The Pleasanton Unified School District will be receiving $14.35 million in new combined funding coming in from the recently enacted state budget, which district staff will not have to account for in its adopted budget.
During the Aug. 11 school board meeting, assistant superintendent of business services Ahmad Sheikholeslami explained how Gov. Gavin Newsom's $300 billion budget for next year increased the base funding for the Local Control Funding Formula.
Funding for the formula, which is the mechanism through which most of the state's public schools are funded, will increase by $9 billion, meaning Pleasanton will receive about $4 million in ongoing funding.
"Even with the ongoing revenues, we were planning deficit spending ... and so now with the additional revenues coming in, our fiscal situation will improve and we can look at what those reductions were exactly going to be and modify our plans going forward," Sheikholeslami said. "But that additional revenue will really become important to us in the years to come."
The new state budget also increased the ongoing funding for the expanded learning opportunities program, which will translate to about $2.1 million that will strictly be used on after-school programs.
In terms of the transitional kindergarten program, the governor and state agreed on increasing funding for the program that includes a staffing increase of one teacher per 12 students. That program is supposed to fully take care of all kids who turn 4 years old by Sept. 1 by the 2025-26 school year.
Two one-time grants that the district did not account for in the original school budget but will now be included are the Learning Recovery Block Grant and the the Arts, Music, and Instructional Materials Discretionary Block Grant.
The Learning Recovery Block Grant is intended to extend some of the pandemic relief spending for increased instructional minutes, closing the learning gap, providing additional support to student's credit deficiency and academic pupil services, Sheikholeslami said.
That grant accounts to about $5.38 million that the district must spend by the 2027-28 school year.
The Arts, Music, and Instructional Materials Discretionary Block Grant's parameters are much wider because it can be used for anything under the umbrella of the arts and music.
"This will be a great opportunity to extend on some of our wishlist items," Trustee Kelly Mokashi said. "My passion would be to see how we can get more music down and arts into the elementary level ... I'm really excited to hear more about this particular grant and how it levels out.
That one-time grant of $8.96 million includes art and music programs, instructional materials, books and textbooks, and overall operational costs.
"There are going to be school districts that don't touch arts and music with these dollars and I do not want to be one of those districts," Trustee Joan Laursen said.
Sheikholeslami said the district's finance committee is already working with different departments on developing plans for how to best use the new one-time funds and the ongoing formula funds, and will report back to the board for the first interim budget update in December.
Another topic discussed at the meeting was staff cuts due to low enrollment.
During the meeting, deputy superintendent of student services Ed Diolazo shared the enrollment numbers for the first day of school -- not counting infants and preschool students there were 13,940 enrolled students.
"In the 2019-20 school year we started with 15,000 students and so we definitely have decreased enrollment," Diolazo said.
Because of that enrollment decrease, district staff projected rightsizing in its adopted budget and Mokashi asked if there were any projections for how many cuts the district would make.
Sheikholeslami said that after the first interim budget update and final enrollment numbers are tallied in January, staff will have a more clear idea on projected staff cuts.
"We try to make those kinds of planning decisions so everyone knows that there's going to be adjustments and staffing due to enrollment," he said.
Mokashi also asked if there was any consideration for setting some of that new funding money aside to increase the reserve levels. She said that even though she knows the district is at the minimum 3.3% reserve level, she was curious if beefing up the reserves was part of the conversation.
Sheikholeslami said that any type of prudent planning would look at providing more services but the district could also consider putting a certain percentage to increase the reserves.
"I think there's lots of evidence recently that the rainy day fund has positively impacted the school districts," Superintendent David Haglund said. "When the budget has fallen, that fund has been able to save us from really some devastating cuts ... it actually was a very effective strategy that we should pay attention to."
In other business
Mehdi Rajabzadeh, executive director of operations, presented his annual Maintenance, Operations and Transportation Department report, which included several accomplishments, ongoing projects and future plans and challenges for the department.
One of the main improvements to all the schools that he noted in the report is in water conservation efforts.
Push faucets have been adjusted to stay on for five seconds, rather than 20-30 seconds and all the sites are now equipped with iCentral Irrigation controllers, which are more accessible and can be adjusted using an iPad.
"Now we can manage irrigation at the tip of our fingers on an iPad instead of running to each campus several times a day," Rajabzadeh said.
He said he was also proud to announce that after 18 years, the gym floors at Foothill High school have been renovated -- work on the gyms at Hart and Pleasanton Middle School are currently in progress and are projected to be completed in two weeks.
"Our schools have not, and we still have a lot to do, but never in my career have they looked like they look now," Board Vice President Steve Maher said.
The other main issue that was addressed at almost every school was tripping hazards. Apart from Amador Valley High School, which is currently being evaluated because of the significant repair work, every tripping hazard at the other schools have been removed and repaired.
Other maintenance work included in the report are: renovations to the baseball field at Foothill; addressing the sprinkler system to ensure water conservation; renovated ball walls at several sites; blacktop and parking lot resurfacing; and plumbing issues across the district, which still needs to be further addressed.
"So far I've been to 12 out of the 16 schools and I've been so impressed by how beautiful they are, especially in the paint jobs," Trustee Mary Jo Carreon said.
Some of the challenges Rajabzadeh said the department faces are in addressing older facilities that are in need of modernization, institutionalizing the culture of preventive maintenance and coordinating improvements with the $270 million general obligation Measure I1 bond that voters passed in 2016.