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Budget crisis threatens class-size reduction, staff

Original post made on Jan 15, 2009

In the last week, Superintendent John Casey warned that the state's growing deficit problems could force the district to cut as much as $8.7 million from this year's and the 2009-10 budgets, which could mean reductions in faculty, programs, five days of classroom instruction and an end to class size reductions for kindergarten to third grade classes.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, January 15, 2009, 7:50 AM

Comments (89)

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 15, 2009 at 8:39 am

Kernan apparently said: "If those cuts are implemented, this is going to be a crap district," he continued. "I didn't move here to have my kids go to a crap school. I'll be damned if [the kindergarteners are going to get a secondary education while I'm on this board."

Amazing, Mr. Kernan! Did they teach you to speak like that at law school? Perhaps you and Dick Cheney attended the same school? Maybe it is time to look more seriously into your residency qualifications. You certainly won't be paying for any parcel tax, will you now?

Here's some perspective. My parents moved to Pleasanton for its quality schools. I attended all through the 80s, a time when California had the highest teacher to student ratio of the nation and annual decreases in school funding (which lead to Prop 98). We didn't have a parcel tax either. Please explain, in non-vulgar language, how it was possible that Pleasanton had quality schools then.


Posted by HoldUp!!!, a resident of Danbury Park
on Jan 15, 2009 at 8:54 am

Give all the credit you want to the teachers and administrators, BUT good schools with good test scores start, and end, in the home. The same parents that have such high standards, and arent very nice on the blogs, are the ones making sure the students in our schools on top of their education.

Imagine that though... the liberals in education have come up with more taxes to solve our problems. Knock me over with a feather...


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:09 am

"For 14 years, we have fought to get this district to where it's at," Kernan said. "It could go away, literally, overnight."

Basically what Mr. Kernan is saying is that he can't make disinterested, rational decisions because he has so much personal emotion vested into the current state of the district.

"The people who are blogging and making critical comments about our teachers and administrators, really there's just a disconnect from what they're saying to reality"

I have to agree somewhat on this because, like I wrote in another thread, this kind of budget crisis issue invariably gets conflated with perceived staff characteristics. One needs to step back from the emotional aspect of this, like we should ask of Mr. Kernan.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:16 am

"The tax, combined with the reduction of administrative expenses and good faith proposals from unions, she argued, would keep schools stable instead of waiting for education finance reform from the state."

I agree with Joan Larsen. I fully support a parcel tax, but I will vote YES only after I see Casey making some smart cuts to the administration. Last year, he spoke of his need to keep his staff intact... that will not be possible Casey, not if you want full support for a parcel tax.

I have two kids in Pleasanton schools and know first hand the extra admin staff we have. Like Larsen said, the parcel tax must be "combined with the reduction of administrative expenses and good faith proposals from unions".

For the person who spoke of bloggers: I am one of those bloggers, I know a lot about how schools work, the staff they have - I have volunteers in my kids' schools. I donate to the PTA, etc.

PUSD has some excellent teachers, but the unions have demands that are simply unreasonable. One of those unreasonable demands is all this time off our kids get. Teacher work days, etc, etc. Then the late start days. I am sorry, but a 3rd grade teacher that teaches that grade year after year should not need more time to "prepare" - if she/he does, that is a sad statement about his/her competence and must be let go.

We all need to do our share. We as a community need to approve a parcel tax BUT ONLY after we see Casey getting rid of so much in the way of unnecessary yet highly paid staff, some of his goodies, etc. And we need to see the teachers' unions cooperate as well.

Why don't I go to board meetings? Because the last thing I need is retaliation against my kids.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:18 am

I'd like to also point everyone's attention over to the article the Independent is running on this issue: Web Link

Basically, the Governator is proposing a 5 day reduction in the school year and Casey apparently isn't too hot on that idea.

"Casey said that he and educators and school boards all over the state worked hard to extend the school year to 180 days over the span of many years. "Part of the motivation was to teach kids the skills and motivation as other kids (in other nations) have, to compete with them (in the international marketplace). They had many more school days," said Casey. Even today, Japan and many European nations are still ahead of the 180-day average of the United States, said Casey."

What Casey forgot to mention is that these other countries have national curriculum, national funding, and national control for their schools. We have state funding, state curriculum, and local control. Is that a fair comparison? Additionally, he's working on the assumption that the number of days we send our kids to school will make them competitive with those other countries. Does it? How many years have we had 180 day school years? Have our student achievement numbers increased as a reflection of the increased days?

I suspect the truth is that the number of days is only a partial picture. What truly affects student achievement is a society that values education, what those other countries have and we don't. We're more interested in protecting our property values or naval gazing at Sarah Palin.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:20 am

Even if we approve a parcel tax, the following cuts (from a list released in a previous PW article) SHOULD be made:

Salary Rollback – Each 1% would save $1 million

Staff Development Days – Currently have 3 on the salary schedule.

(Each day encroaches on the general fund about $200,000. In addition, we have 2 paid "non student" days for teachers. These cost about $450,000 per day.)

Assistant Director Student Nutrition Services $90

Director of Architectural Planning $96

Coordinator of Data Processing $120

Coordinator of Categorical Programs $120

Coordinator of Vocational Education $120

Public Information Office Position $120

Director of Human Resources 1 FTE $120

Director of Assessment and Program Evaluation $120

Assistant Director of Special Education $100

Assistant Director M&O 2 FTE $240

Cell Phone Bill Backs and Reductions by Program Change $75

Substitute Pay Rate Reduction – 10% $80

Reduce Site Discretionary Allocation – 20% $151

Deferred Maintenance Match $600

APT $695

CSEA $195

Management $81;

Voluntary Staff Development Reform Program Eliminate $360

Suspend High School Collaboration Period

Defer Step and Column Increases $1.5 mil

Furlough Day $450/day

Elementary preparation period provided by a shortened student day.

Retirement Incentives?

Village Staff Reduction to Reflect Lower Enrollment

4/10 summer work week for district employees – Saving $?

Outsource services of the Graphics and Warehouse Department


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:20 am

Resident again,

I suggest emailing the board then. It is better to have your view on public record than it is to expect the board to make decisions based upon website comments.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:23 am

P.S. And for those employees who would quit because they have to give up their pay raise/goodies, let them. There are many districts laying off teachers, many people who would qualify to be administrators/directors/coordinators who would gladly work for PUSD.

That way, the parcel tax does not have to be 350 - it can be less. We need to approve ONLY the amount necessary to keep our excellent schools. It is time to get rid of some of the waste, and that would NOT compromise the quality of our schools.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:24 am

Forgot to mention, the board should take a more serious look at cutting 5 days out of the school year before proposing a parcel tax. They could possibly save K-3 class size reduction by doing so, assuming categorical spending doesn't tie their hands.

And Mr. Kernan should use his lawyering expertise to lobby the Legislature into reforming school financing if he's so passionate about his district involvement instead of using language we don't like our own kids to use.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:29 am

Stacey:

I watched the board meeting, and they talked about the 5 days less in school. I do not understand why Casey is not for it. My kids do absolutely nothing productive the last week of school. They have all kinds of parties, picnics, field trips. I think we can do without the last week of school.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:32 am

Stacey:

Your comment "assuming categorical spending doesn't tie their hands." caught my attention.

At the board meeting I watched (from home on Tuesday), they talked about this. Apparently, the governor has given district freedom to move money around. They even talked about how PUSD would not lose CSR funding even if they increased class size to 32 kids. Yes, the governor has foolishly given districts the ability to move money around from one thing to the other, with no penalties. (at least that is how I understood their discussion)


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:35 am

Any parcel tax proposal needs to be framed with certain requirements.

- It is illegal for the tax to be ad valorum or based on income, but I think it is legal for it to be based upon square footage (which can approximate socio-economic status). Then owners of apartment buildings that have the potential to have more children attending school than those of us in smaller single-family homes pay more of a fair share, which they can reflect in their rental prices. Unfortunately, any owners who don't live in Pleasanton won't be able to vote on a tax they would be required to pay (taxation without representation), but I think the courts ruled that legal too.

- PUSD is basically saying that they can't run quality schools in times of economic hardship and therefore need a parcel tax. So tie it in with economic conditions. When the economy rebounds, remove the parcel tax without opportunity for renewal. That is meant to prevent excessive spending in good times so that the next time an economic downturn hits, cuts won't be painful.

