With the defeat of a the Measure G parcel tax initiative, the Pleasanton Unified School District is looking at other ways to balance its budget by June 22.
At the same time, two local educaiton foundations--Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) and Pleasanton Schools Educational Enrichment (PSEE)--have committed to start a campaign to raise money for programs that would have been supported by the parcel tax that failed to pass on June 2.
Also this week, Supt. John Casey announced that he and his wife Jody have put their Pleasanton home on the market and will relocate to the Brentwood area to be closer to their families if their home here sells. Casey said he plans to retire in a year or two and would commute to Pleasanton during that time.
For the school board, one option it looked at in order to balance its budget by June 22 is to take a "responsible risk" and postpone a payment for post-employment benefits. The $674,000 would instead fund in the 2009-10 school year two reading specialists, four of 10 counselors that were previously reduced, and three positions in the library and technical support programs, as well as provide $45,000 for the Barton Reading program.
The post-employment benefit payment, called OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits), would need to be made up in the 2010-11 school budget.
The unanimous decision was made in time to rescind about 40 pink slips by the June 4 deadline. Superintendent John Casey said, however, that if the state budget were to worsen in the coming weeks, the district could announce layoffs Aug. 15.
Also decided in a special meeting June 3 was to reduce class-size reduction to 25 students per teacher in kindergarten through third grade, and ninth grade English and math. Previously, the state provided no flexibility in this program, so the program was included in the $9.7 million budget cuts earlier in the year, which brought classes to 30 students.
Recently, however, the state lifted some restrictions on class-size reduction. As in the past, the 20:1 ratio is funded with $4 million from the state and $1.6 million from PUSD. With the new flexibility, the board decided class sizes would be 25:1, which receives less money from the state, but requires nothing from the district.
The state also allowed flexibility to funding third (of three) tier programs. Any cuts to these categorical dollars could be used "for any educational purpose," according to assistant superintendent of business services Luz Cazares. The school board approved to add about $1.2 million to the general fund from these programs, which includes reductions to the adult and community education offerings.
In budget news, Cazares said about $5 million in federal funds from the state fiscal stabilization fund have been received into PUSD accounts. On May 29, however, the district received word that there would be an additional shortfall of $1.2 million for the district, which is on top of the estimated $6.8 million deficit for PUSD as a result of the second version of the May budget revision. The total shortfall for the 2009-10 school year is around $17.7 million, with $8.1 million said to be coming in from federal funds.
Fundraising campaign begins
Pleasanton's two educational foundations are joining with the school district to raise money for programs that would have been supported by the parcel tax. Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) and Pleasanton Schools Educational Enrichment (PSEE) have committed to start a campaign with the district on an Aug. 15 deadline.
The goal would be to raise $2.8 million, with PPIE funding class-size reduction (at a 20:1 ratio), reading specialists and counselors, and PSEE funding the elementary strings and band programs.
Some Measure G supporters have already gifted the district with donations, which will be put towards this effort. People wishing to learn more and to donate can visit www.ppie.org or www.psee.org.
Casey puts house on the market
A for sale sign dons the front yard of Casey's Pleasanton home, as he and his wife Jody are planning to move.
"I am looking to retire in the next year or two," he said.
The move, he added, "has nothing to do with the district. I love the things we're doing and it has nothing to do with Measure G."
He said he plans to make the most of the market and relocate to Brentwood, where he and his wife are originally from and where his family resides. He would then commute to Pleasanton if his home sells.
When Casey came to the school district in 2002, he was granted a $200,000 loan by the district. He said he owes $180,000 of that loan, which would be paid upon the sale of his home.