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No surprises or changes predicted for PUSD budget

Original post made on May 27, 2010

The Pleasanton school district, anticipating the latest round of state cuts to education, vowed this week to have a balanced budget ready for the upcoming school year by June 30, as required by law.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 27, 2010, 7:55 AM

Comments (36)

Posted by Thomas Paineful, a resident of Canyon Oaks
on May 27, 2010 at 8:54 am

Since the Tea Partiers apparently don't get out of bed before noon, I just want to be the first to blame this all on THE TEACHERS UNIONS.

You remember, the same unions who ran the Wall Street banks and brokerage firms that melted down the world economy and precipitated this crisis...

You remember, the same unions who fought regulation of the banking industry during the "housing bubble" that caused a lot of these problems when it burst...

You remember, the same unions who marched on Washington, D.C., demanding that President Bush (or was it President Cheney? Even they weren't 100% sure) invade and occupy Iraq and Afghanistan at the cost of $2 trillion...

You remember, the same unions who also demanded that President Bush/Cheney slash taxes on the richest 1% of Americans, thus contributing to the skyrocketing federal deficit...

Oh wait, the teachers unions didn't do any of that.

Well, facts be damned, IT'S STILL THEIR FAULT.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 9:32 am

It is the direction and not the magnitude which is to be taken into consideration. -- Thomas Paine


Posted by maja7, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 27, 2010 at 9:37 am

I was shocked at the percentage, 85.5%,that the article quotes as going to the cost of personnel! Does that seem excessively high to anyone else? Or do I just need a reality check? That means less than 15% is going towards school maintenance/repair, books, supplies, utilities, etc.

Can someone help me out here?


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 10:03 am

The debate that will not go away.

I agree that the education system caused none of the above referenced issues. I agree that it is unfortunate that, like a large percentage of the population, PUSD is now forced to reexamine their expenditures and make adjustments. I do not agree that a parcel tax will make that process less painful in the long run.

Last year PUSD (undoubtedly Mr. Paineful's employer) spent more than a quarter of a million dollars of taxpayer money, entrusted to the district for the specific purpose of educating the children of our community, attempting to assess an additional property tax on the residents of Pleasanton. Although they did everything the consultant advised to assure a small, but dedicated and emotionally charged turnout of school age parents, it didn't pass. It didn't pass because many people recognize that we are at the beginning of a dramatic shift. It didn't pass, because for the first time in many of our adult lives we realize how fragile our economy has become. Local business owners have closed up shop. Those that are still open are teetering on the edge of failure. Many have lost jobs. Many more are on the precipice of financial ruin. Retirement age has been extended well beyond the visible horizon for most that do not hold government jobs. The cost of our government services expanded rapidly through the dot-com era and housing bubble, but has proven unable to reverse course when the well dried. The employees of private industry have not been afforded the luxury of that choice, and their primary assets, retirement funds, and security has been trampled to unrecognizable levels.

Yes, there will likely be another attempt to reach into the pocket of Pleasanton home owners and buyers by the district. It will probably be a mail in vote this time at an even greater expense, as that will give the district the highest chance of sneaking the tax through. It will happen sooner than later because there will be a flurry of tax increases (some implemented as "fees" without public input) in the next few years, and the public will be even more feed up with the process when the bill for those increases arrives at their door. Both sides of the discussion will be far better prepared to campaign this time. Expect a protracted, vocal, and bitter debate. And the same outcome as last time.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on May 27, 2010 at 10:50 am

To 'Thomas Paineful' -
Your conclusion is correct. Your use of history and logic to get there is not.


Posted by @ maja7, a resident of Birdland
on May 27, 2010 at 10:56 am

Education is a service. Why is it surprising that most of the cost is on personnel?


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Apperson Ridge
on May 27, 2010 at 11:03 am

YES on Measure G2!


Posted by Thomas Paineful, a resident of Canyon Oaks
on May 27, 2010 at 11:07 am

Let's return to consideration of my original plan: dynamite all the PUSD schools, salt the ground so nothing will ever grow there again, and scatter the teachers to the four winds!

Then we will save MILLIONS and children can be homeschooled.

And the former teachers can replace the locked-out workers at Castlewood and live off tips only.

It's a win-win-win situation.

I don't work for the school district. I'm a dynamite distributor. It's just an amazing coincidence that I happened to be advocating the use of lots and lots of dynamite.