- The parcel tax proposal has to detail precisely what gets spent on what and not some general list of what the money "could be" spent on.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 15, 2009 at 9:40 am

Resident again,

As I've come to understand, categorical spending is a mechanism by which the State tries to protect funds from collective bargaining, which eats up districts' general funds. While good on the one hand, it prevents districts from using their full funding sources for local needs. The Legislative Analysts Office has an excellent document talking about some of the problems and possible solutions. I direct your attention to it: Web Link


Posted by Mike, a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2009 at 10:13 am

HAHA, what a moron:

"For 14 years, we have fought to get this district to where it's at," Kernan said.

He want's us to take him seriously, and he cannot even speak intelligently. Hey bud, sentences should not be ended with a preposition. So let me understand your logic Kernan: For 14 years, you've fought to bring the district to a place where a parcel tax should be passed. Why are you so adamant about passing a tax that you've been working on for 14 years? What sort of graft do you get?

Maybe you can use the extra dough to enroll at DVC to take an introductory English course. Especially one that emphasizes the use of adjectives. I think his argument could be strengthened if he doesn't use the word "crap" so much:
"If those cuts are implemented, this is going to be a crap district."


Posted by Lifetime resident, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 15, 2009 at 10:31 am

As a lifetime pleasanton resident who attended all of my schooling in Pleasanton, the waste is incredible. These are lean times. The district has had the LUXURY of an incredible budget for many of those past 14 years. It seems very reasonable to elimiate many of the positions on the proposed cuts WITHOUT increasing class size or removing music, art and sports. At times like this, everyone has to work harder - teachers and administrators too. I was shocked at the cost of the 'work days' How many of us do work and professional development on our own time in efforts to excel at our work and maintain our jobs. The teacher's union has got to come to the table and protect our kids by lessening their demands. If their true interest is the kids, taxing the families even more during this very challenging time is NOT the answer. Would you rather them put that money toward an 'assistant xyz' or health insurance? The district has some tough decisions to make and I agree they are way too emotionally invested to make those hard cuts. Ditch the 3 works days - and then the 5 days shorter year becomes 2....


Posted by Pete, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2009 at 11:30 am

Constraints on our school resources only allow our administrators to comprehend that money is the only way out. That may be true. Who would oversight this parcel tax revenue? How long? I know that can not be answered at this time. If the Weekly is Pleasanton's voice then an unfounded transparency should be considered to communicate fully to our Community. Mr. Casey's argument to contact the school district, if you have questions, is not the answer. We must not sacrifice the possibility for a lower achieving Community. I'm only discouraged by the way our Reps. appear to be begging rather than outlining and communicating to the public in a comprehensive way. Calling or e-mailing the district if you have questions, what's that about Mr. Casey? Lay it out, allow the Community to understand their role and lets get on with it.


Posted by jennifer, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 15, 2009 at 11:37 am

A parcel tax is a band aid, when it ends the wounds will still be there.


Posted by another concerned citizen, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2009 at 11:38 am

Mr.Kernan has a vested interest in the school district. He has two of his daughters teaching in the district, who would lose their jobs if CSR would be implemented (due to seniority). I think Class size reduction is great, and would really hate to see it eliminated. The younger children are "given more attention", as it is difficult to check on everyone's progress with 30 little ones. Now a days, with the economy being as it is, and more people going to work and coming home tired, they don't have time to help their kids with homework, or monitor that it is even done. It seems that now a days, some children don't have a very long attention span (maybe from playing video games and watching too much TV-since parents don't want them outside). There also seems to be high incidences of ADD/ADHD, and behaviors on the Autistic spectrum (Autism, Aspergers, and Non Verbal learning disorders, etc.) that teachers have to contend with in the classroom-not to mention those that don't speak English as a first language (yes, there are plenty here in Pleasanton-don't be fooled into thinking the population hasn't changed. While, I don't think that it would be "crap" education, I just think some of these kids would fall further behind, if they don't get the attention they need in class, and from specialists such as Reading Specialists, Resource, etc. or maybe they parents will need to stop blaming the schools for all their children's problems and step-up, and provide the tools for learning at home-like a good breakfast. I know some parents can't really help, because while overall, Pleasanton has educated, English speaking families, with good incomes, it can't be said for each and every family.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Mr. Kernan's interest is getting us to pay a parcel tax so PUSD can pay his kids salary. He will not pay the parcel tax because his home is not in Pleasanton.
He has no credibility!


Posted by Kelly, a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 15, 2009 at 1:35 pm

Please take a moment to send a quick e-mail to our representatives at the state level regarding funding for education.

Web Link


Posted by Amy, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 15, 2009 at 1:40 pm

I support doing what is needed to help keep our schools at it's current staffing levels. $1 a day extra per household is a reasonable request. As a community, we ALL benefit when our schools excel. I believe that our excellent schools and their great reputation has helped shield us from some of the plunging home values that many surrounding communities are struggling with.

The proposed cuts will negatively and more disproportionately impact the most vulnerable students/families. It is widely agreed that early intervention helps reduce anti-social behaviors later in life.

I firmly disagree with reducing the school year - there will always be "the last week" or "last day" of the class year. It is just illogical to take these days away.


Posted by Steven, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm

I don't know Mr Kernan, but he certainly is getting a lot of criticism - is it just because he lives out of district?

Both our boys went through the Pleasanton schools, and are much the better for it. I applaud the School Board (past and present) for having retained so much of what other school districts have given up in recent years. I also respect the work Dr John Casey and his team have done to provide the School Board with the option to keep these programs alive.

But we all (at work and in our personal lives) are struggling to make sense of, and in some cases just survive, the present economic mess. Neither Casey nor the School Board got us into this, but they will surely, as this forum shows, take the heat for having to fix it.

Sure, there's fat to be cut, but I know enough Pleasanton teachers to appreciate how much work they do outside of the classroom hours, whether it be planning new curriculum, parent-teacher conferences, or answering parents e-mails at 7:00 pm (or even 7:00am). And by the way, I'm not one of them, I work in the madhouse called Silicon Valley high tech.

I think our energies would be better spent supporting the PUSD in what is almost certainly the most important, and most difficult job they've faced in many years.


Posted by Kelly, a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 15, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Well said Steven. Our school board members and Superintendent are hard working people that have the burden of taking the heat for an unforeseen economic crisis that stetches far beyond the small community of Pleasanton. I applaud their efforts. This is not going to be easy.


Posted by bob, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 15, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Decrease the number of school days? It wasn't until I moved to California that I experienced the two week Winter Break, compared with one wek on the east coast, and the one week Thanksgiving Break, compared with two days on the east coast.


Posted by concerned, a resident of Amador Estates
on Jan 15, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Keep in mind that it may sound good to lay people off and list on this board who to lay off and their salaries. First of all, you don't realize how much an employee does until they are gone. People see a number and say "they aren't worth that" or "that position is not needed". But from experience in my own place of employment, there is always more to a position than a title and salary. Secondly, just remember the more people laid off, the greater the impact on our children as well as on local restaurants, shops, businesses, home values etc. If you don't think laying off someone at the district or a teacher in a school affects you and your own prosperity, you are wrong. People need to start thinking about the long-term greater good of the community as a whole rather than the immediate. A 1% pay cut across the board or a parcel tax is a small investment for the future of our children and community.


Posted by CEASER, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 15, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Every sector of the economy shrank last year except one: The Goverment sector.
It actually grew last year.

In this absurd system, private companies are constantly reacting to market conditions to improve effieciency and downsize when necessary.
Government institutions, by contrast, are immune from economic downturns.

I demand that the PUSD downsize to reflect the current ecomic climate.
I challenge PUSD to implement a 10% reduction of salaries and instutute layoffs
to balance the budget.

Finally, do you think that the Parcel tax is the only tax that will go up if it is passed?
The state is going to raise the sales tax and a numbe of business taxes!

GOVERNMET INSTITUTIONS MUST SHARE IN THE BURDEN IN THIS RECESSION.
IF THEY DO NOT, THE PARCEL TAX WILL NOT PASS.



Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 15, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Rather than burdening all taxpayers with a forced tax with no accountability, the school district should raise the needed money directly from parents with enrolled children. If the money is so needed, the parents will be more than willing to chip in. If the need is so compelling district personnel should be able to use their superior communication skills to easily explain it to the parents, who in turn will eagerly embrace the fee. By way of a reasonable calculation I estimate this to cost about $1.50 per day per child to cover the $8.7MM shortfall. Yes, Amy, I used your spin method to divide by the number of days in the year to come up with a way of presenting the lowest possible number.

