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Pleasanton school board braces for more cuts at meeting tonight, including adult ed cuts

Original post made on Feb 28, 2012

The Pleasanton school board plans to spend an hour tonight reviewing a list of potential cuts that include eliminating the Barton Reading Program, cutting reading support at elementary schools and reducing counseling services at all grade levels.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 7:41 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by no more teacher raises, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 28, 2012 at 8:04 am

No car allowances, no cell phone allowances, pay cuts for all non-teachers and no S & C raises for teachers. That's a start.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Stoneridge
on Feb 28, 2012 at 8:39 am

I can't imagine cancelling all Adult Ed is being considered, especially at a time when
our economy is struggling and many, many locals can benefit from Adult Ed courses
to train for re-entering the workforce.
This program, and its outstanding director, MUST BE SAVED!!

Posted by pleasanton neighbor, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2012 at 8:51 am

This probably will not get printed because of the opinion - but I will try anyways.

We the people must face facts. We cannot continue to add people and supply them with benefits if we do not have a way to pay for it. Think about it -we have illegal immigrants come in, have babies, right away and we PAY for it with our legal kids education suffering.

It is our fault for being so generous. My Mother, with her parents were immigrants. But they did it legally and were sponsored so that they did not become a burden on the system. Even during the Great Depression, they did not go on any kind of welfare program. And my Mother learned English in less than a year because she had to and wanted to.

If people do not want to come here to assimilate - then they do not belong here. They should stay in their home country and fix them.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:14 am

NMTR, The non-teachers have taken the biggest hits and make the least. Just want to be sure that suggestions are balanced.

The information provided just in the first paragraph is frustrating--no PIO cut, but Barton goes; cut reading specialists without demoting a few management positions; cut counseling at all levels. This is not building from the classroom toward the district; it's saving everything at the DO and slashing everywhere else.

Cutting Glen Sparks' position--"thanks for all the cash you gave us; here's the door." No call to Palo Alto to understand how they work with the city to keep summer school.

FTEs stands for full time equivalents--so if a department lists 8 FTEs, it could be any combination of full and part-time people that adds up to eight 40-hour positions. So you can cut hours for everyone or cut a full time position or two half time positions, etc. Often these people have bumping rights, so the person with the most seniority bumps everyone down the line until the least senior person IS out of a job.

No look into whether top administrator contracts have been renewed (rolled over) every year; do they still have three-year contracts? No comment on what is left in the reserves? Are we cutting conference attendance--for everyone including CSBA for the board? No one needs a car allowance. No one needs an expense account. Only two board members asking questions so that staff is comfortable coming back with the same suggestions; is that because they believe they have the support of the other three already?

Posted by LuvPleasanton, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:45 am

Please get educated on this "funding" problem ... these comments are very encouraging as we the tax payers are waking up.... hope it's not too late ... great place to get info and education is "" it will help you understand what is going on in every California city, county, state and nation and how some local govts are actually addressing this issue through fiscal responsibility .... not more taxes as Jerry Brown wants to do ....

Posted by long time parent, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:54 am

Kathleen, we will not get answers to the important questions with the current administration/board. With only two members on the board who really care to ask the tough questions and to work with the community, you cannot make progress. The three board members who rubberstamp everything are actually doing a huge disservice to the community. They just defend the administration and do not want to have real conversations with the public. That is why there is frustration in this community. The board should be working with the community instead of shutting them out. Nothing should be off the table at this point. The administration must feel really insecure about their contracts and car allowances and other benefits since they do not want them even being discussed in a public hearing. I wish they would take some civic classes and understand that it is "we the people". Instead it is "we the government, and you the people."

I sure hope that at the next election we can reelect the board members who do ask the questions and replace the one that does not with somebody who does, then we can start to have honest conversations with the community. Until then, we will continue with "the kids will suffer unless you do as I say and give us more money."

Posted by long time parent, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:00 am

To LuvPleasanton, just as important to understand is the free medical health and dental insurance we give those who retire from the district. This an unfunded benefit that we cannot afford. We must demand that the benefit goes away as it is costing us millions of dollars every year and escalating in cost every year. There should also be no more contract renewals with management until that is out of their contracts. That benefit was put in place during the regime of Clem and John, so that they could maximize their payout. It needs to go away IMMEDIATELY.