Posted by Diva, a resident of Birdland
on May 27, 2010 at 11:25 am

I don't mind homeschooling my children if I can get a tax credit for doing it.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

Well, instead of blowing up the schools, how about considering a pay reduction for everyone working for PUSD making more than $80,000. That is going to affect about 63% of the teachers and 100% of the management, while still producing a nice living with boatloads of time off for personal enjoyment or additional employment. It would leave the classified employees (who are on the bottom of the pay pyramid) alone.

Web Link

Web Link

Note to others following the conversation -- It's probably not a mistake that the management page is posted upside down. Right click and select "rotate clockwise". You will have to do it twice.

A 10% adjustment would solve the problem for years to come without approaching the center of the bell curve of the loss of income and assets reflected in the private sector. Everyone stays employed and you can even keep your precious automatic step and column pay raise!
Of course your dynamite sales would suffer. And as previously discussed, it is a very bad time to join the ranks of the un/under employed.


Posted by Oh, Resident, a resident of Avila
on May 27, 2010 at 11:57 am

Obviously you are a classified employee.

In case you've forgotten, the teachers are taking a pay cut and it is hurting.

We should all be having an INTELLIGENT discussion about next year. The school district will undoubtedly face financial hardship again. How are we going to make ends meet, then? DO NOT blame it entirely on the unions.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Actually the teachers are taking a couple of days off. Most think that is not the same as a pay cut. And outside of my suggesting that the district was hoping for a large turnout of "school aged parents", which part of my discussion has been less than intelligent or civil? My suggestion solves the problem for this year, next year, and likely well beyond.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on May 27, 2010 at 12:55 pm

To 'Oh, Resident' - In case you didn't see the fine print, the teachers continue to get their annual increases per step and column, and THEN they get their days off. The pay per day continues to increase. The school district will face financial hardship again (and again) since the base contract with salary increases remains in place. The blame lies entirely with the unions and the complicit school board of trustees.


Posted by days off?, a resident of Golden Eagle
on May 27, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Yes they aren't working but they aren't getting paid!!! That means less pay!!!!!! I know SO many new teachers that have yet to move on step and column so please stop using the excuse that "they are still getting a raise". Yes some of them are, but not everyone!


Posted by maja7, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 27, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Thank you for the response regarding the schools being a service-industry. I do understand that part of the equation and I do pay my Pleasanton taxes. I currently have 4 children in P-town schools, elementary, middle and high school.I get it now, I am asked to purchase school supplies at the beginning of the year, not only for my child but also for the classroom, participate in various fundraisers throughout the year, pay for fieldtrip expenses(bus fees) or drive on fieldtrips,donate money for science and math to defray the printing costs,contribute money to home room (elementary)classroom 'expenses'.....think you get my point. So, really what does the other 14.5% pay for is probably more my question? Seems like a small amount to pay for keeping our schools maintained/repaired and safe, utilities, etc. It's just a question....I have many.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on May 27, 2010 at 2:20 pm

According to PUSD, over 50% of the teachers received an increase this year through movement on step/column. The approx. 3% increase is more than the decrease caused by the mandatory unpaid vacation days.
The real point is the underlying contract that keeps the ever increasing personnel cost structure remains intact and unchanged. The one year MOU results in the cost structure increasing and THEN the unpaid vacation days occur. Next year starts with the increased cost base, add a year's step/column raises, and then the unpaid vacation days occur. By the time 2011-12 budget cycle starts, the district finds itself needing to cover several million dollars of increased salary structure. The wailing and gnashing of teeth is already starting in order to get the votes for Parcel Tax 2.


Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 5:10 pm

"over 50% of the teachers received an increase this year through movement on step/column. "

And the other half would effectively get a pay cut, after adjusting for inflation.

It boils down to tax cuts. Year after year, property owners in Pleasanton have enjoyed tax cuts. The trouble is, property taxes are not properly adjusted for inflation. The maximum yearly increase is 2%, and many years the increase is well below that. The long term average rate of inflation is above 3.5%. Last year inflation as about 2.75%) The net effect is a tax cut, when adjusted for inflation. So each year, the district has to do with less, and it is particularly bad during economic downturns like the current one.

That is why a parcel tax can be a relatively good, but imperfect adjustment to an imperfect tax policy.


Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 27, 2010 at 5:12 pm

" The blame lies entirely with the unions and the complicit school board of trustees."

The blame for what? The need for a parcel tax? Scroll up for an explanation of that.


Posted by Thomas Paineful, a resident of Canyon Oaks
on May 28, 2010 at 12:25 am

I forgot to mention, in addition to dynamite, I also sell dynamite-related accessories: fuses, detonator switches, earplugs. In light of Pleasanton's extreme poverty, I can do you a deal, 20% off a bulk purchase that you could use to demolish all of the public schools.

