. I am constantly counseling people who don't know what to do and where to turn. Twenty percent of all properties on the market in Pleasanton are either in foreclosure or in short sale. They can't afford their house payment, can't retire, can't refinance, can't sell, can't downsize, can't modify their loan -- they are out of options.

Homeowners are having a tough time right now. So are the teachers. But charging a parcel tax is not going to help anyone. Also $98 may not sound like much, but if a homeowner can't make their payment it's a fortune. If you want to help a teacher, give them the $98; don't force all homeowners to give $98 when you know a large part of that will go toward administration, not the classrooms.

We have been through this with the lottery -- remember, that money was supposed to take care of our schools. California's top individual income tax rate is the third highest in the nation and we have the highest sales tax in the country. California's business tax climate ranks 49th in the nation and our income tax rate is the highest among western states.

Another tax? When, and where, will it end? It is time to draw the line. Stop increasing taxes and demand accountability. We need those who run our schools and government to get their house in order and make needed cutbacks to their budgets instead.

Connie Cox

Yes for educational quality

Dear Editor,

Pleasanton school district is making a reasonable request of its citizens by asking them to vote Yes on Measure E, a four-year parcel tax of $98/year. This is how our democracy works. We get to choose whether or not to invest in education for Pleasanton students.

The opposition seems to believe that by defeating Measure E, their criticisms of education will be resolved. Let's look at what a 'No" vote will and won't accomplish:

A No vote will not reform the way pensions are funded. A No vote will add five to seven students to each kindergarten, first, second and third grade classroom, and ninth-grade English class.

A No vote will not change the "step and column" pay structure. A No vote will reduce the counselors available to middle and high school students in crisis or seeking college application help.

A No vote will not change how Measure B bond funds were spent. A No vote means 45 minutes less instruction time per week in grades 1 through 5. Five P.E. teachers will be laid off.

A No vote will not reform anything. A Yes vote will help maintain educational quality in Pleasanton, and help ensure that the children of today are the educated and skilled workforce of tomorrow.

Please don't be swayed by opponents who are confounding the issues, discounting education, and cheating children. Measure E is a "necessary tax." Citizens have ample opportunity to oversee its spending. We get to choose. We get to invest in the future of our children.

Andrew Shotland

Administrative bloat

Dear Editor,

I am writing in opposition to Measure E. I voted for Measure B in '97, but no more. We will not vote for any more measures to increase our property taxes until the Pleasanton Unified School District has shown that they have already made the hard choices to live within their means. They have not.

To help illustrate my point, in 1987 my wife and I had a meeting with Steve Maher, then the principal of Alisal Elementary. Our daughter was starting kindergarten and we wanted to get acquainted.

During our conversation, I showed him the roster of staff at Alisal. I compared it to the elementary school I went to in Southern California that was built the same year as Alisal and looked like it was designed by the same architect. In 1956 we had: one principal, one full-time secretary and one part-time secretary, one full-time custodian, one part-time nurse and no teacher's assistants. Besides the teachers, that was it.

There was a long pregnant pause after this communication. Clearly it was out of Steve's hands. The 1987 roster indicated that extreme administrative bloat had become the norm.

The fox is in control of the hen house.

Gary Kinsman

Must ensure funds

Dear Editor,

I am not a politically pushy person; but I am dedicated to the education of our children. Unfortunately, I have seen the change in the quality of education since my children first entered Pleasanton schools in 2005. If we have to endure more cuts at the whim of the state, that quality will continue to diminish.

Because of this, I implore each and every one to vote Yes on Measure E to help ensure that our children will continue to receive a quality education.

We must ensure that stable, local funds are available for our children's education. We are actually pretty lucky in Pleasanton because we do live in a district where the families are most often able to afford to give more to the schools. Even with that, Pleasanton and the other cities in the state lag far behind most other states in per-pupil spending.

Our children are the future leaders and innovators in California and what they learn today is what will make them successful in the future. If we do not provide them with a solid foundation to grow from, I am very worried about what that future will look like.

Kimberly Carlson

Do the math

Dear Editor,

Vote No on Measure E -- we are drowning in debt.

