Pleasanton Unified eyes polling for feedback on potential new bond

Board set to decide soon on survey to gauge voter support for 2020 measure

The Pleasanton Unified School District Board of Trustees deliberated Tuesday evening whether community members would support a new bond measure to extend the revenue stream currently by supported previous bonds.

The trustees' discussion focused on the district's facility improvement needs, the lack of funding beyond the Measure I1 bond passed in 2016 and district administration's idea for a new facilities bond measure, and they are expected to decide soon whether to pursue public polling to gauge voter support for a $120 million bond measure on the ballot next year.

District officials said a new bond measure would present PUSD "an opportunity to fund approximately $120 million" for possible future projects like revamping Vintage Hills Elementary, building a career and technical education campus, and general facility and equipment upgrades.

In the preliminary discussions in recent months, including Tuesday night, district leaders are equating the new bond measure to a tax extension because the tax rate for property owners ($20 per $100,000 of assessed valuation) would be the same as the rate owners are paying now related to previous bond measures in 1988 and 1997, which is set to wane after 2020.

Last year, the trustees approved the district's Facilities Master Plan, which estimates about $846 million is needed to complete projects at all 15 campuses.

Some are already covered by the $270 million Measure I1 bond from 2016, but about three dozen other remain unfunded, including $6.34 million for traffic mitigation related to redesigning the Donlon Elementary School property to split it among a kindergarten-to-third-grade campus and a new school for fourth and fifth grades.

The concept of a new bond measure was first floated last year, but trustees at the time questioned whether it was fair to approach voters after Measure I1 passing just two years earlier and projects like building a new elementary school not being completed.

"There was a bit of hesitation and we needed to see some projects get started and so we took a step back and we really focused on getting those things amped up," Superintendent David Haglund said. "They really were already started, but we needed to be more overt in how we talked about them, in terms of the scheduling so people could see that, yes, those things are in the pike and they are coming."

"The purpose of (Tuesday) night was to recap what we're doing under the bond and what needs have been identified," district spokesperson Patrick Gannon told the Weekly.

Voters approved Measure I1 bond, which taxes homeowners $49 per $100,000 of their assessed property value every year, in November 2016. Measure I1 revenue is restricted to spending on repairing and upgrading local classrooms and facilities and buying new equipment; none may be used for administrative salaries.

There is just over $145.5 million left in funding to allocate for projects on the Measure I1 list. Community polling for public feedback about the proposed bond is expected to be discussed at the board's next regular meeting on March 26.

Another notable portion of the meeting covered recent budget changes, including $4 million in budget reductions to afford a recent 2.5% compensation increase for employees, during a second interim budget report. Pending another state budget revision this spring, officials say more adjustments may be needed.

Special education contributions in district schools have increased by $1 million and local revenues have grown by the same amount because the district is in receipt of a partial insurance claim from the Harvest Park Middle School fire.

Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled his 2019-20 state budget proposal, including a one-time $3 billion payment to CalSTRS from the general fund to pay down pension debt. The payment is expected to address rising pension costs and reduce the out-year contribution rate by half a percentage point.

However, the district warns that if additional cost of living adjustment and STRS rate reduction recommendations in Newsom's budget "do not materialize, the district will need to make approximately $670,000 in reductions before 2020/21."

In other business

* The trustees also unanimously approved several contracts for district schools, including one to rebuild the fire-damaged library at Harvest Park Middle School. Last summer, a blaze damaged the library as well as the campus-wide low-voltage systems. A 40-foot-by-48-foot portable has served since then as a temporary library.

District officials recommend rebuilding the existing library with insurance funds but not expanding the facility. School administration and a design team met recently for project scoping.

To stay on track, the district will need to rebuild in two phases, demolition and construction. The first phase would start this summer and continue with construction during the next school year. To minimize impact during school hours, construction on weekdays would start at 2 p.m. and end around 10 p.m.

