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Re: Pleasanton school district to end fiscal year with hefty balances

Original post made by Arnold, Another Pleasanton neighborhood, on Mar 17, 2013

"Pleasanton school district to end fiscal year with hefty balances"
posted under Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Pleasanton Weekly Online" (Mar 12, 2013)

Apparently the Online Editor of the Pleasanton Weekly isn't up to date concerning Pleasanton school district finances, unfunded liabilities, and the significant cost increase about to consume district budgets throughout the state. The costs I'm referring to can only be hidden from full view for another year or so, or until the new GASBy reporting rules take effect. The new guidelines coming from the credit rating agencies, in conjunction with the new GASBy rules will also impact the cost of borrowing. If this editor thinks ANY "hefty balances" ACTUALLY exist then I think the editor needs to do more homework.

The premise of financial stability (hefty balances) is so flawed it represents a disservice to the entire community. If the " Pleasanton school district to end fiscal year with hefty balances", and everything is just peachy, then why has the district been spending 100's of thousands of taxpayer dollars to raise millions in parcel tax funding from property owners?

The truth is the district has known about the impending increase in pension costs for several years but completely ignored the problem. The unfunded pension liability has now grown too large to ignore, or at least you would think so. Unfortunately, during this time of understanding the problem actually exists, the PUSD has seemingly done nothing to mitigate the problem while doing much to exacerbate it.

As it relates to PLANNING for the future, TRANSPARENCY, and BUDGETING accordingly, I'm giving the PUSD an "D-". I sincerely hope that the parents of school age children, and also the taxpayers that are sure to be asked for more Parcel Tax funding & Bond Funding, ignore the irresponsible headline at the top of this page. It's (past) time parents ignore the cry's of wolves in sheep's clothing (the PTA, CTA, School Board, Governor (and even the Pleasanton Weekly)) and understand that their increased tax dollars aren't really being spent on education.

"It's All About the Kids" is mostly about a very effective campaign slogan coming from the unions/union members that have the most to gain. I know that's a very difficult concept for many to rap their heads around - but it's true for the most part! Like always follow the money - and it isn't going to improving education.

My hope is that people who read what I've wrote will at least challenge what's considered by many as the status-quo. In other words, or in part anyway, will the Prop 30 money taxpayers voted for increase education funding for more programs and reduced class sizes? I don't think so. I believe the answer is NO.

Is it true that Prop 30 dollars will stay in the classroom? For those not paying close attention there are several recent articles from both national and local publications (WSJ & many others), and also the teachers retirement system itself (CalSTRS), that doesn't paint a pretty picture of the California school system or their/our financial stability.

I also find it difficult to believe that both the PUSD, and the On-line Editor of the Pleasanton Weekly, can independently come to the same very flawed conclusion regarding school district finances - but it appears they've done just that. Apparently their budget horizon only extends to the nextů Unfortunately the CA educational system and our tax dollars aren't in sync.

Link to the original article (Pleasanton school district to end fiscal year with hefty balances): Web Link

Comments (19)

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Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 12:07 pm

" In other words, or in part anyway, will the Prop 30 money taxpayers voted for increase education funding for more programs and reduced class sizes? I don't think so. I believe the answer is NO. "

This sounds like pure speculation. Are you basing this on anything? I read that the district is planning to lower K-3 class sizes from 30 to 20 for the 2014-2015 schools year and to hire more reading specialists. Have you read something that says otherwise? PUSD brought down class sizes in the past, and increased classroom services like reading specialists in the past. Are you saying they won't do that in the future? Maybe your saying that the money for the decreased class sizes won't come from propostion 30 taxes, but from other sources? That does sound likely.

Could you please provide links or references to anything that you said above?

Also please elaborate on the what the PUSD is doing "to exacerbate" the problem of unfunded pension liabilities?

" and everything is just peachy, then why has the district been spending 100's of thousands of taxpayer dollars to raise millions in parcel tax funding from property owners"

That's a simple one. They certainly weren't saying "everything is just peachy" when they were asking for the parcel taxes. There was a major financial downturn going on at the time. I don't think they are saying "everything is just peachy" now either. Class sizes in K-3 are still at 30. Many positions with direct impact on the classroom have been cut and not yet replaced.

I'm not saying that the unions didn't have a lot to gain with passage of proposition 30, or that PUSD will be getting or using some or any of the funds in classrooms in Pleasanton. But I do find it likely that passage of a parcel tax or school bond in Pleasanton will positively impact our schools and the quality of education they provide. If some of that money goes to raises for teachers, I would support that too. A local parcel tax or bond stays local.

Arnold, please understand that many of us with school age children moved to Pleasanton because of reputation and test scores of the schools. Even with the recent problems we still consider the schools, teachers, and principals to be generally very good, and we are proud to have our children attend.


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Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm

John,

I'm not basing anything on speculation. What concerns me is the financial recklessness that I'm seeing; the math behind the unachievable promises. It doesn't impress me that the PUSD can claim "lower K-3 class sizes from 30 to 20 for the 2014-2015 schools year and to hire more reading specialists". What does that matter if the programs can't be sustained? Do you want year over year concistenency or do you want the constant uncertainty of budget chaos.

I do not believe the PUSD can even deliver the numbers you've stated given the way the district is being run. You mention 2014-15 numbers but even those budget years rely on temporary tax hikes. What happens when those TEMP taxes expire? I guess you can claim the economy will soften the blow but that's nothing more than a guestimate at this point.

