I am a former board member who has been watching the parcel tax issue. I decided to email the current board about the state of the district reserves. I was surprised by the response from one member. Here is my open response, with a cc to the community.
There is no direct reply to my original question of why the goal of a seven percent reserve was abandoned—a reserve that would buy the community time now to evaluate what really has been happening with the district’s budget and how best to find long-term solutions. While the issues at the state level compound the district’s problems, the response is an apparent abdication of responsibility for previous decisions that brought the district to this point.
Your question of why shouldn’t the community decide about restoring programs on the chopping block, though, leads to many of my own.
• Why have suggestions other than a parcel tax been ignored?
• Why were teachers and principals not surveyed for their ideas of what could be cut (not what they would personally give up)?
• Why was a survey not used to ask the community about what they support? Wouldn’t that be less expensive and less risky than an election to ask the same question?
• Why doesn’t the ballot language or the accompanying resolution specifically state what it will save (# teachers, # counselors, etc.)?
• Why doesn’t the ballot language indicate that no one will receive a raise during the life of the parcel tax? Couldn’t this be a better approach than asking for concessions from the unions? This would have made a smaller (less than $233) two- or three-year parcel tax easier to pass, allowing plenty of time to seek more permanent solutions without a heavier burden for tax payers in the current economy.
• Are board members and staff preparing more than one plan for what will happen if the tax does not pass?
• Why is the election in June and not May (nearly twice as expensive)?
• It has been suggested the one-item June election is an attempt to keep opposition voters out of the booth. If most Pleasanton voters use absentee ballots, wouldn’t this suggest that those who oppose the parcel tax will vote and that this additional cost is more money wasted?
• How does it make sense to consistently spend more money (taxpayer dollars) to ask the taxpayer to provide more funding?
To respond to your other points:
• Every one of the remaining days before June 2 is a just another campaign day—there has not been a sincere two-way conversation yet, only a drive from the position in favor of the tax.
• There was not much listening at the meetings. Those who spoke in opposition were admonished for their efforts to seek additional time and a different approach. The sacrifice by the union is appreciated, but may not have been necessary as noted above.
• Cutting class size reduction was the heaviest emotional hammer in the district’s toolbox, so I don’t agree the community/media endorsements have any real value to the voter.
Contrary to what seems to have been implied, I am very concerned for the 50% of my former co-workers losing their jobs, and I am equally upset for the dedicated teachers and classified staff members who find themselves in the same position. I’m also quite aware this tax isn’t for building reserves, which means the district still does not have a plan for ever achieving it’s stated goal.
The question remains—what happened to that goal for reserves? The answer points to money being spent with no regard for economic uncertainty and that this is the sole reason for the pink slips that were given throughout the district.
Saying it is “just 64 cents per day for four years” is how you don’t say it is $18.4 million dollars. Is the presumption you mention one about the voters not figuring that out?
I appreciate the dialog and look forward to your response.