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School board to hold two parcel tax meetings next week

Original post made on Feb 26, 2009

Pleasanton Unified School District announced they will meet Thursday, in addition to the public hearing Wednesday, to vote on a parcel tax. Both meetings will be held at Amador Valley High School's multipurpose room.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, February 26, 2009, 3:13 PM

Comments (28)

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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2009 at 5:21 pm

I can only hope the business person is well and has had time to thoroughly analyze the budget. Without this information, the need for a parcel tax is just a guess. So far, we are being handed kaleidoscope glasses to look at the district budget. I'd prefer something less fractal to be basing any decisions.


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Posted by A Mom
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2009 at 9:22 am

Instead of cutting specific programs or positions in the PUSD budget, think about an across the board reduction (a %age). EVERYONE has had to do with less. Departments and schools will get creative with what they have. This would be more palatable than eliminating programs and personnel.


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Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2009 at 4:59 pm

There will be cuts, don't kid yourselves. There already has been dating back to last year.

A parcel tax will prevent almost half the cuts. It's pretty simple, a yes vote on the parcel tax will save half of the things on the cut list, a no vote will cut the whole list. So the "need for a parcel tax is just a guess" is not really just a guess. If you feel we need these things, then vote yes. A no will cut the whole list, bye-bye, maybe to never return.


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 7:36 am

Gtf: You actually don't know what is necessary because no information has been released by the district since the state budget was passed. The $9 million in cuts was precautionary so layoff notices could be given by the March 15 deadline. The cuts aren't really final because the budget doesn't get passed until the end of June. It's very possible those who got notices would be rehired, AFTER we would vote on a parcel tax.

I will probably say this 100 more times, despite the issues created by the state budget, the unsustainable raises given over three school years (yes, not this year) is the bigger reason for the district's woes. That was $15 million in ongoing expenses--give or take a million or six to cover any error on my part and there's still all of the $9 million left to cover the cuts. And let's not forget that some $400,000 in raises to administrators was taken from the reserves--an ongoing cost from a one time source of funds. So when you say there already have been cuts dating back to last year--the cuts were occurring as a direct result of the raises.

I'm waiting until the district explains thoroughly what is happening with its budget--maybe we'll get that now with the second interim financial report due.


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Posted by Liz
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 9:15 am


Disagree w/B,

It is hard to understand why people can not understand your point. This parcel tax is smoke and mirrors. While there are real reductions from the State there has not been a sincere effort to bring the district budget inline.
What would you say are the five key points to consider when determining the need for a PUSD parcel tax?


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Posted by enough already
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 28, 2009 at 11:15 am

"It is hard to understand why people can not understand your point."

It's not hard for me to understand. "Get the facts" = PUSD staff or a teacher. S/he has everything to gain by suckering the public to dig deeper into their pockets. It's self-preservation, as is the case why all the other teachers are posting. We're posting to demand belt-tightening at the administration and union level BEFORE we consider a parcel tax.

It's responsible spending and financial management. No parcel tax until we see some real administration and union concessions.


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Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 12:10 pm

To enough already:

I see you have simply copied and pasted from the other thread. So I will do the same.

"We're posting to demand . . ". Instead of posting, step up to the mic at one for the two board meetings this week. Otherwise, you appear to be in the minority. People will listen if you speak, they will laugh if you post anonymously.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 2:25 pm

I'm not laughing ... but I am voting ............NO


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Posted by Diagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Really Gtf: "they will laugh if you post anonymously" . . . you are all over these blogs anonymously. Attending hasn't mattered; emailing hasn't mattered; calling hasn't mattered.

Liz: I have some thoughts and I'll post them shortly.


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Liz: Five points for determining the need for a parcel tax . .

-Are we happy with the service we're receiving?
-Are we willing to pay more to solve any problems with the existing service? How much are we willing to pay?
-Are there additional services we want?
-Are we willing to pay more for those services? How much are we willing to pay?
Should we do both? Should we do it at all?

If anyone would like to discuss this offline, I set up an alias email as parceltax@me.com My signature is still Disagree w/B. Please feel free to use an alias as well.


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Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 4:59 pm

To Disagree: Same question for you, Are you happy with the service you're receiving? If not, why not?


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Gtf: My experiences are mixed, but I doubt that's an exception. I've had the privilege of working with some of the best teachers you're likely to find anywhere. I've seen some of the worst who continued to work year after year no matter the level of complaints because, frankly, they mark time for a year and then you and your kid are on to the next grade--no matter the damage. I have no faith in this administration for all the reasons I've already stated.

As one might surmise, I'm more in the camp of what additional services we might be willing to pay for. I can't get past feeling the district dug itself into a hole based on what I've seen to date (not enough transparent data at this point).