* Fiber optic and site network upgrades throughout the entire district were also approved; last year Amador Valley High School served as the pilot phase site and received new copper cabling and new Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports, which grant access to security cameras, clocks, bells and voice over IP (VOIP) telephones.

The $4.5 million project will use Measure I1 funds for upgrades at the remaining schools to support a 40gig network backbone that's expected to increase speed and bolster stability and security.

Work will start this spring at three schools -- Foothill High, Walnut Grove Elementary and Pleasanton Middle schools -- and continue at other campuses until the end of next year.

Lydiksen Elementary School is the only campus not included in the project and will receive its upgrades when the planned rebuild breaks ground at an undetermined time.

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10 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 13, 2019 at 11:30 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

“ . . . district leaders are ***equating the new bond measure to a tax extension*** because the tax rate for property owners ($20 per $100,000 of assessed valuation) would be the same as the rate owners are paying now related to previous bond measures in 1988 and 1997, which is set to wane after 2020.“

If they insist on calling this push for a bond a tax extension, I’m going to call it a money grab. It is a new tax, not an extension. It’s like saying: now that you are done paying, we want you to keep paying; after all, you’re used to it by now.

Let’s see where you are with the $270MM in 2022. Will Lydiksen be done? (“ . . . planned rebuild breaks ground at an undetermined time.”). Will the Donlon addition be completed? Likely not.

The article also notes the bond funds cannot be used for administrative salaries. I will dig into this, but I believe a construction manager was hired, if not others. Is that person paid from bond funds, but actually a DO employee?

Budget: “ . . .including $4MM in budget reductions to afford a recent 2.5% compensation increase for employees.” Does anyone else see the irony here—paying what couldn’t be afforded, probably with cuts to maintenance and custodial support (and other student support services), which will mean buildings will not be properly cared for, so we can have another bond. This system is so broken, yet we keep doing the same thing hoping for a better result.

2 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Mar 13, 2019 at 12:15 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

"If they insist on calling this push for a bond a tax extension, I’m going to call it a money grab. It is a new tax, not an extension."

So if they call it "bond" then you are for it?

No offense, but it seems your criteria of acceptance might be a little off unless you expand a little.


16 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Mar 13, 2019 at 12:23 pm

NOPE!! No more money, PUSD continues to fail miserably at managing our money and keeping promises, no more excuses or begging for more money. If this was a private company heads would have rolled a long time ago

3 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 13, 2019 at 12:35 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Dan, read the other thread. This comment was about the lie. I’ve already stated my stance.

8 people like this
Posted by Jim T
a resident of Parkside
on Mar 13, 2019 at 1:50 pm

I just reviewed their $890M wish list and the contents are mind boggling..The list is on the PUSD site and the projects and the estimated amounts of dollars required is staggering...

$76M to upgrade play fields at all elementary & Middle schools
$20M to replace Hard courts
$40M to upgrade drop-offs at various schools
The list goes on an on..I encourage those interested to access the site and to see the other line items that make up the nearly $500M that is unfunded at this time

I don't question the need for some of these items but it seems like the cost is excessive...And given the comments I saw on an earlier thread, there seems to be a lack of confidence in the people who are making the decisions (the PUSD Board itself) on which items to pursue first..Kathleen, you seem to be dialed in better than most on this site...Please keep us informed?!?

8 people like this
Posted by Spudly
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Mar 13, 2019 at 1:57 pm

I would be happy to pay this new or extended tax (however you look at it) but only after the district applies all pressure possible to help the state fix the larger issue of unfunded retirement and health care costs. There has to be a balance of increases and long term decreases that are unsustainable.

27 people like this
Posted by Never
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2019 at 2:19 pm

PUSD is an entirely corrupt organization and no one knows where all of the money goes.

Their principals are a revolving door. Starbucks is able to keep baristas longer than PUSD can keep principals.

