Those were the words of school board president Chris Grant last Tuesday night as he reviewed a long list of possible program cuts and teacher and administrative layoffs brought on by the state's looming $41.6-billion deficit.
Grant and fellow board member Jim Ott will now research the language and parameters of a parcel tax that the five-member board indicated it will ask voters to approve in June. This is good. The tax is needed because the state's financial woes mean that our school district will have to reduce its budget by $8.7 million during the current and the 2009-10 fiscal years.
The proposed parcel tax, likely to be around $200, could spare up to 50 percent of the cutbacks, if it passes. With the tax measure requiring a two-thirds majority vote of those voting in a special election in June, its approval is by no means certain.
Commentators on the Pleasanton Weekly's Town Square forum have been arguing the merits of the parcel tax and recommending savings in school district expenditures for more than a month. While most of them are anonymous postings, many are quite thoughtful and worthy of consideration. Here's one posted a few days ago by a resident of the Golden Eagle neighborhood:
"It is obviously a difficult time for everyone, and it is pretty clear that those who have chosen education as their source of employment are now stunned to find themselves subject to the changing winds of our economic meltdown. ... You will never see either extreme end of the salary bell curve, but you will make a comfortable living and enjoy the union negotiated benefits of a managed health care plan and full retirement. You may argue amongst yourselves (politely please) where these two items fall on the curve, but this discussion usually digresses to a 'grass is always greener' stalemate fairly quickly. ...
"Now here is where the discomfort starts to intensify. Virtually everyone agrees that our government must spend in accordance with revenues, but no one seems to be able to stay elected and deliver a responsible plan for achieving this goal. In good times and bad our state and our nation has always managed to spend more than it generates. ... Passing a hasty tax to solve a miniscule portion of this problem will not do much to alleviate the ongoing discourse, but it will likely create another obligation that will never expire. Unfortunately funding derived from taxation becomes such a muddled mess that it becomes virtually impossible for the taxpaying public to decipher what they are paying for and, consequently, are backed into renewing any dated tax under the guise of averting the next service cut crisis.
"The unfortunate fact is that some people are going to lose their jobs because of the current financial climate. Just as with the millions who are facing a similar fate in the private sector, whether this fate is deserved is not really a productive discussion. And while an additional property tax assessment would, optimistically, cover as much as 50 percent of the current proposed cuts, it would do little to solve the ongoing source of the dilemma and add additional burden to the community at a time when financial hardship abounds.
"The school board has stated that they have entered into contracts with the various unions and individuals that are employed by the Pleasanton Unified School District. And thus they are reticent to ask any contracted individual or group to reduce their own pay. And I agree with that. But the unfortunate truth is that a substantial dollar amount will be cut from the personnel budget. How many people those cuts affect is entirely in the hands of the employed group, as a whole."
There are many more position statements and commentaries of interest to school district employees, parents, students and Pleasanton taxpayers in general. Check it out at www.PleasantonWeekly.com.