News


Nearly 200 meet to discuss school finances

District plans second special budget meeting for Jan. 19

Standing crowds wound around bookshelves and back to the fiction section of the Amador Valley High School library for a community forum regarding the Pleasanton Unified School District's budget.

The group of nearly 200 concerned community members was there to learn about the impacts to Pleasanton schools as well as ask questions of district staff.

The district had intended to have a two-hour meeting, with equal parts dedicated to presentations of the school budget from Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of Business Services, and a parcel tax Q&A with Larry Tramutola, chief strategist with a political consulting company. It was set up a little differently than past forums on the topic, with the school board not seated at a table in front of the audience.

Kevin Johnson, senior director of Pupil Services, acted as the moderator, and said the meeting was successful enough to schedule another for Jan. 19. He did say, however, that the district had not anticipated the large audience and shouldn't have attempted to cover the two topics in one evening.

In Cazares' presentation, she explained the source of the PUSD funding, how the money is spent, that their finances are audited by external parties, and how they are anticipating a budget deficit of more than the current projection of $3.6 million.

Ninety-three percent of the district's funding, Cazares said, comes from the state.

"We rely on the state so much," she said, "that when the state has a good year, we have a good year. And when the state has a bad year, we have a bad year."

With California projecting at least a $20-billon deficit for this fiscal year, Cazares said updated numbers were expected to be released today and that Tuesday night's presentation did not reflect a worst-case scenario.

If the state's budgeting solutions are similar to last year -- solving the budget with expenditure reductions, accounting techniques and revenue enhancements -- Cazares said it would translate to an $8 million loss in revenue, in addition to the $3.6 million. She was quick to add that at this time, however, they have no reason to believe the state would act in this way because they don't have a magic ball or inside information. In fact, there are months of negotiations ahead to the May revise, with more negotiations following that.

A general idea of what $3.6 million in cuts would entail, would mean the loss of about 50 full-time positions (which could be more than 50 people), including 34 in teaching, 14 in classified and two in management. This would be in addition to the 150 to 160 people laid off last year.

The district is currently about $100,000 short of their required 3 percent reserve, about $3.6 million. In years past it had a reserve of about 4.5 to 5 percent. The district was forced to use the "rainy day fund" last year in order to make up for mid-year cuts imposed by the state. In order to maintain the 3 percent reserve for the following school year, Cazares the district will have to reduce spending or increase revenue.

Questions and suggestions were taken from the audience, with ideas ranging from an aggressive fundraising campaign similar to what's done in San Ramon to shortening the school year and negotiating a freeze in step-and-column raises to cutting from special education funding. The district said written responses to these questions will be posted on their website, www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us.

As for the parcel tax discussion, Johnson insisted that the district has not decided to pursue another parcel tax. Instead, they brought in Tramutola to offer some insight and advice after some requests from the community.

Tramutola said the same type of discussion is likely happening across the state because the need for funding is so great, but his advice was not to rush because a parcel tax will not solve every problem. His estimations say it takes about six months to a year to effectively campaign.

The board will meet for their regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at the district offices. The meeting place for the Jan. 19 meeting was not finalized by press time. The second of two meetings to survey the community about the search for a new superintendent will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at the district offices.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by WoW
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:23 pm

"
The district is currently about $100,000 short of their required 3 percent reserve"

I remember the board agreeing to the recommendation from Luz Cazares last summer: borrow a little over 100K from the Sycamore fund to help the cafeteria fund, which ended in red. When asked how it would be repaid, they said from the cafeteria fund! These folks need a math and business class ASAP!


Like this comment
Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jan 7, 2010 at 8:40 pm

The shortfall on the reserve has more to do with the unforeseen costs of the Hearst Elementary mold problems.

See story from August 28: Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Karen
a resident of Ironwood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 12:58 am

I wonder what the total price tag is for public funds the District is spending on lawyers in a 7 month court case currently being litigated in Alameda County Superior Court ( case number RG09454800 on their Alameda County Superior Court website) where PUSD is being accused of operating in secret. How many millions of dollars in taxpayers dollars (is it only $2.5 million) is PUSD required to pay in the Settlement Agreement it refuses to disclose to the public?

How many teachers are part of the 'cuts' because the District is signing secret agreements to divert funds away from education of children in order to pay Settlement Agreements?

Why did the District use closed sessions, a violation of the Brown Act, when it discussed the Neal school site in secret sessions on March 24, 2009?

Why isn't the newspaper reporting on this lawsuit? The court case involves accusations of secret dealings in the school district in its financial matters and PUSD being unwilling to provide the public with public records.

Why is this not part of the headlines?


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Birdland
on Jan 8, 2010 at 7:39 am

A parent asked for a show of hands to see how many in attendance were district staff. The response showed almost 50% in attendance receive paychecks from the district and do not necessarily vote or pay pay taxes in Pleasanton.

Did the reporter miss the question asked and answered that said a 4% across the district salary reduction would eliminate the shortfall as it is now?

I am interested to hear about a lawsuit about the district operating in secret. It is far overdue for the district to be made accountable for doing so.


Like this comment
Posted by Fed Up With Taxes
a resident of Avila
on Jan 8, 2010 at 9:01 am

There are other ways to raise money for schools other than increasing taxes. By raising taxes we are being set back even further, especially in this economy. So here is my suggestion, use www.mainstreetfair.com to buy and sell items online and they will make a donation to school that you select. They will donate to any school in the U.S. I am tired of selling candy and paying taxes, aren't you?


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 8, 2010 at 6:03 pm

"I wonder what the total price tag is for public funds the District is spending on lawyers in a 7 month court case currently being litigated in Alameda County Superior Court ( case number RG09454800 on their Alameda County Superior Court website) where PUSD is being accused of operating in secret. How many millions of dollars in taxpayers dollars (is it only $2.5 million) is PUSD required to pay in the Settlement Agreement it refuses to disclose to the public?"

Anyone know anything about this? What is happening here?


Like this comment
Posted by Another Gatetree Resident
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 9, 2010 at 11:10 am

This same scenario played itself out 30+ years ago in the Sequoia Unified School District in San Mateo County. First Ravenswood in E. Palo Alto was closed due to budget constraints and declining enrollment. Then San Carlos was closed and sold due to finances and declining enrollment. Classroom sizes grew in those schools these kids were now attending (and some were BUSSED -- what a concept!). The end result -- Parents adjusted to the concept, the students survived the change, the District remained solvent.

The sky is NOT falling, it's just not to everyone's liking.


Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2010 at 5:05 pm

To "Another Gatetree Resident",

"First Ravenswood in E. Palo Alto was closed due to budget constraints and declining enrollment. Then San Carlos was closed and sold due to finances and declining enrollment. "

Nothing like that is happening here. At the meeting, they said clearly that a school closing was not even being considered and would not be needed even if no new sources of money were found. We are also not facing declining enrollment -- We have flat enrollment.


Like this comment
Posted by Gary Schwaegerle
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Gary Schwaegerle is a registered user.

I believe that schools apply and get some funding back from the State for legal expenses - Gary Schwaegerle


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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