I clearly have stated I do not support the current proposed parcel tax, no matter the dollar amount. I do, however, believe we have the capacity to do more as a community if we are treated equally as constituents when approaching Board members; given sufficient, credible data from the district on which to base our decision; and time to determine what it is we are willing to support, or not.

I posted another blog that is more detailed, but I haven't seen it come up yet. "Can We 'Get to Yes' . . ."



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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 1, 2009 at 7:43 am

Sandy is a registered user.

I can't find your new blog, dw/b.

I'm wondering what your reaction is to this question:

Are we willing to pay to maintain some existing services?

Unfortunately, we are not in a position to consider whether we want to improve or add onto existing services.


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Posted by LIZ
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 1, 2009 at 7:46 am

Taxpayers will have a hard time justifying yet another new tax that will go to pay PUSD's, high payed administrators and well paid teachers, continued salary increases (call it what you like S&C are raises).

Without a true and absolute salary freeze MANDATED in any parcel tax language FOR THE LENGTH OF THE TAX it will become a game of hide the pea. Money will be moved around, paid by the parcel tax in one pot and freed up in another for raises. It is not that teachers are not valued but this economy can not support raises for anyone. We must preserve jobs over raises.

We love our kids we care about our community and we support our teachers but everyone must make concessions.

As the parcel tax stands now it will fail and a lot of money and community resources will have been waisted!!!


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2009 at 7:56 am

Sandy: First, I think you asked me once about teacher salaries around the world. Here's is one site I found that is interesting in its approach, including schools being able to award points to teachers. Web Link

Actually, we are in a position to add. The district can cut what it has to if that is the reality, but it doesn't mean we can't look to other things. If you survive the read, you can see how it could be used to address what gets cut in another way (I don't propose anything for K-3 CSR for example, because the state IS funding it).

I'll try to post the blog in this thread, but it is long. Maybe it won't go up until Monday (staff not in at PW on the weekend?).


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2009 at 8:01 am

Can We Get to Yes to Help Schools?

On another thread, Liz asked me to give five points for determining the need for a parcel tax. Maybe this will get us away from arguing about whether or not we support teachers. I listed:

1. Are we happy with the service we're receiving?
2. Are we willing to pay more to solve any problems with the existing service? How much more are we willing to pay?
3. Are there additional services we want?
4. Are we willing to pay more for those services? How much more are we willing to pay?
5. Should we do both? Should we do it at all?

If we could get to yes, here's what I would like to see:

a. The parcel tax language has to be specific to setting the fund aside from the general fund (this can be done).
b. It must include an oversight committee. (These first two items are no small feat because the ballot language is limited to something like 70 words.)
c. It has to have a time limit, and I think three years is enough for the experiment. Many districts renew, and often for more money, if the initial outing is a success.
d. It can neither supplant nor encroach on the general fund. Again, this is no small feat if you are going to allow exemptions. (More below on exemptions.)
e. It has to include a list of exactly where and how the money will be spent. This can be handled by Board action to adopt it and can be included in the explanation for the ballot measure.
f. It cannot be used for raises (an ongoing cost from a time-limited, one time fund).
g. Donations can be made directly to the fund. It happens! It is more likely if the PT is $100 per parcel; less likely if the PT is $300 or more per parcel.

I would not give exemptions to seniors or the disabled. PLEASE KEEP READING. Districts can find themselves taking money from the general fund to pay for commitments made in a parcel tax. I wouldn't do it.

There are seniors and disabled people who are quite capable of paying a parcel tax, just as there are able-bodied people in this economy who cannot. So I think some kind of a means test needs to be in place to receive an exemption. Exemptions would be good for one year, and thus, must be applied for each year of the parcel tax.

The budget for spending the parcel tax has to include some percentage of exemptions. Assuming all senior citizens will qualify and apply might provide a basis.

Where to spend the money?

As one might surmise, I'm more in the camp of what additional services we might be willing to pay for. I can't get past feeling the district dug itself into a hole based on what I've seen to date (not enough transparent data at this point).

My experience is you'll get the best information talking to principals. It would be easy enough to prioritize what the community is willing to support with tax dollars from their suggestions.

But my own observations follow and are highly dependent on having the community and principals agree and on knowing how much a tax would raise. These are listed without being a priority ranking:

Full time teacher aides (one per grade level per school site) at grades 4 and 5. I don't think we can afford CSR at these grade levels, but an aide could be invaluable to letting the teachers with larger classes spend more time with students and less on minutiae. It could help employ local residents, and it doesn't require more classrooms. Employment would, by nature, be year to year.
This same idea could apply to grades 6 through 11 for English and math classes.
One counselor at each high school for the express purpose of helping with college apps. This is not inexpensive, but could take a tremendous load off of counselors needed to address other student issues. I know at least one high school garnered millions in scholarships for their students this way.
One position at each high school for the express purpose of dealing with class adjustments (I'm thinking an administrative assistant). And maybe it's part time, and maybe it's one full-time person who splits their time.
Merit pay for teachers and principals.
A pre-K program for the youngest five year olds. More difficult because it requires space, but there are many models in practice to look at.

