Pleasanton Weekly

News - September 16, 2011

School board votes to oppose bill blocking teacher layoffs

Legislation 'ties our hands and keeps us from doing the job we were elected to do' says Hintzke

by Glenn Wohltmann

The Pleasanton school board voted Tuesday to oppose a new state law that would prevent the district from laying off teachers.

The board approved a resolution opposing AB114, which blocks teacher layoffs, noting that classified employees are likely to take the hit if the district is prevented from other layoffs.

"It doesn't give us any room to move to have a balanced budget," said board member Jamie Hintzke. "It ties our hands and keeps us from doing the job we were elected to do."

The bill goes along with state triggers that could mandate mid-year cuts if revenue projections fall short of actual revenues.

Board member Joan Laursen noted AB114 was passed late at night and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown with no public input.

"I think that just letting it go without making any noise is just a slippery slope that will continue," Laursen said.

The school board resolution, passed unanimously, calls the bill "an unprecedented intrusion into the ability of local educational agencies to manage their own resources," and says the legislation "could force the elimination of sorely needed educational programs."

Pleasanton resident David Miller pointed out that during union negotiations, the California School Employees Association (CSEA) voluntarily took furlough days to keep their fellow employees from being laid off.

Similar resolutions are being passed by other school boards across the state.

Regarding other budget matters, the board heard a brief update on state funding, which remains in limbo pending reviews from state officials about revenue projections. A review from the state Legislative Analyst's Office in October will determine if revenues are on track with state predictions. The second will come in December from the finance office and may trigger mandatory cuts, according to Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services.

Those triggers could call for immediate cuts if revenues fall $2 billion short of what's anticipated in the state budget, although school funding won't be cut unless revenues are $4 billion less than expected. If that occurs, Pleasanton could lose $3.8 million in ADA (Average Daily Attendance) funding, Cazares said.

A review of last year's unaudited financial statements showed the district fell a little more than $1.7 million short of its expected revenues, receiving more than $140 million. However, the district also spent nearly $136 million, nearly $1.4 million less than anticipated, with savings from a number of areas.

The board also acknowledged two large donations. The first was a $25,000 contribution for adult education from the Tri-Valley Community Foundation, one of two promised the district for the current year, and Board members thanked president David Rice for his work in raising the money. A $10,000 donation for the Barton reading program came from Mr. and Mrs. Richard Kirimli and the Fischer Family Foundation.

Financial concerns were raised by several residents, including those who served on the citizens committee that recently concluded its work looking into cash-out refinancing done by the district in the mid 2000s.

The board took no action on the committee's recommendation that oversight measures known as "best practices" be put into place and may consider steps to implement those practices in an as-yet-unscheduled workshop. Those best practices could include a citizens oversight committee of current and future bonds, establishing an audit committee, a staff debt review committee and ethics training for the board and administration.

However, several of the committee members brought up worries over COP (Certificate Of Participation) debt. A 2010 report shows the district with $28.5 million in COP debt that currently is estimated to be repaid by 2034. After several years of savings, debt service on COPs jumps to a half million a year in the 2015-16 school year, climbs to more than $721,000 in the 2021-22 school year, and peaks at more than $877,000 before gradually dropping.

"You are in trouble," said Kay Ayala, a member of the oversight committee. "You need a plan."

The board agreed to a request that COP debt be put on a future agenda for discussion.

The board also heard an overview of school enrollment from Kevin Johnson, senior director of pupil services. After starting the year with about 15 students fewer than in the 2010-11 school year, enrollment climbed to 14,890, by Sept. 9, which is 14 more students than the district had last year. Johnson said enrollment is "in flux" but said he will return with figures in October when enrollment figures are submitted to the state. Student enrollment is significant because it ties in to the amount of money the district receives from the state.

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