We should be watching the automatic extensions of management contracts and vote out whoever votes for those contracts without making the necessary changes.

Posted by NewParent, a resident of Val Vista
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:06 am

Could anyone shed more light on the current k-3 class sizes? It used to be 20. What is it now? (25?) What will it be next year if the 26 FTEs (4.5 per grade level, K-3) are eliminated? (29?) What are the chances of more 'one-time' funds being used this year if the new taxes don't come to pass?

Posted by LuvPleasanton, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:09 am

You betcha "long time parent" ... you're all over it ... the unfunded liabilities for public pensioners is absolutely crazy ...we are also long time parents and raised three children in Pleasanton ... you touched on the "core" of the problem, the management negotiating and approving these pension benefit/contracts are under the SAME PLANS!!!!! ... people in the private sector go to jail for this type of stuff... look up the definition of Ponzi scheme...

Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:29 am

NewParent -- Since the fall of 2010, class sizes for K-3 have been 25. If the proposal currently on the agenda is adopted tonight, and not reversed before the budget is approved sometime this summer, then class sizes will rise to 30.

There is a possibility that "one time funds" could be used to reverse this cut, but in my estimation, it is a lower probability than last year. Reserves are lower than last year, and with the possibility that the governor's tax proposal could fail at the ballot box in November, I would be very surprised to see the school board approve the use of reserve funds for this purpose for a second year.

There are only two other possibilities I see as even remotely feasible: either the unions again agree to concessions, and the district agrees to use them to offset cuts, or someone like Scott Adams or John Madden pledged to pay the full $1.3 million cost to keep class sizes at 25 for one more year. Neither seem probable, though I suppose they are not impossible.

Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:37 am

long time parent -- I share your concern about the cost of medical benefits paid to retired employees. I spoke to this issue of "OPEB" (other post-employment benefits) at the Feb. 14 board meeting. Employees who retire before age 65 are permitted, under the current contracts, to receive paid health benefits for 60 months (5 years).

For the past several years, the board has voted to defer some or all of its yearly contributions intended to cover the estimated future costs of OPEB. That means that as current employees retire, the district will be poorly prepared to meet those costs. More annual funds will have to be used to pay the contractual obligations of OPEB; funds that otherwise could be used to fund classroom programs.

We need to phase out the post-employment medical benefits. I certainly hope that the district raises this issue during contract negotiations with the unions.

Posted by long time parent, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:39 am

Sandy, the administration can do more that does not require union concessions. Complete removal of auto allowances, removal of free retiree medical insurance for those not in the union first, followed by the unions (now or when contract expires; the sooner they do it, the more money that is available for salaries). Eliminate the PIO...

Sandy, since you are fairly close to this all, please let us know what you think that can be cut in the district office and/or management. I would be curious on what your suggestions would be.

Posted by Wondering, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm

The former PIO is now in Purchasing, and they hired another person to be the PIO! How can that be?

They were supposed to get rid of the PIO and instead they moved her to another job and hired another person, how does that make sense?

Also it looks like we have quite a few administrative positions that could be cut/merged. Start there before cutting programs that affect the students.

How much does the district spend on car allowances for ALL managers, directors, assistant superintendents?

Has the board renewed contracts with admin the way they did when Casey was still here?

Sandy, is there a way to release a list of expenses and a list of all programs and people who work at the district? As taxpayers and parents we have the right to know. We should not just accept the cuts the administration proposes.

I no longer have kids in k-3 but would hate to see class size increase. Let's get a full disclosure of ALL expenses, how can we get that?

Posted by long time parent, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 28, 2012 at 4:07 pm

You can get salary and benefit information for 2010 at Web Link . 2011 data is not there yet. You can specify the Pleasanton Unified School District and then see the gross pay, pension costs, plus items like 'Misc' and you should be able to figure out the car allowance there.

Don't forget to remember how many days off these people get when you look at the salary information. Days off are SIGNIFICANTLY higher than what the private sector, or even city government.