All this blather about this and that is BORING. LET'S SEE SOME EXPLOSIONS. Let's cut that Gordian knot!


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on May 28, 2010 at 8:09 am

To 'Thomas Paineful' - Are you the reason President Obama added homegrown terrorists to the list of national security priorities? Maybe you need a visit from a counterterrorism squad soon.
Web Link
"Responding to terror attacks like the Fort Hood shooting rampage and the failed Times Square bombing, President Barack Obama is adding homegrown terrorists to the administration's top national security priorities. Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said Wednesday the administration's newly revised national security strategy document will place homegrown threats among the nation's top national security concerns."


Posted by Land o Plenty, a resident of Beratlis Place
on May 28, 2010 at 8:39 am

Nobody blogged about the teachers making too much money when there was not a budget crisis. I am just saying if you feel/felt this strongly your arguments should hold in times of plenty and in tight times. When we have a surplus we should remember these rants and raves and watch the school board and think about the consequences down the line. We, as the public, did not do that. We did not talk about the teachers in such a negative way until times got tough. It's nobody in Pleasanton's fault that the economy melted. Everyone is trying to protect their best interests and that is fine but someone has to protect the quality of the education.
Pleasanton has one of the best public school systems in the state. We must advocate to preserve that and, I would argue, to improve that system. Matters of money need to not be made so personal. I used to think that the teachers unions were not necessary but after reading how the public attacks and vilifies these teachers I feel very strongly that the unions are needed more than ever.
Let's stop complaining, whining, blaming and focus on solving problems and enhancing education.


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 28, 2010 at 10:02 pm

This discussion really transcends the school district. The same discussion is happening with all unionized government service providers. The problem is that we have allowed contracts to be put into place that don't allow for realistic pay and benefit adjustment to reflect the conditions of the economy. Pay and benefits expanded quickly through the bubble periods. Now each union is fighting tooth and nail to maintain the schedule of pay and benefit advancement that was established in much better times. There is no money to maintain that schedule, so we are now discussing new taxes to support a pay structure from another era. No one is directly mad at the teachers. But refusing to give up the automatic pay raises makes them a significant part of the problem. The unions that represent police, transit drivers, the prison guards, and others are all trying the same approach, which is to offer a minor concession (like a couple of short term furlough days) in exchange for maintaining the schedule of automatic pay and benefit advancement. One step back, three steps forward. That is not a reasonable solution given the depths of the economic crisis. And in the other sectors, the underfunded pension commitments will soon put us into much deeper mud. More taxes are not the answer.


Posted by reasonable, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Resident, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I actually like and respect our teachers and think they work hard to do a great job. I want them to stay here and I want them to live comfortably just as I want all my other neighbors to live comfortably. But if I hear one more mention of a NON PAID FURLOUGH DAY around my kids....

Many people work hard - and many who are suffering from severe losses of income, unemployment, etc, and who are living on 20-50% less income have too much pride to complain and are still making donations to the schools!!

I have a really hard time feeling sorry for teachers taking a 2% pay cut. We are in a recession and that means there is less tax income. Businesses that are losing money don't pay taxes. Unemployed people and foreclosed homes don't pay taxes. The loss of taxes means less money for the schools and less money for the teachers. It is basic economics and the teachers have to get used to the idea that they are part of the economny too!!!

How many times have silicon valley employees been given 2 weeks of unpaid vacation around the holidays? Do any of them sit around reminding everyone about it and looking for sympathy? NO! They tighten their belts and do their best to enjoy the time off. That's a lot more unpaid vacation than the teachers are taking....so PLEASE shut up and realize that this is just a small part of the pain so many of us are feeling.


Posted by My 2 cents, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2010 at 6:26 am

These are hard financial times for everyone not just the teachers. I don't feel like giving more money through fundraising and taxes so that public employees can get a raise. I did not get a raise last year because things were tight for our company. This year I did because we saw profits.

During times of budget deficits, how can the districts possibly justify raises? Step and column is a raise and when you compute that, the teachers are getting a raise even with the "paycut" (it is time off without pay, how many people had to do that in the private sector? Many and you don't see them complaining) The administrators too saw a raise, and that cannot be justified during a time when the money was shrinking.

Get real: we are in a budget crisis in California, and hopefully our next governor will try to fix it by undoing the unreasonable public employees' benefits and salaries that are unsustainable in the long term.

No more taxes until they fix the root problem, and in PUSD, that means doing without raises or perks until the finances are better.