My message is don't burden the rest of us with paying into a shortfall of $8.7 MM out of an approximate $143 MM annual budget that is not by anyone considered to be lean. The private sector who pay the taxes is experiencing what may turn into a full fledged depression, but governments, including school districts, try to go on business as usual. In this case they can't cut their budget even 6 percent, while the unemployment rate is soaring to above 7 percent, investment and retirement accounts have shrunk at least 30 percent, and home values are down by at least as much.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 15, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Steven,

As a school board trustee, Mr. Kernan is required to have residency in Pleasanton. His residency status was questioned last year (i.e., Web Link). Despite being currently cleared of any wrongdoing regarding his residency, a lot of folks are going to be quite angry if he goes and votes for putting a parcel tax on the ballot considering that Mr. Kernan won't have to share in such the tax burden.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 6:54 am

Kernan should not be allowed to vote on the parcel tax. His wife lives in a place far from Pleasanton, and that is where their house is.

Kernan only rents an apartment in Pleasanton, so it is easy for him to vote on a parcel tax that he won't have to pay.

This is the problem when Casey and other board members use legal technicalities to keep someone like Kernan on the board. Kernan will now be a liability for them as far as a parcel tax is concerned.

I personally feel Kernan should have stepped down the minute he decided to sell his Pleasanton home and relocate (look it up, he is quite involved in his new community). But Casey and other board members instead of doing the right thing, got legal opinions and kept Kernan on board. I truly question Casey's leadership: the Kernan deal, the lawsuit, and the way he wants to go about budget cuts...is he really worth what we pay him?


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 7:07 am

P.S. The Kernan deal showed a lot of us what voicing your concerns can do. Julie Testa had excellent arguments and research, but board member Ott and others simply dismissed her. The fact that Kernan rents an apartment where he stays (not the entire week, go to the link Stacey posted) does not make him a resident in my opinion, yet Casey and other board members chose to ignore, dismiss, get legal opinions based on technicalities.

All we can do is show our concerns through our vote and wallets.

If Casey and board do not do the right thing this time around, and cut much unnecessary expenses that should have been dealt with last year, there won't be much support for a parcel tax, at least not from me.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 16, 2009 at 8:17 am

I moved to the East Bay six years ago. Because I support education and believe that education is a key to success for my child, my selection started and ended with picking from the best schools. In no particular order they are: Pleasanton, San Ramon, Danville, and the Acalanes (district). Not on the list? Then you did not even get consideration.

Good schools attract good students that make for better schools. There will be others like me moving next week, next month, next year... Will Pleasanton be on their list? I hope so. Having a place that people want to move to keeps our prices higher (or the downturn less) than the rest of the area.

Remaing the best will be a hard decision. There will be unpleasant choices, loss of some things we have come to expect and higher costs, either directly or indirectly. I don't pretend to know the correct answer or even the best answer. The board and the community must decide whether to remain as the school system of choice and, if so, what is needed to achieve this.

Let us know how we can help.


Posted by a concerned citizen, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 8:41 am

$350 annually for a parcel tax? While Dublin, San Ramon, and Livermore all have passed a parcel tax it is so much less ($90-$138 a parcel). I got this information directly from the Pleasanton Unified School District web site. Web Link Yes, we do want to keep our schools and property values up, but at what cost? Some people are paying quite a bit of property tax already, especially those in the very expensive homes. Maybe, they can implement a fee, on a per child basis to keep some of the services going. Not too much, but something like $75-$100 per child-but I think that in these tough times people will balk at this, even here in Pleasanton. There is also no way to demand that people pay these fees (FAPE -free and public education is open to all). While we have our share of upper middle class families, we also have families who struggle to make ends meet, and who may be further impacted by further fees. I don't think a universal parcel tax is really fair, because for example, we have senior citizens who don't have children, and we have families who send their children to private schools.


Posted by mac, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 8:44 am

I'll say it again (from another thread) that it is also unacceptable to be paying for "part-time assistant to the teacher" positions that merely BABYSIT students with behavior problems. The purpose was set out to stop interruptions for the rest of the students, but the word is that disruptions still occur. WHY are we spending extra money on children who should be taken out of mainstream classrooms, rather than given personal attendants?!?

Look at all the examples of mis-spending or unnecessary spending going on...how many more exist that we don't even begin to know about?


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 16, 2009 at 9:24 am

Steven wrote:
"Neither Casey nor the School Board got us into this, but they will surely, as this forum shows, take the heat for having to fix it."

You know that is not entirely true. Certainly Casey and the School Board can't be held responsible for the economic downturn, but the expansion of services in the district during economic upturn that they are trying not to cut now is absolutely their responsibility.


Posted by patron of main street, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 16, 2009 at 9:25 am

Frank -- you are absolutely correct -- let those with enrolled kids pay this parcel tax! Let's see how anxious they are to vote for it then. We now have Kernan voting but living out of the district (hey, ask Ed Jew from SF about that, facts and circumstances prove it), we have parents insisting that their kid be mainstreamed at the expense of learning for everyone else and we have outrageously high property taxes already. Have you tried to get your taxes reduced due to the loss in value of your home? Good luck. Yet the PUSD would expect all of us -- EVEN THOSE WITH NO KIDS IN THE SYSTEM -- to pay for their excessive salaries, perks and un-needed assistants. Not right. Take pay cuts like the rest of the world has had to. Balance your budget by cutting the fat, do not try to assess me to balance it while wages and benefits remain untouched.


Posted by Mary, a resident of Amador Estates
on Jan 16, 2009 at 9:50 am

I'd like to respond to the post calling "part-time assistant to the teacher" nothing more than a babysitter. This comment implies that the persons serving in this capacity do not offer anything to any of our district's students both with and with out special needs.

I've 2 daughters attending Pleasanton schools who both have had special needs children and their assistants in their classrooms. I can only say what a blessing it has been for my family.

Not only do having special needs children teach my children compassion for those who face greater challenges than they do, they benefit from the extra adult leadership these assistants provide.

Because these assistants spend so much time in the classroom (much more than parent volunteers do) they know what curriculum is being taught, what is age appropriate behavior and often develop special relationships with the other students. They support and reinforce the teachers instruction in a far more productive and meaningful manner than just about any volunteer can.

I will never forget the boy who lived 2 doors down from me when I was growing up. He was born with downs syndrome and although he was the same age as me, he was never allowed to attend regular school or socialize with the neighborhood kids. Because we never got a chance to interact with him, my friends and I just thought he was weird and avoided him whenever possible. Fortunately for my children, they've gotten to know children with similar challenges and have learned that each one of them offers something special to their lives. How can anyone suggest that these children don't deserve to be treated as other children????

I am very thankful times have changed and students with similar challenges now have the opportunity to be educated and become contributors to our society!


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 10:01 am

"Frank -- you are absolutely correct -- let those with enrolled kids pay this parcel tax! "

So when you sell your house, tell the buyers they cannot attend PUSD schools unless they pay the 1.50/day.... let's see how well your house sells!

Not that I agree blindly with the parcel tax. Changes must be made before we approve one. But everyone should pay. After all, all of us also pay our share for senior centers and all of that, right?


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 16, 2009 at 10:25 am

Resident again,

But then what is the difference? They'll have to pay $1 a day anyway for a parcel tax whether the house buyers have children or not. And if they have children and want their kids to attend quality schools because of high test scores and per pupil spending, then they'll probably want to pay the $1.50 a day.


Posted by Bruce, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 16, 2009 at 11:01 am

Why are we talking about reductions in the classroom? All the cuts should come from administration. We now have a palace at First and Bernal for which I see no real need. I came from a small town in Ohio, with 2 elementary, 1 junior high and 1 high school. The administration consisted of the superintendent, his secretary, a principal and secretary for each school. The superintendent had his office in the high school.

Of course, this was before LBJ in his great wisdom created the Dept of Education. As is typical with any government function, it is all about them building a giant red tape machine that accomplishes nothing. Such a waste when you consider that our kids can no longer get educated considering how much we spend.

We have allowed our government not to be accountable. Look at the pork that gets spent on every bill in Congress, the assembly that can't pass let alone balance a budget. If they screw it up, just let them raise taxes. When Pleasanton has an excess, raise pensions for them, don't consider that we paid too much and give some back, use it or lose it. This paragraph could go on forever, but I think you get my point.

Why do we allow government workers to get public administration degrees instead of business administration degrees? Public admin. says here is your budget, spend it. Bus. admin. says make a profit and save for a rainy day. Maybe then we wouldn't be trying to tax homeowners to make up for government's shortsightedness.


