Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 25, 2011

Parcel tax opponents speak out at board meeting

Claim Measure E would still allow employee raises

by Glenn Wohltmann

For the first time, opponents of Measure E, the parcel tax to benefit Pleasanton schools, have spoken out against it at a school board meeting.

Tuesday night, opponents David Miller, Doug Miller and Raquel Vargas accused board members of being disingenuous about the tax. While the parcel tax includes wording that bars the proceeds from being used to increase pay for salaries or benefits, that doesn't prevent the district from using other funds to raise pay through the step and column increases that are already part of the teacher's union contract.

"Of course Measure E is a salary tax," Vargas told the board.

David Miller, parent of two children in the Pleasanton Unified School District, said the step and column raises -- which are given to teachers based on seniority and continuing education --will cost the district $15 million in four years, while the parcel tax raises $8 million.

"To me, the logical sequence of events would be to preserve all positions by freezing pay and perhaps even cutting pay in order not to lay off valuable workers," Miller told the board. "This is standard practice in private industry. Why does this not apply to PUSD?"

Doug Miller said despite "grim financial times" the district has raised pay several times and noted that several former employees have pensions "in excess of $100,000."

"Until and unless the district freezes pay and eliminates these lavish retirements, I cannot support the parcel tax," he said.

Lisa Lorentz, a member of the California State Employees Association, said many of her colleagues are part-time workers and most hadn't had a raise in three years.

"We're not big money workers," Lorentz told the board. "We don't get big retirements."

However, 15 former PUSD employees get well over $100,000 pensions. Merlin Donaldson tops the list at more than $178,000 a year, with Richard Puppione on the low end at just under $101,000. A complete list of retirees with pensions over $100,000 can be found at www.californiapensionreform.com.

Board members later noted that pensions are from the state, not the district, and that some employees are allowed to add their personal savings to boost their retirement pay.

The board also heard another request to restore elementary school physical education specialists, who were issued pink slips earlier in the month.

In other matters at Tuesday's meeting, the school board approved up to $15 million in short-term borrowing through Tax and Revenue Anticipation Notes (TRANs). The money will be used to get the district through times when money is short, such as November when funds are lowest before the district receives taxes collected by the county, and at the end of the school year, because the state budget delays payments to districts statewide as a cost-saving move;

The board also heard an update on the new draft homework policy. Public comment will be taken on the policy in April and will go before the board in final form in May.

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