I clearly have stated I do not support the current proposed parcel tax, no matter the dollar amount. I do, however, believe we have the capacity to do more as a community if we are treated equally as constituents when approaching Board members; given sufficient, credible data from the district on which to base our decision; and time to determine what it is we are willing to support, or not.


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2009 at 8:16 am

Sandy, Here is a link that takes you to the link on standards. Web Link


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 1, 2009 at 8:19 am

Sandy is a registered user.

Dw/b, you wrote "I don't propose anything for K-3 CSR for example, because the state IS funding it."

The state provides incentives to schools for participating in class size reduction, but does not fund the full cost. The figures reported in Pleasanton suggest that $4 million in state funding supports the program, and $2 million in district funding must cover the rest of the cost.

The size of the incentives are smaller for class size reduction in 9th grade, compared with K-3. This makes sense, because the program for 9th graders only affects two of their classes, rather than their entire school day.

Link: Web Link

I'll read your new comment carefully, and reply later.


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Posted by LIZ
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Mar 1, 2009 at 8:19 am

Disagree w/B,
You have lost me. This is not a time to add any expense we are trying to maintain with less revenue. Your point in past that we are unable to maintain because of unsustainable raises is more on target.


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Posted by Diagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2009 at 9:07 am

Liz, I see it as two different issues. I don't think the district will need to cut $9 million and I still strongly believe the raises are the largest of the reasons they are in this mess.

The getting to yes is for a philosophical debate about possibilities. I can't say the community will support this idea any more than the current one. And even if it was approachable, it wouldn't be something we'd be ready to vote on this May. It's one person's ramblings and would need vetting.

It's as much an idea for eventualities as it is a point by point look at what the district SHOULD have done, didn't do, and despite these posts continues to do. They assumed too much about themselves and too little about us. It was, IMHO, a total lack of respect.

Sandy, I understand the hydraulics of CSR at all the grade levels--I think I've said before that I work in the schools. The district gambled when it gave the large raises and it lost the gamble. I've posted somewhere about that being about $15 mil that would have been a nice cushion about now.

Liz and Sandy, I'm digging where I can, suggesting ideas, talking about what I know--and whether or not we agree, I appreciate the exchange of opinions. If nothing else, we learn.


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 1, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Sandy is a registered user.

Dw/B, I think your suggestions about identifying priorities for what the community is willing to support with tax dollars are interesting.

I'm not sure what class adjustments are, at the high school level -- is that figuring out which students are going to be in each class? I don't know how that works now, so I can't speak to whether it would be valuable. (As I have mentioned, we only moved to town last summer.) It would seem very odd to me to designate funds from a parcel tax to fund single positions, though. The ideas you raised about additional teacher aides and adding pre-K seem much more suited to a parcel tax, since they deal with increasing services above those provided in other districts. (I believe we are in the middle of a national movement to pre-K, actually.)

I think it would be especially valuable to pursue merit pay, and I appreciated the link that you provided to standards for teacher performance in Great Britain. It is important for those evaluating professionals like teachers to begin that process with a clear understanding of expectations. Over several years, teachers are typically challenged to take on new responsibilities (switching from one grade level or subject specialization to another, for example) and at each of those points, setting specific objectives with the principal makes sense. Then performance can be evaluated relative to those objectives.

Regardless of the merit of these possibilities, I don't see a way to shift the conversation at this point away from the current wording of the parcel tax.

If I am taking away the gist of your past comments (and yes, I had missed your remark about working in the school district), it sounds like you feel the district should have fought harder against pay increases for teachers, so they could have rolled that money back into the reserves and would not be up against a wall now. I don't think that seeing the parcel tax fail is going to in any way solve the problem of past negotiations. What would you want the board to be saying to Superintendent Casey about negotiations with the unions right now?


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Posted by Get educated!
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Disagree w/B you stated:

"I think I've said before that I work in the schools."

I'm curious as to where and in what capacity?


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Posted by Mary
a resident of California Reflections
on Mar 1, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Not a fair question.


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2009 at 9:56 am

Thanks Mary.

Get educated: There are reasons I can't say, of course. It would put a lot of people I care about at risk, including friends and family (isn't that true for the majority if not all people out here?). If it helps, I have more than ten years experience. And I've had children in the system too.