Posted by Lorianne, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 16, 2009 at 11:06 am

Although it irks me beyond belief that Pat Kernan will get to vote on imposing a parcel tax on the rest of us due to his abyssmal record of waste and mismanagement, I don't see any reasonable way out of this mess without extra funds.
We must strive however to be VERY carful about how this money is allocated. Let's start by NOT going with the old tried and true behavior of forming a "committee" or "blue ribbon panel" to offer suggestions and then stacking it with district cheerleaders and other well-meaning but rather naive community or staff members. This method has always guaranteed that the district/administration gets exactly what they want and the taxpayers get stuck with the bill.

Every said taxpayer should send an immediate email to Dr. Casey jcasey@pleasanton.k12.ca.us insisting that Steve Brozosky and Julie Testa be appointed to any parcel tax committee to watch out for our billfolds. They are the ONLY folks in my memory (Deborah or Tim Kleffman do come to mind though)who have stood up to unnecessary spending or found unknown funds to help our kids or wallets out.

I'm sure our new board members would be happy for the unfiltered advice these two can provide as well.


Posted by a concerned citizen, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 11:21 am

Where is everyone coming up with a figure of $1.00-$1.50 a day? If they cut back on some of the administration and waste, they probably can get it to a lower figure. A fee for people with children in the district really can't be enforced, due to FAPE -the issue of Free and Public Education. In fact, at the schools, when money is asked for it is usually not mandatory but put forth as a donation, unless it is for an activity which the child chooses to participate in, such as High School Band, or sports such as football, where they have to pay for things such as equipment, buses, and coaches. The schools also do a lot of fundraising. Where is all that money going? I guess in these tough economic times, people are not going to buy much gift wrap or cookie dough.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 11:27 am

"But then what is the difference? They'll have to pay $1 a day anyway for a parcel tax whether the house buyers have children or not. And if they have children and want their kids to attend quality schools because of high test scores and per pupil spending, then they'll probably want to pay the $1.50 a day."

Not necessarily, Stacey. Some people do not pay the extra money, donate to PTAs, etc. Some of us are already paying more in the way of taxes than those original owners who may not have kids in school.

My taxes also finance some senior citizen stuff, yet I am not a senior citizen. It goes both ways.

When school districts are good, all property values benefit, not just those properties who belong to people with kids.

I pay a lot more in taxes than some people who have lived in Pleasanton forever, but my taxes are not only used for schools.

If we want to go that route, then let's do it correctly: those of us with kids pay for the school parcel tax, those who are seniors pay for the senior centers (and I don't), etc.

A parcel tax, if approved, should be financed by all. In fact, because of prop 13, it would be a lot more equitable to have those whose property tax is pretty much nothing, pay a larger share. It would be opening a can of worms to try to exempt people without kids from having to pay the parcel tax.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 16, 2009 at 12:10 pm

Resident again,

All of what you've written is valid. The main point I was trying to emphasize (poorly) was that if the stuff that would be paid for by a parcel tax is truly needed (as Frank wrote), parents with children in PUSD would be willing to fund it themselves and wouldn't not buy a house because of it. Buyers already are willing to pay a premium in housing prices for the school quality so there is no real difference. Personally, I don't agree that they necessarily should pay-for-use. I also don't agree with the tendency for wealthy districts to fund locally. One of the points of prop 13 was to equalize quality in education for all of California's children. That goal hasn't been realized yet and parcel taxes passed in wealthy districts just add to the problem. Why doesn't that money go to helping out poor districts too? If the argument of "think of the good of the children" were put into real practice, it wouldn't be for selfish "think of my children" only.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Stacey:

I already pay more than 10K in property taxes. I would certainly be a buyer skeptical of a place that has a parcel tax only for people with kids. I would not buy a house there. It is no different that what went on in Windemere (San Ramon). Windemere residents (I know because a good friend lives there) have to pay more taxes (I think it is 1.7%) than other San Ramon residents. These extra taxes go to pay for some services like police, but also for the Windemere schools. Children from the nearby Gale Ranch also enjoy Windemere schools, but their parents do not pay for the additional tax.

The result? Many who moved to Windemere (the well to do ones) said enough, sold and moved to Danville or Pleasanton instead.

Even if it may be hard for you to believe: many buyers, including me, would walk away from a property if we feel that we will be treated differently. People with kids pay more taxes?

Prop. 13 is wrong in many ways. I have neighbors who barely pay a fourth of what I pay in taxes, and I also have neighbors who pay a lot more than I do. It is simply not equitable. As far as poor districts, that is a different subject altogether. Those residents in poor districts pay less for housing and taxes. But they all receive similar amount of money per student from the state.

Basic aid districts like Palo Alto are based on property taxes, not ADA, and that is why they get more money. I am not sure that Pleasanton would qualify for Basic funding vs. ADA, given that the tax revenue does not seem to be there. That is an analysis the Business people in PUSD must go through if they think Pleasanton qualifies and would benefit from it.

Again, a parcel tax must be financed by all. Otherwise, I would want my more than 10K to go all to the schools, and nothing to senior centers and things like that. Selfish approach in my mind, and it would not work.

And to get back on topic: Casey and the board must make all the necessary cuts before expecting this community to approve a parcel tax. I would be happy to approve and pay for a parcel tax, but only after I see downsize in the PUSD staff. Casey needs to take the blind fold he seems to have on and realize we are in a bad recession, that things have to change, that he cannot just expect to have a parcel tax and keep everything the way it is. Across the country and world, everyone is making changes: from downsizing of staff, to salary freezes, and so on. PUSD employees, the unions, Casey and his admin staff cannot possibly expect that they will be able to continue business as usual. Make the necessary changes, then talk to us about a parcel tax.


Posted by ResidentWho?, a resident of Canyon Oaks
on Jan 16, 2009 at 1:35 pm

FYI Resident, Prop 13 allows people to pay a comensurate amount of property tax for the value of the home they purchase.

This allows people to stay in a home for decades, even into retirement, without the problem of taxing someone out of their home.

You could see that might be a problem. And that is what happened prior to prop 13. Perhaps you are too young to remember, or too dim to look it up.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 16, 2009 at 1:43 pm

"Prop. 13 is wrong in many ways. I have neighbors who barely pay a fourth of what I pay in taxes, and I also have neighbors who pay a lot more than I do. It is simply not equitable. As far as poor districts, that is a different subject altogether. Those residents in poor districts pay less for housing and taxes. But they all receive similar amount of money per student from the state."

Now we'll easily get on a tangential discussion about Prop 13. :)
Prop 13 was a tax revolt. It doesn't seem equitable when looked at that way. Neither was it equitable when government got a windfall of taxes because of market conditions that would occur outside of homeowners' control and homeowners got no corresponding increase in government services in return. At the time some homeowners saw close to 50% increase in valuation of their properties! Can you imagine suddenly having to pay an additional $5k to what you're paying now?

BTW, the amount you pay in property tax is the same amount my senior citizen in-laws on fixed income paid for the home on Long Island they owned for some 40 years. They were able to finally sell last year for under $400K. They pay about half that amount now for property taxes on their Livermore house. Guess what the majority of their old property tax bill went to? ;)

"And to get back on topic: Casey and the board must make all the necessary cuts ... Make the necessary changes, then talk to us about a parcel tax."

We agree. I'd like to see any proposed parcel tax structured in a certain way too. None of this "expires in 5 years" thing. What would happen if PUSD starts receiving more adequate funding from the State again (perhaps via CTA's new ballot measure)? Taxpayers shouldn't be burdened with providing a windfall to the district.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 1:44 pm

"FYI Resident, Prop 13 allows people to pay a comensurate amount of property tax for the value of the home they purchase.

This allows people to stay in a home for decades, even into retirement, without the problem of taxing someone out of their home.

You could see that might be a problem. And that is what happened prior to prop 13. Perhaps you are too young to remember, or too dim to look it up."

Maybe that is one of the reasons for the housing bubble. Most states increase someone's property tax based on the current value of the home. If a person cannot afford it, then the logical thing is to sell, rather than getting a break.

There are people in Pleasanton who paid 65K for their house - don't tell me it is normal to tax them based on that amount. The 2% automatic increase that is added is not enough, not when your base is 65K. Prop 13 is simply done incorrectly.