PUSD lied on the last bond measure and said they would build a brand new elementary school. PUSD hasn't managed to keep its promises in decades. They just keep selling off property to developers, then they say the funds will be used for a new school, which of course never happens. They pocket the cash.

Meanwhile, the facilities are in a constant state of disrepair, regardless of how much money PUSD has. And PUSD keeps crying poverty! How dishonest!

5 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 13, 2019 at 3:55 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Never, I am fairly certain no property has been sold in years (perhaps Sycamore was the last one). If property is sold, it cannot go into the general fund and pay for just anything. It has to be used for facilities.

You are correct that facilities have suffered from neglect, a door the state opened during the recession (now since closed I believe). Vintage Hills (has anyone checked for the mold Walnut Grove had years ago from consistent leaks—stachybotriys atra), Village High School, and many others have serious issues. In the correct order, the district creates a list of needs, there are estimates/bids for what repairs will cost; a blue book of projects and expenses is created—THEN the bond goes out to voters. Specificity is necessary for voters to understand exactly what the projects are and what they will cost. If it passes, consistent reporting to the board (and therefore the public) on the projects and cost projections for each part of a project should be mandatory.

8 people like this
Posted by Del Prado resident
a resident of Del Prado
on Mar 13, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Kathleen, you are incorrect. The PUSD has consistently played land speculator, purchased and/or condemned property with the stated intention of building a school, only to engage in massive fraud with the public. They hold the land until it appreciates considerably, then sells it to developers at a massive profit, then pockets the proceeds. Their excuse is that the new housing and new students are always coming from another part of town by they time they get around to bringing the bulldozers in to build a school.

That is the scheme they plan to do with Neal. Even though there is the looming massive development of the East side of Pleasanton, PUSD like they always do, will plan to sell the Neal site it to developers. That is because PUSD has and always has been corrupt since its formation as a "unified" district.

They sold off the Del Prado site that was supposed to be an elementary school to developers in my neighborhood. This was in all the newspapers at the time. If they had built the school, Donlon would have never had to become a mega-school like it did. What was supposed to be an elementary school is now a housing subdivision.

The elementary site and middle school site that was in the North Stoneridge mall area is now a shopping center.

The elementary site and middle school site that was off of Vineyard Avenue is now a housing subdivision, sold off to Savings and Loan (Amador Savings and Loan) shuttered by the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Its the same old game everything. The players change, but their tactics remain the same.....

3 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 13, 2019 at 5:14 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Del Prado, The Sycamore Fund is intact (being repaid after being used for a variety of reasons). The district cannot legally pocket the money. I know Hart, Hearst, and PMS almost didn’t get built; but you’d have to prove to me the funds you indicated were not used on facilities—and that’s the caveat I guess, the funds can get used for other facilities in the district.

If Neal is sold, it has been discussed it would be used to build Donlon because the $35MM set aside in this bond appears to be insufficient. They could also, and I think they should, sell the District site and do a collaboration with the City to build a joint use facility of City/District offices, saving the taxpayers money.

And I absolutely agree the district, through the years, has kicked the can down the road, rather than build a school, whenever they could under the premise: “we can’t afford the operating costs”, which is why so many students and their teachers ended up in portables.

6 people like this
Posted by Del Prado resident
a resident of Del Prado
on Mar 13, 2019 at 5:46 pm

The District does pocket the money as it does for developer fees under "gift fees" that can be used for practically anything. They've squandered bond money on laptops. They classify anything they want to as "growth" and they squandered developer fees for years using it to pay legal fees for a number of law firms. What was used to be to build new classrooms as new subdivisions were approved were instead used to line the pockets of lawyers. And paying a beehive of lawyers has nothing to do with building classrooms.

The city operations facility on Busch Road was supposed to be joint Pleasanton Unified District warehouse and city operations center. In the end, PUSD backed out of the deal, refused to pay any money for it, and of course, it ended up being a city only facility.

I doubt you will ever see any joint facility of any kind because PUSD is completely shady.

