News - April 15, 2011
Schools could face more than $5 million in new cuts
Governor proposing billions in additional reductions
by Glenn Wohltmann
With budget negotiations suspended in Sacramento, the Pleasanton school board was told Tuesday night that it could face as much as $5.4 million in new cuts.
Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed additional cuts of $4 billion to $5 billion to schools across the state if his plan to extend taxes doesn't make the ballot. The plan has yet to make it out of the state Legislature; a June ballot has already been pushed back and may not make it to the voters before November. That could mean a new round of spending cuts for the current school year.
"We're looking at roughly needing $5.4 million in reductions," Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services, told the board at Tuesday night's school board meeting. "We would be looking at changing our operations fairly significantly at that point."
While the district has already pared its budget by more than $3.1 million, cutting programs and laying off more than 65 workers, that could mean changes to the entire upcoming year as well.
"I've heard some school districts say they're going to have to start their school year in October," said board member Jamie Hintzke.
Alex Sutton, president of the CSEA employee's union, told the board he'd spent the weekend in Sacramento lobbying legislators for school funding and against an all-cuts budget proposed as an alternative by Brown, but got little good news.
"The May revise is not going to be pretty for the state of California," Sutton said. He suggested the board adopt a resolution in support of the tax extension and said people should write their local legislators, asking them to support the extension as well.
Opponents of the local tax initiative, Measure E, spoke out again at the meeting. Doug Miller once more pointed out that the parcel tax, if approved, would bring in $8 million over four year, while step-and-column raises would cost the district $15 million.
Miller said the while the parcel tax money would be dedicated to the items listed in the measure, money that would normally go to that could be used for other things, comparing it to taking money out of one pocket and putting it in another. He was joined by Gary Kinsman, a 25-year resident with two grandchildren about to enter school. Kinsman wants the district to move to a system that rewards good teachers while getting rid of teachers who are not performing
"Please wake up and make the system economically real," he told the board. "I'd like to see some fundamental change."
Parcel tax opponents also want the board to review a bond measure, Measure B, claiming that the district did a cash-out that was later ruled illegal when Brown was state attorney general in 2009. Although that was not on the agenda, and board members couldn't discuss the matter due to the Brown Act, the board did ask for a consultant to do an accounting of the cash-out and where the money was spent.
That review will come before the board in May.
Step-and-column raises were once again discussed, with Hintzke asking that pay increases for steps -- additional pay based on years of service -- and for column -- extra pay for getting additional college credit -- be separated out for the board to review at its next meeting.
Board members approved layoff notices for the equivalent of nearly 22 fulltime classified employees. Bill Faraghan, assistant superintendent of human resources, pointed out that the notices are required under the state's education code, although some of those jobs and hours could be restored if the district can find money for them.
The board also heard a review of new steps taken this year under the district's safe schools plan. New outreach measures for students with drug and alcohol problems and their families are in place along with a new trainer program for school counselors and new support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning teens at Amador Valley High School.
The board also heard from three Amador Valley students who won awards at the Tri-Valley Science and Engineering Fair. Aishwarya Yenepalli, Ray Zhou and Ruchita Gupta took home first-place awards and their projects will be entered in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) later this year in Los Angeles.
Posted by no more teacher raises,
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 17, 2011 at 6:37 pm
PUSD classified employees receive a PAID Birthday Holiday The cost of this Birthday Holiday would more than cover the just eliminated Barton Reading program this year which helps struggling students.
PUSD and teacher health insurance. PUSD and teachers union agreed to place health insurance 'in the schedule' meaning it's included in the salary. Teachers then either pay for a health plan made available through the district, or take advantage of a spouse's health care plan. Only 39% of PUSD teachers pay for health insurance. The 61% pocket the health insurance money. In addition, the high salary makes for higher pensions (half paid for by PUSD pension payments as a percentage of the salary).
Pleasanton taxpayers have been paying millions more to CA for two years. Parents in Pleasanton have been paying $200 per child in increased taxes (through a reduction in the dependent tax credit) since 2009. Roughly $3.6 million a year. In addition, taxpayers are paying an extra 1% in sales taxes, higher personal income taxes and vehicle license fees since 2009. Where has CA been spending that money?
During the term of this parcel tax, the district will give out raises totaling $15,000,000. This parcel tax will not even cover those raises. Continued Step and Column raises: In these tough economic times when those in the private sector are facing job loss, salary cuts, and salary freezes it is inappropriate to impose an additional tax while the district refuses to freeze step and column raises. There will be no money available for instructional programs, libraries, or minimizing class size increases.
School District income increased $18,000,000 during the last three years. District audit reports show 2008 income of $147M and 2010 income increasing to $165M. During those years they have used those funds to hand out $9,000,000 in raises. Rather than freezing salaries, the District chose to eliminate 67 new, energetic teachers while handing out $9,000,000 in raises for administrators and employees.