If people were being "taxed out of their homes" before prop 13 as you said, then those people did not have any business owning a house. House were very inexpesive back when prop. 13 passed. Look it up. I bought houses from original owners here in CA, and trust me, the amount they were paying for taxes, even with an increase, was very low.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Agreed, Stacey, prop. 13 is a whole different story, and the topic should remain the budget, cuts and parcel tax.


Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Las Positas
on Jan 16, 2009 at 4:26 pm

To Frank & who ever else is in agreement with him.... the logic to charge parents is insane. That is called PRIVATE SCHOOL! I am a parent of a child in a Pleasanton Elementary school and (most) Pleasanton parents do a lot more for their schools than most other districts, including Livermore & Dublin. You obviously have not seen the LIST of supplies you are required to purchase before school starts! Have you seen the class donation we need to give? How about the Science donation? How about any other monetary donation they ask for? And for those of us who do this, have you seen the amount of money we give to the PTA? Granted, the PTA dues are low, however if you are like me & actually put time in to volunteer (yes, while I have a full time job), that is priceless. We, as parents of the Pleasanton School District are here for a reason. To get the best education & we do all we can for the schools our children are in. $300 is easily spent before the year even begins, in addition to any other money spent throughout the year. Now you're saying WE should pay additional because it's OUR kids in the school, and not yours? That is the ignorant mentality I moved away from when I moved here. Or so I thought.


Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm

Resident again

You are blowing smoke on Prop 13. The example of someone paying 1.25% on a $65K valuation exists only in your mind. The law allows an annual valuation increase that is limited to a certain percentage. That $65K original purchase valuation would be far greater today. In the 15 years here in my second home in Pleasanton my taxes have doubled to $8500 per year. The fact that you made a choice to recently come to Pleasanton and pay a high price for a home to cause you to knowingly pay $10,000 per year in property taxes was your choice, and it is intrinsically UNFAIR that your choice should cause existing resident's property taxes to go up by amounts that are unrelated to the actual cost of services that the taxes support. That's the heart and soul of Prop 13 - basic fairness which in turn is based upon basic economics. Your claim that someone should be forced to sell their house because you payed a high price for yours is actually disgusting. You go further and say they did not have any business being here. You are, to say the least, an elitest.

In your thread you pick on senior citizens somehow benefitting by not subsidizing a parcel tax that helps pay for extra academic counselors who we have learned sometimes spend their time providing psychological counseling services that should be provided privately and payed for by parents.. Well, how about all of those apartment rentals in Hacienda teeming with families with children? Will they pay any parcel tax?


Posted by Julie, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Julie is a registered user.

My 80 year old mother would never be able to afford her S.F. house if she were being taxed on the full value. I've only lived here 8 years but my property taxes have gone up every year, so I agree that no one is possibly paying taxes on only 65K around here!

It's a dangerous path to start a precedent where everyone only pays for things that directly affect them. It certainly doesn't seem like a very civilized path.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2009 at 7:31 am

Julie,

You may want to look it up. There are people around here paying taxes based on 65K. Go to the site
Web Link

You can look up any property if you know the address.

There are people who bought their house in the 60's 70's and their taxes are based on the original value (less than 100k)

Frank: I am not picking on anyone. I simply replied to the ridiculous argument that those of us with kids should pay the parcel tax but not those without kids. That argument is no different than me saying that since I am not a senior citizen, I do not want my taxes to finance senior centers. Also, we all benefit from the roads, parks in Pleasanton, yet some people pay very little in taxes, others pay more. So if as a parent, I have to pay parcel taxes to finance the schools, then by all means, those paying so little in tax must pay their share for roads, parks, and all those services financed by property taxes.

Charging parents for the parcel tax is no different than charging seniors for their services, and others for their share of roads, parks and other services.

And Frank, your taxes are nothing if you compare them to home owners across the country. Other states have taxes as high as 3%, and they pay more than you for a house that is worth less. I too am not in my first house here, and pay more in taxes than before, that is a personal choice and it is fine with me.

When I hear that there are people who don't want to pay for a school parcel tax because they don't have kids, I'd like to know how much they pay for taxes, and if they are in the category of those paying next to nothing in taxes, then they should pay their share for the services they indeed receive (roads, parks, senior centers, etc) since they think they are so special that they should not pay for a school parcel tax. They seem to be okay with riding along, not paying their share for roads, etc, but when it comes to schools, they are loud and want exemption....go figure!


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2009 at 8:04 am

"There are people who bought their house in the 60's 70's and their taxes are based on the original value (less than 100k)"

Correction:

based on the original value plus the 2% annual adjustment.

Not all houses are fancy in Pleasanton, and some original owners who bought a modest home a long time ago paid 40-45K for their property. Add the 2% to that. Look it up.


Posted by patron of main street, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 17, 2009 at 9:31 am

For resident again -- I will never support a parcel tax to fund increases in the cost of education. They need to reduce their costs, not ask me to subsidize them.
Your logic is flawed regarding assessment of those with kids. It absolutely is fair. I pay huge property taxes and I do use the roads, I will call 911 if needed, I will someday be a senior but I chose not to procreate and have no desire to be asked to pay even more to finance other people's kids. Either the schools CUT their pay, benefits and expenses or the people using the system need to pay the difference. I pay too much already and based on the loss in property value the past year any additional taxes for schools will not "make my property worth more". That is the fantasy of the local realtors. Just like "hey, you CAN afford that house, let me put you in touch with my friend the (slimy) mortgage broker".
Now here's an idea. For each foreclosure, have the government assess a fee on the realtor and mortgage broker equal to their commission. They have to pay back what they got, it goes to the schools, everyone is better off. OK, that's just my fantasy, but it would be poetic justice.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2009 at 9:56 am

"Your logic is flawed regarding assessment of those with kids. It absolutely is fair. I pay huge property taxes and I do use the roads, I will call 911 if needed, I will someday be a senior but I chose not to procreate and have no desire to be asked to pay even more to finance other people's kids."

patron of main street:

I don't think my logic is flawed. If only people with kids have to pay for a school parcel tax, then let's go through the books and see who has to finance what and pass parcel taxes accordingly: senior parcel tax, people who pay little in the way of taxes because prop 13 parcel tax, etc.

Also, it depends on what you call a lot of money in taxes - I am sure there are plenty of Pleasanton residents who pay more taxes than you, so they are in a way, financing the portion you don't pay for services and they do.

The point is, we cannot pick services we pay for based on whether we have kids, dogs, we are young or seniors. That would be the most ridiculous, and probably illegal, way to do things.

I wonder.... why would people choose to buy an expensive house in Pleasanton if they don't have kids and don't plan to? Pleasanton is a kid friendly place, and most people either move to Pleasanton or continue to live here because they want to have good schools. Others of course, stay in their homes because of finances - cannot afford to move and pay the new price/taxes. Others stay here because this is where they raised their kids, and I am certain those people will not mind supporting the schools their kids already went to.

I agree with you on one thing: the district must cut unnecessary expenses - they have a lot of highly paid, redundant admin staff, too many teacher work days, staff development days for instance. But after that, if a parcel tax is needed, it must be financed by all.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Stoneridge
on Jan 17, 2009 at 2:01 pm

No more taxes !

Stop spending money you don't have.

Nope not a dime more.


Posted by Seen It, a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jan 17, 2009 at 4:43 pm

A few comments on the thread:
-The socio-economic makeup of the community has everything to do with the success in the classroom. Once a child enters school, staff is there to nurture their learning. It can be make or break based on a teachers, administrators, or programs (different topic entirely).
-I agree the state of the state will impact PUSD, but the heat on the Board and Casey is well deserved. They failed this school year's first financial report to the county BEFORE the state has handed down the cuts, and they have given raises by dipping into the reserves. These are not forward thinking, responsible people spending our money.
-Parcel taxes can be set up to exempt senior citizens (usually have to apply every year for the exemption). However, the language for the measure for the parcel tax needs to be written so the district's general fund isn't inadvertently committed to making up shortfalls in the parcel tax receipts; i.e. if the measure commits $3 million to class size reduction and the actual receipts are $2 million due to senior exemptions, the district then would have to come up with the missing $1 million, likely at the expense of other programs.
-$350 isn't $1/day--a school year is only 180 days.
-I would strongly suggest that if a parcel tax is attempted that the citizen's committee find out if there is a way to prevent waste of the money in the general fund (probably requires a change of thinking at the top, if not new leadership). In other words, if you raise $8 million for programs already in place, it potentially takes $8 million in pressure off the general fund, which then may be targeted for compensation, benefits, or adding staff.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 17, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Letting the quality of our schools deteriorate will inevitably lead to plummeting home prices in Pleasanton. Just take a look at our neighbors who don't have great schools like we do. So if you're a homeowner in Pleasanton, you would approve the parcel tax with both hands. The alternative would be to see your equity plummet to zero!