If it was not shady and the gift fee and facility funds and the proceeds from the sale of real estate over the years (not including the Sycamore slush fund from the sale of the third high school site that was never built in South Pleasanton) had been simply saved for a rainy day to build facilities, given no new school has been opened in the last 20 years, wouldn't you expect some $40 million to be in some account somewhere at PUSD? But it isn't. That is because they have spent the money.

5 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 13, 2019 at 9:49 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Laptops, if I’ll advised, were properly included in the bond information.
I don’t know that facility funds were used to pay lawyers.
Any fees paid by developers cannot be used for “practically anything”.
While the city corp yard is fact, it is not clear to me why the district backed out of the deal. If it was anything like the city making the district pay over $4MM to straighten Vineyard Avenue, then they should have backed out.
I would not expect a big pot of money. Funds were used to buy and lease portables—leases alone are $200,000 a year for at least 20 years—among other facility needs.

Shady, perhaps at various times, but not always. Even at their best, I cannot support this bond proposal.

21 people like this
Posted by Steven
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Mar 14, 2019 at 4:13 pm

We will NOT vote for it. We have been 30 years here, and from what we have seen while our two children went through K through 12, the district has not managed the taxpayers money well.

Every conversation I have had with school officials was met with a level of arrogance beyond comprehension. Insisting that they be called Dr. so and so, because they have a PhD. So do I, but I don't chase people down to call me Dr.! The laptop fiasco. Argghhhh!!

2 people like this
Posted by Richard Michael
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2019 at 8:19 pm

Both Proposition 39 and Education Code 15300 prohibit the expenditure of bond proceeds to pay off pre-existing debt. Nevertheless, the district "disappeared" $14,700,000 (poof!) of Measure I1 bond funds to pay off COPs (Certificates of Participation) last year, thereby freeing up, perhaps hundreds of thousands of, dollars each year in the general fund to pay for salaries, benefits, and pensions. If an upscale community like Pleasanton can be fleeced like this, just think how bad it is in poorer districts. Penal Code 424 has a 5-year statute of limitations, so there's still time to do something about it.

The Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission may have something to say about that too.

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 14, 2019 at 8:53 pm

What is required to initiate action against that claim?

Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 14, 2019 at 10:33 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

RM, can you provide links stating that please?

9 people like this
Posted by never mind
a resident of Val Vista
on Mar 15, 2019 at 4:03 pm

I won't be voting for any kind of bond or tax for PUSD. After living here for 30 years and observing decisions by administrators, principals and board members it appears there is either a succession of ineptitude or dare I say outright scamming.

I'd venture to guess none of us will be included in this supposed poll for new funds. Maybe the goal is to tax families to the hilt until they can no longer bear it resulting in running them and their children out of town thereby reducing the need to build the new school. Then they'll have a surplus fund to buy more things that have nothing to do with providing a good education.

5 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 15, 2019 at 5:17 pm

Citizens alleging government waste and or misconduct by government officials may submit confidential complaints to the grand jury. The grand jury reviews every complaint received and if the situation warrants, recommends corrective action. It has jurisdiction to investigate any city or county agency, or special district operating within Alameda County (e.g., Bart, EBMUD, AC Transit, school districts, etc.)

One can fill out a complaint form online or down load a paper copy.
Google Alameda County Grand Jury.

11 people like this
Posted by Justamom
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 16, 2019 at 7:30 am

Justamom is a registered user.

I will NOT be voting yes and the funds being put towards this campaign is a waste of our money. It is time we clean out the district office and maybe start pushing the voted in board to support us in doing so.

2 people like this
Posted by Richard Michael
a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2019 at 10:29 am

When I put links in comments, the comments are usually blocked. You can look up the joke of an oversight committee report to see the money paid as well as Proposition 39, the Education Code, and the Penal Code.

Grand jury is civil and may not take it up. In any case, it has authority except to issue a report, which almost all public agencies simply ignore.

Anything else, call 909-378-5401.

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