Posted by My 2 cents, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2010 at 6:31 am

"Many people work hard - and many who are suffering from severe losses of income, unemployment, etc, and who are living on 20-50% less income have too much pride to complain and are still making donations to the schools!!"

Yes, I felt obligated to donate last year and almost did but I simply could not afford it. I either had to think about my family's well being, given that our income went down, or I gave so that the teachers and administrators could go on as if nothing happened, as if we were not in a recession or bad financial crisis in California.

Wherever I go, there is a hand out asking for money. Employees of PUSD who are also parents are the worse, making you feel guilty for not giving... but think about it: they are looking after themselves: if you don't give, they don't get a raise or might even lose their job. They don't care about the kids, if they did they would stop taking that raise or realize that some of them are simply not needed and their jobs are redundant. Enough! I can't afford to give money so others can get raises. Many throughout California and the nation are NOT seeing raises.


Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2010 at 3:16 pm

"Many throughout California and the nation are NOT seeing raises."

About 50% of teachers are not seeing raises either, which pretty much mirrors what is happening with the large scale job market. In 2009, the average wage in both the US and California rose by about 1.5%. Check the numbers on the bureau of labor statistics web site, and you'll see the numbers match up fairly closely.

"It is basic economics and the teachers have to get used to the idea that they are part of the economny too!!! "

And where do you get the idea that they are not? There have been both layoffs and pay freezes. Again, about 50% of teachers have their pay frozen. Many others have lost their jobs. The statement you made is both misleading and wrong.

"They don't care about the kids, if they did they would stop taking that raise or realize that some of them are simply not needed and their jobs are redundant."

How do you know that? Just because you say so? What are you talking about?

"No more taxes until they fix the root problem, and in PUSD, that means doing without raises or perks until the finances are better."

But taxes are at the root of the problem. As I pointed out above (scroll up) the current property tax laws give property owners tax cuts because taxes are not adjusted for inflation. That means PUSD must deal with a structural decline in revenue year after year. A parcel tax can adjust for that. Like I said above, it can make an effective adjustment to an imperfect tax policy.

"I don't feel like giving more money through fundraising"

If you don't feel like giving, then don't. Plenty of others are happy to give.

"How many times have silicon valley employees..."

You've got to be kidding with comparing silicon valley employees to teachers. In both the 1996 to 2000 and 2003 to 2007 time periods, I made an average extra roughly $60,000 per year from stock options, bonuses, and ESPP. When has a teacher gotten anything like that? What companies were you working for? Did you have a string of bad luck or something? What kind of work do you do in silicon valley?

We have great schools and great teachers here in Pleasanton. I'm happy to do my part to help.


Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2010 at 3:22 pm

"There is no money to maintain that schedule, so we are now discussing new taxes to support a pay structure from another era ... But refusing to give up the automatic pay raises makes them a significant part of the problem. "

Automatic property tax cuts due to inflation (scroll up to see the explanation) are a significant part of the problem with regard to school funding. Warren Buffet pointed this out clearly when the governor asked him to make recommendations to help fix California's budget situation. Parcel taxes and fund raising will go a long way to help fix that. Cuts have been made and will continue to be made, but donations and parcel taxes will help.


Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2010 at 3:34 pm

"Do any of them sit around reminding everyone about it and looking for sympathy? NO! They tighten their belts and do their best to enjoy the time off. "

I had to laugh out loud when I read that. What part of silicon valley are you hanging around? People around here complain like they were born to do it. I hear people complaining when their bonuses are only 20% of salary, or there was no increase in the share price for a whole year! Horrors! I can speak personally of employees at Intel, Cisco, Apple, and several smaller start-ups. The sense of entitlement is ridiculous.

I have to ask, what company or companies are you talking about? I've been working in this area for nearly twenty years now, and it seems to me that activity of complaining has been practically elevated to an art form. In some companies, it went all the way to the top. I can still remember all those press conferences and interviews that Sun Micro was doing where they complained incessantly and being victimized by unfair practices of their competitors. It was holding back their share price and employee compensation. It goes on and on. In comparison, complaints from the teachers sound fairly minor. Again, you're talking about silicon valley? What silicon valley?


Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm

" And in the other sectors, the underfunded pension commitments will soon put us into much deeper mud. "

I agree with that. To raise taxes enough to keep offering the kind of pensions to new workers that we have been paying to current ones would kill the state. Something has to give.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on May 29, 2010 at 4:12 pm

To 'a reader' - You've been developing the 'unfair property tax structure' argument for several months now. With your latest 'PUSD must deal with a structural decline in revenue year after year', you've now entered the absurdity zone. Your argument barely holds water only if no homes are bought/sold and tax revenue rises 2% per year, and inflation is greater than 2%. But every year, thousands of homes are sold/bought at prices that trigger a higher tax payment and greater revenue to the government (and available funds for schools). There are only a few areas in the state where property tax revenues will decline this year. All others will see property tax revenue increases.
More importantly, PUSD's revenue is not tied to property tax revenue, so it's incorrect to claim that PUSD has a 'structural decline in revenue year after year'. If that were true, then after Prop 13 went into effect PUSD should have seen declines in revenue. And we all know that's not true.


Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2010 at 6:23 pm

"There are only a few areas in the state where property tax revenues will decline this year. All others will see property tax revenue increases."

I agree my language could have been better, but unfortunately, you've misunderstood my argument. You need to adjust those "increases" for inflation. Do the adjustment, then subtract all the increase that is due to new homes being built. Then you will see the real picture emerge. You have to subtract the increase due to new homes being built because those new homes will require new services proportionally. So any increase coming from new homes will be offset by the services needed by the new residents. You also have to look statewide, because this would affect most districts and state services.

"More importantly, PUSD's revenue is not tied to property tax revenue"

But it is tied to property tax revenue. PUSD's revenue comes from the general fund, the source of a large proportion of which is property tax. That portion would be considerably larger if property taxes were allowed to increase at at least the rate of inflation. But they are not. Sure, some houses are sold and taxes are reset to a higher rate (and far more would be sold if the tax laws were more rational), but a large number are not. That ends up limiting the funds available to PUSD and other school districts. That tax cuts that residents are enjoying are limiting funding to education.

"and inflation is greater than 2%. "

Frequently, the increase assessed to properties is well less than the 2% cap, but inflation is very rarely as low as 2%.

So, of course revenue has not declined when not adjusted for increased need for services and inflation, but once adjusted for those factors you could easily see a decline. Maybe saying a structural decline in property tax revenue would be a better way to put it.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on May 29, 2010 at 7:35 pm

To 'a reader' - I understand your argument very well, but it is still flawed. Existing homes that are resold at higher prices cause a new higher property tax baseline. These new prices reflect inflation in the value of homes. Inflation measures include the cost of housing. Therefore, property tax revenue collected includes inflation, it is triggered at the sale of the home. This is precisely why most communities continue to see aggregate property taxes collected increase even though home prices have declined. There is not a single person I talk to who thinks they are getting what you call a 'tax cut'.


Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 29, 2010 at 9:22 pm

"There is not a single person I talk to who thinks they are getting what you call a 'tax cut'."

That is my point exactly. People don't understand that that is exactly what they are getting. It is a very common mistake to ignore inflation, but it is a mistake, and capping property tax increases at 2% results in a tax cut in most years. That is what it is. People may not "feel" that they are getting a tax cut, but in fact they are.

It is instructive to look at the Consumer Price Index (CPI) historically:

Web Link

2% is far less than inflation in most years. On top of that, property tax increases are less than 2% in most years. That is the problem.

"Existing homes that are resold at higher prices cause a new higher property tax baseline. "

But only for those homes that are sold. The others continue to be taxed at an artificially lowered rate. Not only does this interfere with natural market forces resulting in a slower than normal rate of housing turnover, resulting in less wealth creation, it also lowers the amount of property taxes that would otherwise be collected.

"Therefore, property tax revenue collected includes inflation, it is triggered at the sale of the home."

Not completely. Again, it is only higher for those who sell homes. Property can also be transferred to heirs without a reset.

"This is precisely why most communities continue to see aggregate property taxes collected increase even though home prices have declined."

That is only part of the reason. The other is that new homes are being built. And again, this "increase" is frequently not adjusted for inflation, as measured by CPI (the buying power of a dollar), not housing prices.


Posted by Caesar, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on May 30, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Bottom line: Don't raise my taxes to finance step and column.

Look around.

Fremont Schools....4% pay cut plus furloughs
SF Cops............5% pay cut
San Jose City workers......Projected 10% pay cut.

Get with the program PUSD.
The party is over.


Posted by Thomas Paineful, a resident of Canyon Oaks
on May 30, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Dynamite. Lots and lots of dynamite.

Pooblic edukation is SO 1997.


Posted by a reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 30, 2010 at 8:51 pm

"Bottom line: Don't raise my taxes to finance step and column."

Scroll up. Your property taxes are being lowered. Last year they were lowered. Do the math. Parcel taxes are imperfect, but they are a suitable response to imperfect property tax laws. It is a matter of balance. Property taxes are not allowed to rise with inflation.


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