With that said, PUSD should look for more ways to run things more efficiently. Times are tough so PUSD should adjust their spending and do more with less to coup with our current economy. No, we don't need Vice Principles in every school and no, teachers don't need "prep time" to teach. They can have these "prep time" before and afterschool. And no, we don't need specialized PE teachers to teach kids how to run around and toss the balls. So, let's add the parcel tax and fund more useful programs for the kids. Kids need a more diverse and liberal education to succeed in this competitive world.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Fairlands Elementary School
on Jan 17, 2009 at 6:20 pm

We moved here from Cupertino and are shocked to see the pathetic donations parents give to the school and classrooms where their kids attend. Parents in Cupertino schools donate a minimum of $300 per child, and that doesn't even include the employer matching. Those funds account for $260K each year for everything from field trips to printer paper. Here in Pleasanton schools have the beg for a donation of $40 per child in elementary school. That's absolutely ridiculous. 3 months into the school year and the teacher is already asking for donations of crayons, pencils, and paper. What ghetto school district is this?


Posted by patron of main street, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 17, 2009 at 8:19 pm

From Sarah, "What ghetto school district is this?" Put the burden where it lies if your point is about donations. It is not the SCHOOL DISTRICT or the CHILDLESS PROPERTY OWNERS who make this look like your "ghetto". If your soapbox is that parents of the kids are cheap, stingy and selfish then say so. For the cost of a couple of manicures or most likely way less than one botox treatment these parents could fund the schools to the level you stated. And this is my point exactly. They are YOUR kids, now YOU pay for them. I have no kids using crayons or any other classroom items. I will never endorse a parcel tax. Cut out the fat, fire the vice principles, give pay and benefit cuts to everyone in the district, no exceptions, no sacred cows.
And for Birdland Bob, I will never support a parcel tax with either or both hands. And my equity can never plummet to zero, I have no mortgage. Do not speak in hyperbole, you lose your audience and you fail to make your point.


Posted by Julie, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 17, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Julie is a registered user.

Patron, trust me - you are not "financing" my kids, I am!

If you don't support a parcel tax, fine. However, educating children benefits ALL of a society. Perhaps not directly, but indirectly. And for those of you who like stats and research, there is plenty of it regarding how education (especially early education) has a positive impact. Would you rather pay more for welfare programs, prisons, etc? You may think that the relatively small amount of money you contribute to schools through taxes is irrelevant to your life, but you are wrong.

And I know that there's the perception that everyone in Pleasanton is rich, but that's inaccurate too. For many parents it isn't a matter of botox injections or manicures that keep them from donating. I think there's a law that guarantees a free public education for all...


Posted by The Moderate Republican, a resident of Castlewood
on Jan 17, 2009 at 10:13 pm

A few hundred dollars per parcel per year is a small price to pay to keep our schools top notch and uphold the value of my 3 investment properties in this city. I support the tax.


Posted by jennifer, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 18, 2009 at 7:28 am

A parcel tax will only look as though the problems are going to be better, but my best friend lives and works in Dublin who passed a tax and their district, which is an outstanding school with just as remarkable teachers as Pleasanton, is still going to face cuts. Pleasanton will too!!!


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 18, 2009 at 7:29 am

Give your $1 a day to the teacher and their classroom.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2009 at 8:35 am

Sarah:

I do not know what school you go to, but in our school, most parents give more than what you speak of to the PTA. In addition to that, we also give money for field trips and much more. Most of us are happy to contribute to our school because we see how the money is used and how our kids benefit. Each school has a different approach about how they spend the PTA funds, so I suggest you talk to your PTA and see why your school is not able to get better donations from parents.

Those contributions do not make up for a parcel tax. Casey and the board need to cut some unnecessary expenses starting with the admin itself, and then compute the amount needed. We can then approve a parcel tax.

If Casey refuses to make the obvious and reasonable cuts such as salary freezes, getting rid of some of his staff and goodies, and the unions refuse to be reasonable and give up the unnecessary teacher work days, especially at the elementary school level, then it may be difficult to convince people to say yes to a parcel tax. After all, the entire country is making changes, why can't Casey and the board do the same? They can make cuts and save money, without cutting valuable programs: they know that, we know that, and it is just a matter of the board looking out for this community, rather than blindly endorsing all of Casey's unreasonable proposals to cut valuable programs but not the obvious unnecessary expenses.


Posted by Property Tax, a resident of Stoneridge
on Jan 18, 2009 at 8:53 am


"Parcel Tax" ?? Come on call it what it is, "Property Tax" and we have already voted on this "Prop 13".....

You people are priceless !! What a waste of time and money.

No thanks.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 18, 2009 at 1:14 pm

PUSD should really shake up their management from the top down. The district is undoubtedly poorly managed. The budget cuts just brought these issues to the surface. There are a lot of inefficiencies in the system that Casey tolerated throughout the years. There are other districts that get much less fundings per student in base revenue limit and are outperforming our district in-terms of API scores and program offerings. Take Faria Elementary in Cupertino, for example. Faria has $4373 per student in base revenue limit versus PUSD has $6367 per student in base revenue limit for the year 2007/2008. Yet, Faria is continually one of the top schools in the Bay Area with a 1000 API score and still can offer Music, PE, Science, and Computer specialists to their students. That doesn't include all the other workbooks and extended library and kindergarden assistances PUSD lacks. These fundings come exclusively from the $95,000 per year in parent donations. $95,000, if properly managed, can fund many programs.

Contrast that with the $2000 extra for each student in PUSD. What the heck are they doing with that money? We need better management of the schools. To put this in persepective, we need CHANGE!!!


Posted by Sara, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 18, 2009 at 4:03 pm

All personnel should take furlough days as San Jose Unified School District just approved on Friday. That would help to save vital programs and vital personnel that are necessary to run the district this year and next. The district and the union should renegotiate the salary raise given to the teachers just about a year ago or take a small but necessary 2% pay cut to save the district.


Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm

Let's dispel this myth about people today living in Pleasanton paying property taxes on a $65K valuation. Resident again tried to weblink us to some data to support Resident again's contention, but alas, you need to input an address for each purported shack that has this valuation. Not a very useful way of proving that these shack's exist.

Now let's consider some real numbers. In 1979 when I arrived the city consisted of neighborhoods such as those near downtown plus some other more recently built neighborhoods further out. I bought a house in Pleasanton Meadows, somewhat of an outlier near the freeway. Santa Rita Rd. was two lanes at the time. No Hacienda Business Park existed and to get to Hopyard one either had to get on I580 or go via Valley Avenue. Hopyard was two lanes wide with a large ditch on the east side of it.

I paid $127K for the house. Today the property tax on that house would have risen to $2,800 using Prop 13 rules (2%) and if that original owner (me) still lived in it today. Instead, because it was re-sold a few times the taxes today are $5,100, considerably more than if I still lived there (I used the weblink). Zillow.com estimates this property at $710,000 today. If sold at this price, the taxes would jump again severely under Prop 13 rules. If someone chooses to pay such a price, why should everyone elses valuation go up? It does not because Prop 13 has saved us.

Now it is reasonable to assume that most of the 1979 housing stock was typified by my example (no or few shacks valued at $65K in 1979 and tax basis valuation driven up by market forces). Since 1979 Pleasanton doubled or tripled in size with more much expensive housing (how about Ruby Hills or the house I live in today?). Where are these $65K valuation examples in 2009 that are held up as an example? Please give us some addresses so we can go look them up. And, if they exist, are they significant in aggregate relative to the money we are talking about? Of course, NOT!

Please note that the accelerated property tax valuation that has occurred in Pleasanton during the last 30 years has generated a great windfall for its schools and government in general. Teacher salaries have soared along with administrative staff positions. Pay benefits associated with these positions have soared also. Not because of standard of living increases like those we experience in the private sector, but because you folks chose to pay high prices for homes in Pleasanton. There is no relationship to actual and necessary costs. You guys move in here because you chase some dream and in turn drive up the costs for all of the rest of us.

If you pay $10,000 in property taxes because you made the choice to do so, and you want to support the school's budget without cuts, please chip in. I choose not to, as well as to not support your dream.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 18, 2009 at 9:03 pm

"Posted by Jennifer, a resident of the Birdland neighborhood, 13 hours ago

Give your $1 a day to the teacher and their classroom."