Excessive Pensions Fifteen of our school administrators have recently retired with annual retirement pay between $100,872 and $178,120 per year. School Administrators would like you to believe that they are not well paid. CaliforniaPensionReform.com shows otherwise. In addition PUSD pays for retiree health insurance. In the past two years, fifteen PUSD employees have retired with annual pensions in excess of $100,000 per year, one a recently retired teacher. A former HR director is receiving $178,000 a year for the rest of his life.
The District wants more of your money but will not commit to how the money will be used. The ballot measure's language is purposely vague and does not outline specific, concrete educational programs. Omission of binding language allows for a lack of accountability to taxpayers.
Election costs instead of student programs Pleasanton Unified School District spent $70,000 on research for this parcel tax, $40,000 on glossy mailers to the public, and $250,000 to pay for this special election. This is money that could have been used to fund the programs this measure addresses.
Even MORE school taxes If you are a homeowner, you are already paying a Pleasanton Unified School District parcel tax averaging $866/year until the year 2024 to pay off school bonds.
There are no rules that direct the spending of the money raised by this measure, and no guarantee the funds will be spent as promised. The measure's vague language regarding the programs the revenues will fund: No specific programs are targeted. Emphasis on math, science, and reading skills, support for specialized science and reading instruction, and keeping libraries open and maintained are mentioned without identifying any specific programs. Due to the vague language, PUSD is not required to increase funds for these programs. It allows for moving existing funds to increases in salaries and benefits.
Where did the reserve fund go? PUSD Removed policy that called for a large reserve fund. A large reserve is what got PUSD through the dotcom bust. Hiring without ongoing funds PUSD Hired extra counselors and technology specialists without identifying ongoing funds, putting their jobs at risk. PUSD utilized illegal bond refunding cash-out practices Several years ago favorable interest rates led the district to 'cash out'. Instead of paying down our debt by $7 million, PUSD spent the money without our approval. In 2009, Attorney General Jerry Brown called these activities illegal "Absent specific approval from the district's electors, a school district may not issue refunding general obligation bonds at a price or an interest rate that will generate proceeds in excess of the amount needed to retire the designated outstanding bonds."
Internal fund borrowing weakened fiscal position PUSD Borrowed against the Sycamore Fund for ongoing costs as if it were a reserve fund, essentially cutting their own technology budget. The market rebounded this past year and PUSD lost out on all that potential interest. Neal School lawsuit fiasco PUSD Got into lawsuits over an indefensible contract. Poor facility maintenance PUSD is deferring maintenance on the district's assets, making later repairs more expensive. And we haven't paid off the bonds that built these facilities in the first place! Any long term operational improvements? Or just CUT PUSD efforts are clearly to raise revenues any way they can. They have no intention to improve operations, reduce regulations, bring true local control back to school boards.
PTA lobbies to lower taxpayer protections The California PTA is lobbying the California legislature in support of SCA 5, legislation to lower the 2/3 voter approval required to 55% for special taxes (like local school parcel taxes). SCA 5 was introduced after the CA PTA's attempt to support an initiative process failed. This was championed by Trustee Bowser, and the PUSD School Board through a resolution.
Where is the annual community fundraising program PUSD has not launched/announced yet this year's PSEE/CORE fundraising campaign. The Measure E campaign wanted to be able to raise $100,000 for this parcel tax campaign and keep the attention of the voter on this parcel tax. This short-sightedness puts library assistants and technology specialist positions at extreme risk.
PUSD Budget Advisory Meetings neither advise, nor work on the budget. They held no meetings for a year, and held their first meeting in 2011 on Feb 3 AFTER the school board approved the parcel tax measure.
The dubious promise of strict accountability and an oversight committee: The promises of "strict accountability measures" and an "independent citizen oversight committee" are also vague. The measure omits specifics of how the district will be held accountable and how the members of the oversight committee will be chosen. In addition, past promises regarding oversight committees have proven false, as these committees have not met on a regular basis.
No direct accountability to taxpayers: The district specifically decided not to include language in the measure requiring them to directly inform taxpayers via a website as to how the parcel tax revenue is allocated. This gives the PUSD considerable leeway in how the money is spent without accountability to the taxpayer.
PUSD and unions are purposely NOT completing negotiations so voters will not know if union costs will be controlled. PUSD significantly delayed start of negotiations with the teachers union. In 2010, PUSD and APT had an MOU signed on Feb 10. . PUSD and APT knew that this MOU had a one-year term, and had a whole year to work out a new agreement. This year, the negotiation process did not begin until Feb 8 AFTER the school board approved the parcel tax to be placed on the ballot. And the negotiations still have not completed, even though parcel tax voting has started. PUSD and the unions are in a coordinated plan to control the timing and process in order to increase the likelihood of the parcel tax passing.
Can anyone honestly say that $2 million/year will protect $16 billion of Pleasanton's residential property value?