Board gets budget back on track, for now
Unanimous vote shows PUSD support for changing majority rule for school funding measures
School Board members were pleased to certify their budget as positive Tuesday night -- a sign of a balanced budget -- for the first time in a year and a half. The status of the fourth interim report shows that Pleasanton Unified School District would be able to meet its financial obligations for the current and two subsequent years.
The interim reports, which happen four times over a fiscal year, had in the recent past been certified as qualified, which says the district may not be able to fulfill its financial obligations.
While praising the budget solidarity, board president Chris Grant noted that it was a "dramatic team effort" that put them there. These efforts include cutting the budget and concessions from the teacher's union and district management.
"Congratulations," Grant said Tuesday night. "We're one of a handful of districts that have moved to solid financial ground."
Some unknowns still exist, however, as the governor's updated budget, also called the May Revise, is scheduled to come out in mid-May; the district is still in talks with the classified employees union, which could result in further concessions; and the CORE (Community OutReach for Education) fundraiser has already garnered just over $42,000 from parents.
Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services, said other factors that could also impact the budget is the need for further mold remediation work at Hearst Elementary School and a possible special education encroachment.
With past talks of securing additional funding from a parcel tax, the board unanimously voted to support the Local Control of Local Classrooms Funding Act, which would lower the required majority for school funding measures.
Jeff Bowser, chair of the legislative committee for the Pleasanton PTA Council, had petitions circulating the community to support this initiative.
If put on the November ballot and passed, the new initiative would change school parcel tax requirements to only need 55 percent of the votes instead of a two-thirds majority. In order to qualify, a parcel tax would need to be approved by two-thirds of the governing body, be for $250 or less, offer a senior exemption and include a citizens audit and oversight committee.
Under these criteria, the latest parcel tax effort last June would have passed with 67 percent of voters in favor.
Trustee Jim Ott noted the concern for taxpayers, but said the conditions, including a 55-percent majority instead of 51, would help. He also noted that a two-thirds majority was essentially like giving the minority the power to decide.
Grant said the initiative would be a baby step in the right direction to allow solutions for the local community while the system in Sacramento is broken.
Trustee Jamie Hintzke agreed.
"It's going to take a lot of effort to get the problem fixed," she said. "In the meanwhile, we just can't wait. We've got kids to educate."
To learn more about the initiative, visit www.improvedschoolfunding.com.