Give your $1.50 a day to your child's teacher and their classroom and leave a parcel tax out of it.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2009 at 9:31 am

Frank:

I cannot enter an address for you to look up because that would not be alright. I suggest you look harder, there are plenty of online tools to look up property addresses. You have been in Pleasanton long enough, so you must know which neighborhoods and types of homes to look for.

I just looked up a Pleasanton address where the owners, in 2008 (2008 - 2009 Assessment Information), were taxed based on a little over 60K. They have the land value, improvements, taxable value, etc, that minus the 7000 exemption gave these owners a property tax based on a little over 60K.

I find it pointless to discuss this with you, but I thought I'd reply and let you know that there are people who pay taxes based on 65K or less. Look it up.

What you pay in taxes is not much, so you are one of the people who benefit from others paying more. Others finance your share of the road and other services. In other states, people who paid as much for their house as you did would pay their fair share of taxes.

Imagine if every city, state, operated on taxes without adjusting for inflation. Prices have gone up in general.

For you to complain so much about a few hundred dollars to support Pleasanton schools, given that you already do not pay all that much in taxes, is I suppose, a choice you have.


Posted by patron of Main St, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 19, 2009 at 10:03 am

You guys are making the wrong argument -- it just does not matter how much anyone is assessed for property taxes. ANY additional amount is unwarranted. The PUSD is too fat from the top down. Across the board cuts for EVERYONE are needed. Every single employee, no exceptions. How many people in this country have not suffered pay/benefit/pension cuts in the past few years? Very few other than the teachers and administrators in this town it would seem. Cut, cut and cut those salaries. Then and only then will they have any right to seek additional money. They need to balance the budget that they have, not ask for more money. Instead they try to continue with the COLAs and tenure for incompetent teachers. Start there and go right down the line with the economic hatchett. No person in this town should support even one dollar of additional tax until every person in the district has had their pay/benefits reduced. It has nothing to do with how much we pay in taxes. That is a whole different argument.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Patron of main street:

I agree with you that PUSD must make some cuts, and I believe such cuts will not have an impact on our schools (I find it hard to believe that a student would suffer if the admin staff does not get a raise or gives up their car stipends). Once all the unnecessary expenses are eliminated, we can talk about a parcel tax. I am sure the tax will not be much, because we would have reduced our expenses significantly.
**********************************
Here is the previous comment I posted:

Even if we approve a parcel tax, the following cuts (from a list released in a previous PW article) SHOULD be made:

Salary Rollback – Each 1% would save $1 million

Staff Development Days – Currently have 3 on the salary schedule.

(Each day encroaches on the general fund about $200,000. In addition, we have 2 paid "non student" days for teachers. These cost about $450,000 per day.)

Assistant Director Student Nutrition Services $90

Director of Architectural Planning $96

Coordinator of Data Processing $120

Coordinator of Categorical Programs $120

Coordinator of Vocational Education $120

Public Information Office Position $120

Director of Human Resources 1 FTE $120

Director of Assessment and Program Evaluation $120

Assistant Director of Special Education $100

Assistant Director M&O 2 FTE $240

Cell Phone Bill Backs and Reductions by Program Change $75

Substitute Pay Rate Reduction – 10% $80

Reduce Site Discretionary Allocation – 20% $151

Deferred Maintenance Match $600

APT $695

CSEA $195

Management $81;

Voluntary Staff Development Reform Program Eliminate $360

Suspend High School Collaboration Period

Defer Step and Column Increases $1.5 mil

Furlough Day $450/day

Elementary preparation period provided by a shortened student day.

Retirement Incentives?

Village Staff Reduction to Reflect Lower Enrollment

4/10 summer work week for district employees – Saving $?

Outsource services of the Graphics and Warehouse Department

**************

NOTE: Eliminating the position of Director of HR will not leave PUSD without anyone in charge of HR. There is other staff, including an Assistant Superintendent. It just seems like all the departments have redundant positions. Here is what HR looks like:
Web Link

This is just one department. PUSD has other departments that have too much staff.

Most places, in times of financial crisis, cut redundant positions, and the employees who stay are expected to do more than before. PUSD should do the same.

The list released by PUSD is not comprehensive, and they start with classroom cuts. The cuts to unnecessary expenses that the admin and unions have to agree to are mentioned as options, something to consider, and that is simply wrong. I am very supportive of a parcel tax but only if it is truly needed and if it is for the amount needed, not for one that will be used to continue to pay for all this waste.

In my opinion, Casey and his cabinet will probably be reluctant to propose and go through salary cuts or feezes for themselves and their staff, so we need the PUSD board of trustees to do their job and demand what is right for our schools and community.


Posted by Joan, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 19, 2009 at 3:28 pm

As much as all of you would like to see cuts, the school sites need to keep teachers with low classes, vice principal's to deal with the many behavior issues that arise daily, and counselor's to deal with daily crisis management. With higher class sizes, you will need vice principal's at the school sites.


Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 19, 2009 at 11:35 pm

To Resident again:

1. Again you fail to give an example that one can corroborate independently regarding your contention about the existence of these $65K valuation properties. You just say "look it up". "Gee, you should know where to look". I think we can take this to mean they likely don't exist in Pleasanton.

2. You fail to demonstrate the size of your claim about lost money due to Prop 13. How numerous are these so-called $65K valuation homeowners? If they exist.

3. You pay $10k, I pay $8.5K. Where am I benefitting? I accepted Prop 13 rules, bought another home in Pleasanton, and experienced the 2% annual valuation increase. You, too, accepted Prop 13 rules, and bought probably during the price bubble. Your choice, not mine.

4. Where has the real cost of government services gone up in direct response to housing market price increases? Here you disingenously miss the basic point of the whole thing. Do you think we are stupid or something? If we look back over the period of years of this housing bubble, did inflation cause government services to follow the housing price bubble? Of course NOT! The last ten years have seen quite low inflation rates. Still, government got a windfall because people bought homes at exorbitant prices. And they, government, turned around and quickly spent it upon themselves. That's the heart of the issue in this thread!

You find it pointless to discuss this with me because you can't mount any persuasive argument to counter what I am saying. But, of course, the readers of this thread get it!


Posted by Ted, a resident of Highland Oaks
on Jan 19, 2009 at 11:40 pm

PUSD has mismanaged our tax dollars, I will not give them more!
No parcel tax!!


Posted by Bob, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 20, 2009 at 1:23 am

We need to make this LOUD AND CLEAR to Casey and his crew at PUSD. There will be NO BAILOUT for PUSD so long as he and his crew continues to slash classes and programs and not eliminate the administrative "FAT". We're all tightening our belts and so should Casey and his crew. If he's not competent enough to do his job of balancing the budget and ensuring that the kids of Pleasanton get the quality education they deserve, he should be fired immediately. He has to take the initiative to fix PUSD's budget NOW and begin cutting the admin costs. Contracts with the union and himself need to be renegotiated to bring back the millions of dollars to fund the kids' education. This needs to happen NOW!


Posted by Another Gatetree Resident, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jan 20, 2009 at 5:50 am

While I don't disagree that Management and Staff should feel the budget pain, Pleasanton has lived high on the "developer funded hog" for a long time. Whether the economy crashed and burned, or whether we reached true "build out," this scenario was in our future -- regardless of timing.

Suggestion -- rather than making it all Casey's problem/fault, why not see how you parents can pitch in and volunteer?


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 20, 2009 at 7:48 am

Resident again,

"Others finance your share of the road and other services... Imagine if every city, state, operated on taxes without adjusting for inflation."

I think you are missing the point somewhat.
- Government costs for those roads and services do not go up based upon housing market prices.
- Housing market prices do not adjust for inflation. They adjust based upon the greed of a homeowner's asking price, the greed of lenders to offer freely available money to those who can't afford it, and the willingness of buyers to pay exorbitant prices for perceptions.
- Salaries do not adjust upward based upon housing market prices and not inflation either. How about those on fixed income?
- Developers already pay mitigation fees for increased costs to roads and services caused by new development. A person moving into an existing neighborhood increases a City's costs to roads and services how?

Why would it be fair for a neighborhood to suddenly receive a greater tax burden because of those factors out of their control?

I think your argument is based more on your position as someone who paid a high price for their house and you're trying to justify why you don't like Prop 13 because of it, yet you too benefit from Prop 13. If you paid close to $1 mil. for a house in another state, what would the taxes be?