Our government is in a financial crisis starting at the federal level all the way down to the city of Pleasanton and our school district. We are overspending. A $98 tax for four years will not solve the problem but just exacerbate it. When the school district started retiring personnel at up to $172,000 a year, that did it for me. They are spiking their salaries. Spiking means adding to your last year's salary in order to get a higher pension.

We currently have 48 retirees from the Pleasanton Unified School District and the city of Pleasanton with retirement pay over $100,000/year along with free health insurance. I wonder how many residents of Pleasanton, besides public employees, have retirement pay this high?

Thanks to the recent filing a Public Records Request from our School District, we shall soon learn how deep this spiking goes. School boards let this happen saying it isn't coming out of our General Fund. No, it's coming out of taxpayers' wallets and is underfunded $56 billion. That will boost the payment from California's already strained general fund by 20%.

I am voting No on E and any other tax measure with the hope that elected officials will start doing basic math.

Please join me on voting No on E.

Kay Ayala, former Pleasanton Council Member

We need Measure E

Dear Editor,

Although I no longer have children in the Pleasanton Schools, as a 30-year resident and business owner I know how important great schools are to the community.

Pleasanton schools need our help. State funding reductions have resulted in nearly $19.4 million in cuts to Pleasanton schools. With millions more in new state cuts looming, classroom instruction and teachers are all that remain to be cut. This is the core of the education our children need to succeed.

The fine reputation of the Pleasanton Unified School District is a major attraction to new families relocating to the Bay Area. This helps maintain the value of our homes and keep our business community strong.

We need a stable, local funding source for Pleasanton schools now more than ever. We need a funding measure that supports core academic instruction designed to improve math, science and reading skills. In short, we need Measure E. To learn more, visit SupportPleasantonSchools.com.

Judy Wheeler

Layoff notices and raises

Dear Editor,

As a parent of two kids in the Pleasanton Unified School District school system, I spoke out against the Measure E parcel tax at the last PUSD board meeting. I stated that it does not make sense that layoff notices have been sent to some teachers while the remaining teachers who "survived" the cuts would still be receiving raises. I also expressed my confusion as to why the district will be handing out $15 million in raises over the next four years while the parcel tax would only raise $8 million during the same time frame.

In my opinion, the district's poor fiscal management has placed our schools onto an unsustainable path. The parcel tax revenues will only encourage continued poor behavior from PUSD and delay the necessary and critical structural reforms needed by PUSD (and our overall education system).

This parcel tax is a "feel good" attempt to address one symptom of the serious structural issues in our school system. The tax will only delay addressing the root causes of the problems. Moreover, these problems will be even greater once they finally do get addressed. I will vote No on Measure E, because I care for our kids and schools.

David Miller

Vote Yes on E

Dear Editor,

I am writing to encourage all Pleasanton residents to vote Yes on Measure E. When we were transferred to Northern California some 16 years ago, even though our sons were college graduates, we elected to purchase a home in Pleasanton based upon the reputation of the schools' excellence in education. As a former employee of a neighboring school district and a seasoned citizen, education is the underscoring path to a bright future for Pleasanton that requires strong community support.

The outstanding schools that we have in Pleasanton need the support of stable funding that Measure E will provide. It is becoming increasingly clear that the state Legislature will not pass a budget with adequate financial funding for quality educational programs that exist here.

Not only will Measure E help support core academic instruction that improves math, science and reading skills, but also there will be an oversight committee to ensure that the funds are used as described in the proposition.

Prior to the May 3 deadline, I implore you to mail in a Yes vote on your ballot for the passage of Measure E.

Mary Ellen Huey

Need real reforms

Dear Editor,

Since the last parcel tax attempt I have spoken with school administrators and school board trustees about my concerns of unsustainable financial practices, partially responsible for our current problems. Two years later, the district has another tax on the ballot while no fiscal reforms have taken place.

The main fiscal problem of the district is giving out automatic raises for longevity. Teachers receive pay increases through what is called "step and column raises." These are typically 3% each year, costing the district an additional $1.5 million each year. Through compounding, these raises will cost $15 million over the period of the parcel tax.

When the economy was doing well, the district received additional money from the state which paid the automatic raises. With the economy not doing well, we do not receive money from the state for these raises; but we are still giving raises. What does that mean? To pay for the raises of some teachers we must fire newer teachers with less seniority, increase class sizes and cut programs.

