After facing staff layoffs earlier this year, the long-running Horizon Early Education Center may be headed toward recovery, should the Pleasanton school board approve a proposed fee increase at its regular meeting on Thursday, starting 7 p.m.
Pleasanton Unified School District has offered reduced and subsidized services for qualifying families through the daycare program for more than 30 years. If adopted, the new fee schedule for families with children enrolled in Horizon would increase for all age levels, from $1,920 to $2,300 per month, with preference given to full-time students.
Part-time fees would range from $1,100 to $1,600 per month, depending on whether the student attends two or three days per week. Current rates for part-time students are between $970 and $1,455.
In May staff recommended cutting six classified staff positions at Horizon -- five full-time early education positions including a lead early educator, plus an early education aide -- citing continued low enrollment and annual budget deficits, as well as an opportunity to save approximately $470,000 based on staffing allocations.
With the pandemic impacting the availability of childcare, parents implored the district to consider alternative solutions to layoffs at Horizon. The board agreed to put the layoffs on hold, and asked staff for updated information about the program's solvency.
In a presentation set for Thursday night, staff said the program is licensed for up to 26 children but "maintains a maximum of 24 children, 12 infants and 12 toddlers." Because the district must maintain daily required staffing ratios but not all of the children are enrolled full time, less revenue has been generated in recent years.
"We have not reached enrollment capacity in the last 3 years of the program, even pre-pandemic," staff said. "Given the staffing levels, the district would need 8-9 employees to run the program with the maximum capacity."
With increased tuition and all children attending full time for 12 months, staff said the program would generate around $550,000 in annual revenue, "and our annual expenditures would be around $600,000, leaving us short of the breakeven point even at full capacity which the program has not been able to achieve."
Over the course of several town hall and community meetings in June, parents gave the district feedback and recommendations for revitalizing the Horizon program including increasing fees to local market rates, boosting full-time enrollment with a "multi-prong strategy," and marketing and operating Horizon and STEAM as a "comprehensive birth-to-kindergarten program."
In addition to raising tuition fees, staff has recommended continuing to enroll infants and toddlers, hiring staff, and improving marketing and advertising to support the program.
In other business
* On Thursday, the board will hear an update on the 45-day budget, which includes revisions based on recent negotiations with the district and California School Employees Association.
The board approved the agreement with CSEA last month, which adjusts salary compensation for classified employees. Besides salary increases from movement in the salary schedule, no adjustments have been made yet for the Association of Pleasanton Teachers, which represents the district's certificated staff, including teachers.
District spokesman Patrick Gannon told the Weekly, "We are at an impasse with APT but eager to continue our conversations to reach a resolution."
The Public Employment Relations Board "determined the existence of an impasse" between ASPT and PUSD several weeks ago, and that a mediator has been assigned for a Sept. 1 mediation date, according to APT President Michelle VerKuillen.
"The Association of Pleasanton Teachers believes that Pleasanton students deserve the best," VerKuillen said in a statement. "The social-emotional well-being of our students is our priority, as well as having highly qualified fully staffed schools providing supports to ensure our students thrive."
VerKuillen added that APT held an all-member meeting on Aug. 9 "where a super majority of our membership attended to support our students."
A staff summary of the current budget reports $1,449,441 in revenue and a general fund operating deficit of more than $6 million for fiscal year 2021-22, with a net projected decrease in end funding balance of just over $5.7 million. The district also has an estimated reserve of $11.8 million or 6.28% of total expenditures.
Trustee Steve Maher told the Weekly, "I think we're OK. We have sufficient funds. We'll meet our budget and still keep our reserves intact."
Other revisions in the 45-day budget include "new revenues in special education and lottery funds," according to staff, who said the one-time restricted and grant funds will be included as they become available, as well as the first interim report at the end of the year.
* The board is expected to vote on a contract for construction of the new science building courtyard at Hart Middle School on Thursday.
A total of eight contractors submitted bids for consideration in July, with Integra Construction Services winning out for a total bid price of $2.23 million, which would be funded by revenue from the Measure I1 bond.
If approved, work on the courtyard would begin at the end of August, after work on the new parking lot and drop off lane "is ready for site occupancy," staff said. Total funding for the project as outlined in the approved district Facilities Master Plan is $11.4 million.
The board will also decide whether to proceed with an agreement for inspector of record services for the project. Should they approve the contract, PUSD would pay $110,880 to United Inspection, Inc. "for providing inspection services through the next phase" of the project. Site work is expected to tentatively begin next month, with building taking place in February 2022 and finishing by next August.