Patron of Main,

"it just does not matter how much anyone is assessed for property taxes. ANY additional amount is unwarranted."

Exactly. For anyone interested in how parcel taxes can get a community in trouble, look at Berkeley for example, the highest local taxes in the State. How'd they get into that mess? Their leaders convinced the people to pass parcel taxes, ones that would increase annually, for good intentioned services. (Only $1 a day!) This took pressure off the budget of the General Fund, and the extra funds then got sucked up onto personnel costs and pensions as the tax windfall enticed the City government to expand. Now when Berkeley voters want to repeal the parcel taxes, the City threatens to cut "essential" services.

The road to hell (and high taxes) is paved with good intentions.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 20, 2009 at 7:52 am

Here's more on the Berkeley tax mess: Web Link

"The Gann Override: Are These New Taxes? It depends entirely on whether
you are paying them or collecting them."

"The unintended consequence of Proposition 218
has been that cities soon discovered that they could
threaten cuts in essential services and get the voters
to pass these special taxes, freeing up money in their
general fund to fund other things. In Berkeley this
has led to an explosion in spending mostly in personnel
costs and employee benefits but little in the way
of improved services."

"We were told at the time that
this was the only way that the
city could assure continuation of these services at
reasonable levels. In addition to the shift from the
general fund, each of these special taxes had a built
in annual increase for inflation, or COLA (cost of living
adjustment), and most of these COLAs are much
more than the 1% allowed under Proposition 13.
These special taxes have added 600 to 1000 dollars
per year to the tax bill of the average homeowner."


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2009 at 8:22 am

Frank:
There are owners who pay based on 65K or less. No, I will not give you their address, just like I would not post yours if I knew it. You can look it up. They exist, if you don't believe it, that is your choice.

Stacey:
In another state without fixed property taxes, if you paid 1 million for a house, your taxes would be more like 30K. If everyone in Pleasanton tried to live with the property taxes of those who pay little, the town would not have enough money to operate. I would not mind if my taxes adjusted to the price of my house, I would not mind paying more, as long as everyone else's property taxes adjusted as well, of course. Think about it: should people stop making more money because they end up in a higher tax bracket? No. I guess those who agree with Prop. 13 should push for a flat income tax too, that way all of us would pay the same amount of tax regardless of income. I would benefit from that, but I don't think it's fair. Prop. 13 was designed incorrectly, but that is a different discussion altogether, and it will be hard to convince people like you or Frank, so let's just stay on topic: the PUSD budget and whether they deserve for us to approve a parcel tax.

Bob:
I agree that PUSD must cut the excess. Your statement "Contracts with the union and himself need to be renegotiated to bring back the millions of dollars to fund the kids' education." should be followed, and I hope they do.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2009 at 8:50 am

PUSD has used Livermore and Dublin as examples of communities with parcel taxes. I have a friend in Livermore, and the schools are not that good. Pleasanton schools are much better than Livermore's, so what is Livermore doing with the money they get from the parcel tax?

I just browsed through their website, and they seem to have too much staff in the different departments as well. Before PUSD uses Livermore as an example, they should find out how Livermore dealt with the tight finances: did they cut valuable programs but kept unnecessary admin staff? Is that what the parcel tax was used for, to reinstate the programs and keep the unncessary staff?

PUSD board members need to remember that the superintendent works for them, not the other way around. They need to take the initiative, look at the budget and cut all unnecessary expenses. After they do that, if a parcel tax is needed, it will be easier for the community to accept and understand.



Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 21, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Stated above: " If everyone in Pleasanton tried to live with the property taxes of those who pay little, the town would not have enough money to operate. " But, no one in Pleasanton pays little. Above poster presents NO evidence. In fact Pleasanton has enjoyed a huge tax base generated by housing bubble price escalation fueled by the clamor to live here. High housing prices paid by the above poster and many others fed this windfall. Meanwhile, governments (city and PUSD) enjoyed the windfall despite Prop 13 providing some fairness to existing residents. They then overspend, and when economic times turn tough, cry out for parcel taxes to keep the game going in their favor.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Foothill Knolls
on Jan 22, 2009 at 8:56 am

"They then overspend, and when economic times turn tough, cry out for parcel taxes to keep the game going in their favor"

Do they overspend? Maybe. How about backing up your statement with some facts or examples? The problem here is a mismanagement of funds at the state level, by those same legislators that we elected. Couple that with the worldwide economic crisis, we're in the middle of a perfect storm. A parcel tax will merely dampen the effects of the budget cut to our schools. The city of Orinda is also taking measures to dampen those effects by asking for a $550 per child donation from the parents. Such request is met with fruitful results. PUSD should look at doing the same here.

Whether Prop 13 is fair or not is irrelevant. There are both pros and cons to that proposition and that topic deserves its own blog.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 22, 2009 at 9:25 am

Sarah,

Check out Berkeley for a prime example of how government overspends and then puts the burden on homeowners. Web Link


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Interesting information about the Livermore parcel tax:
Web Link
Web Link

What I found interesting, is that the Livermore parcel tax seems to fund valuable programs. I guess this means that when cuts were proposed, it was not the unnecessary expenses that were eliminated.

When I look at what Casey proposed, based on the list released, it seems to me that he, too, plans to start the cuts at the classroom, program level. The administration cuts seem optional but they should be the first on the list.

Bob, in a previous post, said it just right: the district needs to renegotiate contracts with management and the unions. The money we currently spend on unnecessary personnel, stipends, travel, no student days, etc needs to be returned to the schools and spent directly on the students.

A student will not suffer if the superintendent does not get a raise, but the student will suffer if valuable programs are eliminated.

When I think of administration cuts, I am thinking more in terms of directors, public information officers, assistant to directors, car stipends, salary freezes, etc.

It is a matter of getting our priorities straight.


Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 1:47 pm

One of the links I just posted does not work. Here is the article, it is from the Contra Costa times:

School funding measure wins in Livermore
By Eric Louie
Valley Times
Posted: 11/04/2008 09:30:55 PM PST
Updated: 11/05/2008 01:53:26 AM PST


LIVERMORE — Measure M, which would keep and raise property taxes to support Livermore schools, got the two-thirds vote it needed for passage in Tuesday's election.

With all 74 precincts reporting, the measure had a 76.2 percent approval early Wednesday. "We're thrilled, absolutely thrilled," said Superintendent Brenda Miller.

Property owners currently pay a $120 per-parcel tax approved by voters in 2004. It expires June 30, 2010.

Measure M approves an annual $138 parcel tax for five years starting July 1, 2010. Seniors 65 and older would be exempt from the tax on residential property they own and live in.

Ballot language states the money will go toward school quality; teachers; small class sizes; college, career and job preparation classes; art, music and foreign language programs; computers; l infrastructure and instructional technology upgrades; elementary science specialists; and high school counselors.

The intent, according to the district, is to continue the programs and services funded by the current tax, and also pay for an additional item, computers. Salaries for library technicians, which are paid for in the current tax, would be funded by another source.

The district estimated that if passed, the new tax would raise $3.8 million. The district, which passed the existing tax during bad financial times that saw it below the state's requirement for reserve money, has a $105 million budget this school year and
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is financially healthy times despite state budget cuts.

No one submitted an argument against the measure in the county voter information packet. The district has said one reason for the measure's placement on the ballot this election was so that there would be time to try again before the current tax expired.


Posted by Pete, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Relating to Berkeley's "FF" "GG" "HH" bond measures: each one passed with well over 70% public support-does it make it right? Perhaps not, but 70%+ support involves attention to a communities requirements.





Posted by Resident again, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Stacey:

Here is some information PUSD released about class size reduction and funding:

Web Link

"Isn't class size reduction funded by the state?
Since its inception, class size reduction (CSR) has never been fully funded by the state. The number of teachers it takes to meet the requirement of 20 students per teacher has always cost more than the funding received from the state. In Pleasanton, we receive about $4 million to support the program for grades K through 3. The actual cost is $5.6 million. By eliminating CSR for these grades, we would save $1.6 million from the general fund. The unfortunate part is that we would also lose the access to the $4 million from the state. At this writing, in order to realize a savings, we would have to eliminate CSR at an entire grade level—there is no option to increase class sizes a little (like to 25) and still receive funding."

It looks like PUSD would save 1.6 million and lose 4 million in funding. What they don't say is how much the regular program, without class size reduction, would cost, and how the loss of the 4 million dollar would affect the schools in those grades.


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