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Amazing we haven't seen this in the PW...

Original post made by Good Article on G on May 24, 2009

By Ron McNicoll, The Independent


Absentee ballots are already sent to voters. The polls will be open June 2 for Pleasanton's special school parcel tax election.

Measure G would charge property owners $233 per parcel in each of four years. The board could decide after that to go for another parcel tax, but has given no indication it would do so.

Seniors who own property may apply for an exemption by making contact with the school district before July 10. The exemption lasts one year. It may be renewed annually.

The measure would raise an estimated $4.5 million annually for the district. The board would use the revenue to offset staff layoffs. Some 249 full-time equivalent positions have been identified for potential elimination. More revenue will help the district hire back perhaps one-half of those who received layoff notices.

Superintendent John Casey told the school board last week that it's too soon to be specific about how many people could be hired back. The release last week of revised proposals by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger shows an increase in the deficit that would hit the Pleasanton school budget.

Last February, the district faced a $9.7 million shortfall for the current fiscal year and next fiscal year. Depending on the outcome of the May 19 state election, that could increase to $13.8 million, if voters passed the key measures 1C, 1D, and 1E. If those failed, the Pleasanton deficit could go up to as much as $16.5 million.

However, if the measures do fail, the Legislature is likely to make another attempt at a balanced budget, so it is too soon to project how many layoffs there ultimately will be, Casey told the board.

One spot of good news is that $8.1 million in one-time federal stimulus money will come to the district to pay for special education. That can free up general fund money for other instruction. The total is split between this fiscal year, ending June 30, and the entire next fiscal year.

PRO-G CAMPAIGN

IS OPTIMISTIC

Janet Laursen, who is co-chair of the Save Our Schools committee, said Tuesday that she feels "we are going to prevail. Our phone banking and precinct walking are very positive. Our endorsement list is at 3000," said Laursen.

Asked to sum up why people should vote for Measure G, Laursen said, "Measure G is about preserving our schools, and protecting the quality of life in Pleasanton. We owe it to future generations to protect and defend our high-achieving school system. It's the school system we all moved here for."

Laursen said that Measure G will "provide an opportunity for voters of Pleasanton to secure reliable, local funds for quality education. We can't afford to wait for reform in Sacramento. Our children's education depends on Pleasanton to take our destiny in our own hands."

OPPONENTS SAY DISTRICT RUSHED TO BALLOT

Although there has been no formal campaign against the measure, some residents signed the ballot argument against Measure G. The opponents say it is too soon to put a parcel tax on the ballot without exploring other ways of offsetting the deficit.

Further thought about the problem might have resulted in no need at all for a parcel tax, or perhaps a lower one, said Kathleen Ruegsegger.

Reugsegger was a Pleasanton school board member in the early 1990s. She later was administrative assistant to two Pleasanton school superintendents, before following one of them to the same position in the Palo Alto district, where she still works.

She said that the federal bail-out package is expected to bring $8.1 million to the district for the current year and next fiscal year. That will go a long way toward offsetting the deficit, even if it does grow to $13 billion or $16 billion. It's definitely more than the $4.5 million that would be raised in the first year of the parcel tax.

Meanwhile, the district could listen to more suggestions about meeting the budget. The board sent the district's budget advisory committee a list of cuts proposed by the administration, but didn't ask for any new ideas, said Ruegsegger.

"I haven't spoken with anyone on the budget advisory committee, but they have some talented people on there. They have not been given the opportunity to make suggestions," said Ruegsegger. The committee is comprised of district staff and residents.

ARKIN HAD IDEAS ON MEETING DEFICIT

Ruegsegger said that board members also should make suggestions. "It's one reason that Valerie Arkin went through the budget to make cuts away from the classroom."

Arkin offered a "discussion list" of suggestions, that would have preserved class size reduction, elementary school counselors and reading specialists, without invoking a parcel tax. Other trustees praised her initiative, but said it was too late because of the deadlines to get a measure on the ballot on June 2.

Reminded by a reporter that the federal money is a one-time apportionment, split between this fiscal year and next year, Ruegsegger said that the parcel tax also is only "a one-year tax, that runs for four years." The key thing is to take the time for a more thoughtful approach to a long-term solution, she said.

MOST OF PARCEL TAX

GOES TO RAISES

Ruegsegger said that when the parcel tax was first discussed, she looked at the numbers for the district from 2005-08. It showed 14.5 percent in raises for the teaching staff. That was beyond the annual step-and-column increases that are automatically locked into teachers' pay scale.

"Each time you give a raise, the salary schedule gets bumped up. Large raises have to be sustained by (cost of living adjustments) COLAs from the state or by continued growth in enrollment. These large raises are not sustainable (in the current state budget crisis).

The cumulative effect of the step-and-column increases was shown in figures from district assistant superintendent Luz Cazares. The step-and-column increases this year will cost the district $1.5 million. But in the second year of that increase, it will rise to $3 million.

In the third year of that original $1.5 million increase, the total reaches $4.5 million. In the fourth year, it will be $6 million.

At the end of that four-year period, the total cost for that $1.5 million increase will be $15 million, because each year is added to the prior year's figure. That $15 million will take up most of the $18.8 million that will be raised by the parcel tax over four years.

In other words, the parcel tax is needed to pay for that $1.5 million salary increase this year. Residents who have appeared at school board meetings have raised that point. They said the teachers should be willing to forego the one-year increase, which is in the current contract, in the spirit of sacrifice during tough economic times. That sacrifice would enable all teachers, or most of them, to keep their jobs, said the speakers.

Teacher union president Trevor Knaggs said at a school board meeting that losing even one year on a step-and-column increase has two long- term effects on teachers. It sets them back each year by that amount on the paycheck. Also, since pensions are the accumulated contributions to the pension fund, the pension would be altered downward.


Comments (3)

Posted by John, a resident of Del Prado
on May 24, 2009 at 9:35 pm

This is almost hysterical except that some people are honestly trying to make a case for just giving raises to teachers and this is what this is all about..........period.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 24, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

We haven't seen what? Reporters getting the names of people wrong? Of course we've seen that in the PW, just this week. At least it was just a spelling mistake and not a whole first name wrong.


Posted by Sandy, a resident of Mohr Park
on May 25, 2009 at 11:01 am

Sandy is a registered user.

Which spelling mistake, Stacey? I see Joan Laursen referred to as Janet. Is there another error as well?


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