Posted by PUSD Union Member, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Feb 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I am a current PUSD employee in the nonteacher "Classified" union. The proposed cuts make us sick. The Administration is continuing the tradition Casey set of taking care of its own and leaving the Classified to take the cuts. The former PIO was moved to another management position and then the new PIO (from the FREMONT district) was hired on a part-time basis but is now full time. Did I miss something? Never saw that move to full time in the Board Doc. Eliminate Adult Ed - one of the few programs that bring in $$? Eliminate Barton Reading and 3 district office Classified positions but car allowances and using outside contractors continue. Sorry Pleasanton, don't expect any changes here. Kids used to come first but now management does and all the Classified at PUSD knows it.

Posted by Observer, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Are you watching the board meeting? If not, you should. Channel 28. Arkin and Hinske are fighting for the kids and overall transparency and delaying or finding a different way to fund the facilities master plan to save reading programs. . . .and losing unfortunately.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I'm actually watching the Stockton Council meeting...

Posted by Reality, a resident of Parkside
on Feb 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm

In spite of this business about this being about children and education, the PUSD motto is "Cronies Come First" (first if they are admin or mgmt, second come the hanger on consultants, third the D.O. unquestioning bureaucrats...)

Posted by Arkansas Willy, a resident of Bonde Ranch
on Feb 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Okay, this really makes my blood boil. Look at how the Wall Street people have had to sacrifice these past two years. And union thug public school teachers are complaining about pay and pension cuts? Give me a break. Just another argument for homeschooling.

"ALBANY, N.Y. -- Wall Street cash bonuses for 2011 are expected to drop 14 percent and profits are expected to drop by half for the second year in a row, according to a forecast Wednesday by New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

That would result in cash bonuses of $19.7 billion. Profits are expected to be less than $13.5 billion in 2011, compared to $27.6 billion in 2010.

The average cash bonus is expected to be $121,150 for 2011, down from $138,940 in 2010. Bonuses peaked before the recession in 2006 at $191,360."

A tsunami is coming, people, and it's on account of public school teachers --- virtually all being communists, Marxists, socialists, elitists and snobs --- robbing the coffers of us patriotic taxpayers.

Posted by what are you talking about AW?, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Everyone posting here is recommending saving programs and helping education. If a car allowance has to be cut or facilities plan has to be delayed, so be it.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Arkansas Willy, aka Faye, Robert, and many other names want to keep kick things off topic so it looks like everyone is anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-poor, anti-Safeway--you name it. I'd be surprised if teachers appreciate the sarcastic "contributions."

Posted by pleasanton neighbor, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 1, 2012 at 8:48 am

We must look at the Union salaries and benefits. My husband and I are both self-employed. We pay 100% of our medical and we still only get 50%- 80% of the procedures paid, and that is after our deductible.

But if the college and university professors pay also comes out of this same fund we have to look at their salaries and benefits. Many college professors are way over-paid for the amount of work they do in the classroom and on special projects. My sister-in-law works for one that is only in the classroom 4 hours a week and makes a huge amount of money.

All of the benefits and salaries should be on the school/college websites so we can see what they get for what they do.

Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 9:45 am

Pleasanton neighbor -- keep in mind that current teachers' union members pay all of their healthcare costs out of their salary. There is no employer contribution to healthcare benefits for teachers in Pleasanton, unlike in most corporations and other school districts. (This was negotiated many years back when healthcare costs were not rising so quickly, and may have seemed like a good deal at the time to the teachers' union, but I think it was a wise move by the administration.) Over the last several years, with no cost-of-living increases and steep insurance premium costs, this has meant a decrease in take-home pay for teachers.

What I question is why we suddenly start paying those premiums when someone retires before 65. That may have been an effective recruiting benefit at one point in time, but I don't believe we can afford it now or in the future.

Teachers and classified employees have seen reductions in takehome pay for several years as well, with furlough days.

Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 9:49 am

Wondering -- a full disclosure of all expenses is available. Go to the district office on Bernal at First and ask for a copy of the 2011-2012 budget, and the audit for 2010-2011. Download the full board packets for each of the past board meetings when the board has approved "warrants" -- that is where you can see records of the biggest bills being paid.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 1, 2012 at 9:57 am

Sandy, Moving healthcare onto the salary schedule occurred when there was an incredibly senior teaching staff (like now); CSEA also chose the option. The goal, not surprisingly, was to spike their last years of pay for future retirement calculations. There also is the question of just what benefits staff are buying at so high a cost. And there is the fact that a low percentage of staff members are buying health care at all because they have spouses who provide coverage.

The concern is not just that the district committed to paying years of premiums, but more importantly, are not putting aside funds for that commitment.

Posted by Sandy Piderit, a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:09 am

Long time parent: Only four or five people receive car allowances after the reductions Tuesday night. The total cost of those allowances going forward will be $14,400. (The total cut from the budget in car allowances was $63,900.) The remaining car allowances seem reasonable to me, given the travel required by those employees both within the district and to Sacramento to stay up to date on the constantly changing budget and curriculum issues.

The entire management team is also seeing a reduction in pay for 5 days after the reductions Tuesday night, totaling $150,000 in savings per year. I don't really care if the management contributions come from their salary or from their car allowances -- as long as they are making contributions to saving programs. They have been doing so, for several years now.

I would like to to see the superintendent to direct staff to prepare a list of the top 10 or 20 dollar amount contracted expenses -- lawyers fees, transportation for special education students, other expenses that the district pays outside entities. Perhaps anything the district pays to outside entities that totals more than $500,000 for in any given year. If we could negotiate those costs down by 5%, we could save a lot more money than we could by cutting that last $14,400 in car allowances. Reviewing the contract expenses would take work, and staff time, and I recognize that our finance staff is greatly reduced in numbers compared with 5 years ago -- but I think it is worth considering.

I would also like to see the superintendent direct staff to examine the possibilities for containing special education costs. There are services that the district is mandated to provide, and I want all students to have what they need in order to progress in their education. However, special education makes up a big chunk of the budget (I vaguely remember a figure close to $18 million per year, but don't quote me on it). If we could find ways to provide the same services more affordably, that could also make a big difference.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:23 am

Sandy, There is no reason to pay for driving around Pleasanton and trips to Sacramento (no video conferencing?) are rare and can be covered by mileage reimbursement. How many of the administrators are still filling their cars with DO gas?

I would lower the amount for a list of outside contracted expenses to $250,000, and maybe less. If we are paying law firms more than that, we have real problems. Not sure you can save on transportation for special ed students. I know one child personally who is on the bus over an hour each way. Cutting costs there could mean longer travel times.

Often the key to cutting special education costs is whether the district is supporting an inordinate number of students in outside institutions. It was not uncommon for families to move into a district's boundaries to recoup those costs. Then there is the whole question of disproportionality--over identification of students of color--and really the possibility of over identification of students altogether. Parents have become very savvy about getting services for their children. Nothing wrong with that, but I would agree with you that there may be more cost effective ways to address those needs.

I don't disagree with your approach to the budget cuts; just hoping to add to the discussion.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:42 am

Stacey is a registered user.

What incentives are being given to trim costs? Probably zero.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:48 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Was Adult-Ed really a revenue-producing program? Why on earth would they cut that?

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 1, 2012 at 11:00 am

Stacey, During one of the years of cuts, Adult Ed had over $300,000 in the bank that was grabbed to cover, well, whatever. I doubt any extra money has been allowed to accumulate since. If nothing else, it was self-sustaining. There were other examples of previous cash cows, although I can't say they are any longer--printing made money and the portion of IT that was doing the books and cutting checks for other districts paid for at least one key position there.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 1, 2012 at 11:36 am

Sandy, one other clarification about furlough days. They are chosen over actual pay cuts (make less money and work the same number of days) because furlough days protect an employee's daily rate of pay, meaning when retirement is calculated, they will not lose a dime of future payments. So, yes, it is a give back, but we pay for it in the future and it could be seen as a cut in services now (like cutting five to fifteen days out of the school year).

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

That's ok if they shifted money from a REVENUE-PRODUCING program to cover other costs in a time of need. That's the purpose of continuing REVENUE-PRODUCING programs and not cutting them. When they get cut, their extra revenue won't be available for the next time of need.

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