http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2012/06/22/school-district-rehires-workers-oks-budget


Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 22, 2012

School district rehires workers, OKs budget

Administrative contracts extended

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Pleasanton school board wrapped up its work for the 2011-12 school year in a six-hour meeting Tuesday night that brought back some workers, renewed administrative contracts and approved a budget for the upcoming year.

The board approved a budget that includes deficit spending of $1.4 million for the upcoming year, although the four furlough days that could be triggered by state cuts would make up the difference.

A letter from the Alameda County Office of Education notes the deficit is caused by "spending down carryover balances, the reinstatement of one-time concessions and revenue reductions resulting from the State budget crisis."

Nonetheless, the Office of Education said it was satisfied with the district's budget, acknowledges the district has "been fiscally prudent" and remains confident the district "will continue to make the necessary decisions concerning ongoing revenues and expenditures ... to meet its financial obligations."

The district, like others up and down the state, is awaiting the possibility of mid-year budget cuts if tax increases to provide extra money for schools are not approved. Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services, has said the budget she prepared banked on a worst-case scenario that included that possibility. While the state budget has been approved, there remain some trailer bills that could hit school funding.

The board bucked a recommendation by Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi and voted to spend $50,000 more than she suggested for classified employees.

That will restore two hours per day of both technology specialists and library media specialists at elementary schools.

The board also approved a half-time custodial position at each middle school and at Amador Valley and Foothill high schools, along with restoring an extra hour for technology specialists at each middle school.

Ahmadi had recommended spending $326,500 to bring back workers from the California School Employees Association but the board decided to add an hour a day for elementary school library specialists, on a split vote.

"From my perspective, these are necessities, not luxuries," said Board Member Chris Grant.

Board President Joan Laursen and Board Member Jamie Hintzke opposed the extra library hours, with Hintzke worried about other costs to the district, including the ongoing postponing of needed maintenance. Laursen was concerned about using one-time savings to pay for an ongoing expense.

"I don't think we'll be able to do that in the future," she said.

The approval will allow schools to raise money for additional library and technology hours at each site.

The expenses approved Tuesday night were not included in the budget OK'd by the board, although they will be added in a later budget revision.

Contract extensions for Ahmadi and two assistant superintendents were approved Tuesday night, which include furlough days as well as $400 monthly car allowances for all three.

Bill Faraghan, assistant superintendent of human resources, will continue to earn $184,614 (with stipends for a masters degree and doctorate); Cazares will earn $182,964 (including a master's degree stipend) -- not counting the potential furlough days -- for a 220-day work year.

Both Hintzke and Arkin voted against the contracts while saying they support Faraghhan and Cazares.

"Car allowances ... for assistant superintendents, I feel it's something we need to eliminate," Arkin said. "My decision is not based at all on the person or the position.

Ahmadi will continue at $220,000 for a 223-day work year, along with a $400 monthly car allowance; as with other district employees, her salary would be cut if furlough days were implemented. Her contract extension received unanimous approval.

The board also heard the first results of a demographic study that could mean more schools once the city is built out -- meaning all its property is developed. The demographer's report said that won't come within the next 10 years, although some adjustments may have to be made to accommodate a potential influx of new students based on housing recently approved by the city.

In other actions at its meeting Tuesday, the board:

* Heard an update to facilities masters plan, which is expected to move forward this summer and be ready by November;

* Hired a consultant to help increase attendance rates. Although the district typically has about 97% attendance, a slight jump -- about .25% in average daily attendance -- could mean an extra $200,000 for the district;

* Approved a proposal by Nancy and Gary Harrington to place public art on school property near the intersection of First Street and Bernal Avenue. The district would have to raise $25,000 for the piece, half of which would corporate student art;

* Approved a deferred maintenance plan that would take care of some basic repair work, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning for Pleasanton Middle School, but postpone other maintenance; and

* Approved an election for three seats on the school board this November.

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