If you have questions about what I've said, I'm happy to answer. I don't think anyone has even implied otherwise, but it is just me talking. I try to use resources available to me to find information to respond. I do not/would not use anything that isn't available to the public. If you or others want to talk offline, I set up an alias at parceltax@me.com but I still won't say more about me. And I'm comfortable if others set up aliases to do so.


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:14 am

Sandy, Just had a chance to look at your post more thorougly.

The high school class adjustments suggestion may not even be needed (don't have anyone in high school). But the idea was to take a load off of current counselors for adjusting student schedules (wanting to add, delete, or rearrange their classes). Seems like it could be handled by others and signed off, if needed, by counselors. I threw out areas I could think of, I'm certain there are many more worthy causes, which is why I think this takes conversations with principals.

There is a movement on pre-K, you're right. I don't know where that funding would come from given the current state of things. In the meantime (at least for three years) it is something that could be considered and we'd have a leg up if it comes through from the feds or state. Again, I set no priority on these suggestions.

Obviously I think merit pay is one way to reward the best without pulling down the whole general fund. Even if we end up rewarding the same teachers and principals year after year, you get a good picture of what consistent excellence looks like. I have the utmost respect for the individuals in the classroom and all the challenges they face.

I agree the shift would be difficult, but if the Board is wise enough to vote against putting it on the May ballot, there's a new place to begin. In fact, I'll send them an email from my alias. Worst case, they go ahead anyway.

Your last paragraph and question I need to ponder; I'll get back to you!


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Posted by Pleasanton Resident
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:41 am

The draw to Pleasanton is the schools. The problem at the moment is that the state is not handing down the necessary funds to properly fund the existing program. What should we do? Should we gut the program that is working? Should we lay-off teachers, counselors, aides, and administrators who are the back-bone of the program? Should we pack the kids into classes and rely upon the hope that clever staff members will make it work anyway? Should we keep the staff and ask them to take less in order to fund the program? OR if we do value the school program, appreciate what it offers our kids, and would like to see it continue do we fund it appropriately? The state has left us holding the bag. What will we do? I say we fund our kids education. Show them that we do care about them and that we do value their future. Yes on the parcel tax.


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Posted by Disagree w/B
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Sandy: Here's to that last paragraph/question.

To the raises—yes, I was against the three years of consecutive large raises. I'm not against reasonable raises. BUT there's a fox minding the hen house deal here that I need to be clear about. Any raise given in negotiations with APT are automatically given to all other personnel in what is called a "me too" clause (exceptions to this are rare). You have a budget person who just retired (I'm only jealous.). You have a superintendent who has indicated within earshot of others that he will retire soon (a year? Again, I'm only jealous.). Those large raises (any raises) are used in the calculations for retirement benefits. Who was going to do the fighting to keep raises reasonable?

Adding somewhere in the neighborhood of $10-12-15 million is ongoing costs points to an administration that is not fiscally prudent, as do the two failed lawsuits (doesn't matter that it's a different fund), another lawsuit being attempted (even if it is a no cost wash, there is still a tremendous waste of staff time—an indirect cost), a use of reserves for raises for administrators (this should have been the first clue that the budget couldn't absorb the raises), a suggestion to tap the technology fund, and a first interim financial report that failed.

You're right again, letting the tax fail doesn't solve past problems; BUT passing the tax doesn't provide taxpayers the security that this administration has learned its lesson or that history won't repeat itself. This proposal will relieve pressure on the general fund, and with a 0% raise this year, many might be looking for ways to claw back some ground on that perceived loss of income. And they're asking the community to vote on a parcel tax in May before they have to finalize a budget at the end of June.

What the superintendent should be directed to say in negotiations depends on whether concessions by the union have to be repaid. If true, then don't ask for them. That's counter to what others are saying here, but the onus to repay later could present unintended consequences at a time where there still are insufficient funds to do so.

Then, sharpen pencils; look at everything with a fresh eye. Come back with accurate numbers on what the new state budget really means, what the feds will provide and for what, then what needs to be cut and what can be cut through efficiency (provide a whole new list). I would say, 15ish% in raises should have been six at best—eight if you count this school year—so it should be zero for three more years. Then go after a parcel tax and merit pay for three years.

It's a hard sell, I know.

To the Board I'm saying: Treat this community with the respect it deserves. Don't put the tax on the ballot as written. Start over. Make staff do it right this time.


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Posted by Jeb Bing
editor of the Pleasanton Weekly
on Mar 15, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Jeb Bing is a registered user.

We're intentionally giving topics pertaining to the June 2 parcel tax measure and teacher layoffs a rest because the postings have become repetitive and, in some instances, accusatory and hurtful to teachers and other employees of the school district who are unable to respond to postings, most of which are made under the cloak of anonymity. The postings online will remain, but future postings to these threads or new ones dealing with teacher layoffs and the parcel tax can be made only by registered users of the Pleasanton Weekly forum.


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