There are several solutions to this problem and not all require approval from the unions. However, the district is not dealing with this problem. The future of our children's education is in jeopardy unless real reforms are done now.

While the automatic raises are my biggest concern, please read the ballot arguments or go to www.PleasantonParcelTaxInfo.com for other issues like the district's outrageous pensions.

I am voting No on Measure E and once again ask the district for real reforms.

Steve Brozosky, former PUSD trustee; former Pleasanton City Councilman

We voted Yes

Dear Editor,

We have voted to support the four-year $98 per annum parcel tax.

All local school districts in California will be paying a larger proportion of school costs for years to come. We should get ahead of that curve and address the issue head-on. Local funding will increase regardless of cost-saving measures by the districts.

Excellent local schools increase the value of homes and businesses.

We are voting for our near term local economy as well as long term leadership skills by today's students.

We are eligible for the Senior Citizen exemption, but we will contribute the $98 per year to the schools for classroom supplies.

Brad and Sandra Hirst

E won't help programs

Dear Editor,

Measure E supporters claim the proposed Parcel Tax will not fund raises during this fiscal crisis. However, the funds it generates will free up district money to support raises. In fact, during the term of this parcel tax, the district will give out raises totaling $15 million. This parcel tax will not even cover those raises.

There will be no new money available for instructional programs, libraries or minimizing class size increases even though those are the items advertised by the measure supporters. (For the real facts on Measure E visit www.PleasantonParcelTaxInfo.com.) Most residents are unaware that some specialized instructional programs are not paid for by PUSD. For example, for the last two years, private organizations such as Pleasanton Partners in Education (PPIE) have funded music programs at the elementary level.

We do not want another tax. To really help the children of this community, PUSD needs to show the courage to make the structural changes needed to avert bigger problems down the road, which have to be addressed. Given the facts that PUSD's income has actually increased $18 million over the last three years, and that we are still paying off the last PUSD bond to the tune of about $866 per year per parcel, and that the proposed tax increases are not being paired with true budget reform, it is not fiscally responsible to pass this tax. I urge PUSD and the union to propose real reforms prior to seeking more money from over-burdened taxpayers. The solution they have shown so far-- a willingness to fire new teachers to protect raises of senior staff -- is unacceptable.

Reg Beer

Education matters

Dear Editor,

I urge the Pleasanton community to vote Yes on Measure E. Like many others, my husband and I chose Pleasanton for its schools and its family friendly environment. California's budget deficit has hit hard and even wonderful places like Pleasanton have been adversely affected.

The money obtained from Measure E will go directly to Pleasanton schools. It is not contingent upon the overall California budget -- an unreliable and shrinking funding source. I realize that many are concerned about where the money the state receives for education actually goes. I, too, share these concerns. That is exactly why I believe we need to provide a local, stable funding source for our schools. Passing Measure E helps ensure we can provide our children with the best possible education. And the quality of Pleasanton schools should be of utmost importance to you, since better schools mean increased property values and a better community for all of the people who live here.

We have the opportunity to show our children that education matters and that a community working together can affect positive change and improvements for the greater good of its people. It's time for Pleasanton to stand up and vote Yes on Measure E.

Kelly Bayani

Concerns about Measure E

Dear Editor,

Before deciding on Measure E, voters should consider whether Pleasanton Unified School District's financial controls are where they should be.

Being an internal controls auditor by trade, I dug deep into the district's 2010 audit report available online. It described significant deficiencies for handling cash, credit cards, attendance, reporting fraud, and inappropriate expenditures (otherwise satisfactory). If this was for a business where the acceptable number of significant deficiencies is zero, I'd be looking for the alarm button.

A big control gap was Finding #2010-5, which described how the District lacked procedures for personnel to report fraud and unethical behavior without fear of repercussions. The auditors found that the district had not thoroughly communicated ethical values, and guidance on illegal or negligent behavior. This was less than acceptable. An anonymous ethics hotline is a key part of Sarbanes-Oxley for businesses, and the school district should have had something similar in place a long time ago.

The district's financial and internal controls deficiencies should have all been fixed before the Measure E tax was requested. I'm recommending a No vote until this gets done with a clean audit report.

Richard Pugh

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