What I do know is that the Teacher's Pension (CalSTRS) is in dire straights and in need of a significant cash infusion. The PUSD also knows this. The increased cost will amount to an additional 15% of payroll (not just a 15% increase but an almost tripling of the current pension cost of 8.25% of payroll, to 8.25% + 15% = 23.25% of payroll for the tax payer portion/district portion of the pension obligation).

John, that increased cost will wipe out the temporary tax benefit and increase the cost to the district for decades - it's that bad. I don't have the time to address anything else from your post but I will leave you with a link to the Wall Street Journal article: The Calstrs Tax - There goes the money from California's November tax increase.

Web Link


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Posted by Strong Brew of T.E.A.
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 18, 2013 at 11:45 am

Prepare for the tsunami. Do not be fooled by these balanced budgets and surpluses. Teachers are bad news. Unions are bad news. Anything that involves taxing me is bad news. We're like Greece, we're like France, CalSTRS doesn't have any underpants. We're doomed.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

You can ignore what is happening of course. In case you don't get the SF Chronicle, here is how Students First ranked California on transparency, elevating teaching, and empowering parents: Web Link

On CalSTRS: Web Link


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Posted by Headshake
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Yes, either ignore the hucksters or be taken in by them. That anyone with an ounce of intelligence would take seriously anything Michelle Rhee says boggles the mind. She's a proven crook, cheater, and huckster. Note how she cherry picks her data to suit her very lucrative enterprise.

Got any links for the John Birch Society, too?


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Posted by Headshake
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2013 at 3:20 pm

It's also worth noting that Ruegsenuckler's link is not an 'informational' link, rather it is an opinion piece written by a proven snake oil saleswoman who, for fame and profit, has been willing to lie repeatedly to parents about their children's test scores.

For someone to approvingly cite this piece indicates they are either seriously deluded by rightwing wacko ideology such that facts are jettisoned along the roadside, or they are too out of touch with reality to even recognize and acknowledge facts.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 18, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

"She's a proven crook, cheater, and huckster." Where's the citation for the accusation?

"In the long run I suspect the 'eliminate the teachers unions and focus relentlessly on the bubble tests' probably isn't going to result in dramatic improvement in the education of America's poor students, but critics of Rhee need to stop saying that Rhee 'failed.' She wasn't there long enough to succeed." Web Link

"Federal investigators announced Monday that they found no evidence of widespread cheating in D.C. Public Schools, despite detailed allegations of systematic cheating laid out in a whistleblower complaint by former Noyes Education Campus principal Adell Cothorne." Web Link

So, even with the recent Frontline piece about Rhee, she has not been proven to be any of the things you claim, Headshake. That teachers may have felt pressure to get scores up means only that the three cited in the first story, and only at the one school investigated, made a bad judgment call in possibly changing test answers (also not proven), but neither is there anything proving Rhee told anyone to cheat to make Rhee look good. You don't have to like her; plenty of people don't. If she does nothing more than make education look internally and create their own change, that won't be a bad outcome.

No comment on CalSTRS though?


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Posted by Headshake
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm

Yep, now Ruggsinuckle feigns ignorance. Where's the citations? An idiot could find them, but the secretary ideology Tea Partier refuses to acknowledge. Pure joke.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 18, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Let's see, still no comment on CalSTRS. Still no citations, even though I provided the finding that says there is "no evidence." Just the usual nonsense and hoped for insults. You're right, it could be funny if it weren't for your flailing about.

As to the hefty balances and teachers speaking at board meeting for where they would prefer the money to be spent, I will repeat that I am glad teachers and parents are speaking up for what they want to happen in the classroom. They will need to continue and to increase the pressure to get this governance team to be creative.


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Posted by Headshake
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 12:57 am

Yeah, that's what I wanna do. Get into a links war with an ideologue with a weak ego. Cites a Michelle Rhee opinion piece, then cites another opinion piece from a Moony newspaper. Doesn't know how to argue, only post links and defend ego. Tell ya what. If I fall for your invite, somebody just shoot me.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

You have not supported your accusations about Rhee. There are plenty of links from any source you want all quoting the same thing, the investigations found nothing to implicate Rhee.


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Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 9:44 am

There isn't much to implicate Rhee, but there isn't much to recommend her either. She seems to be more interested in self-promotion and publicity than anything else. To me, she is the Donald Trump of the education field.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Interestingly, I've seen the Trump line quoted before. Rhee's organization isn't the only one giving California schools bad reviews, though. As for Rhee's efforts, publicity hound or not, it takes a big megaphone to talk to those in charge of educating students. We'll see if she has any impact or success.


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Posted by john
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm

"Interestingly"?

Like, maybe I'm not the only one who thought of that, or maybe I heard it somewhere?


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 19, 2013 at 2:19 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Yes, I just thought it was interesting that I'd read it elsewhere, and there are at least two people that feel it is a good comparison. Nothing more.


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Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2013 at 7:59 pm

According to Ed Source, "When Gov. Jerry Brown talks about paying down the state's "wall of debt," he doesn't mention the state teachers' retirement system. And yet the towering $73 billion unfunded shortfall in the state pension fund for teachers and administrators, the California State Teachers' Retirement System, makes Brown's wall, at about $30 billion, look like a picket fence.

On Wednesday, at a joint legislative information hearing, speakers from CalSTRS, groups representing educators, and the Legislative Analyst's Office urged the Legislature to act now to address the outstanding liability. If nothing is done, CalSTRS (the teachers' retirement system) won't have enough money to cover the retirement benefits it promised to the teachers and administrators who will one day be drawing it down."

I think Ed Source is mistaken in including the Administrators pension promises in this calculation. The administrators unfunded pension liability is mostly, I believe, included in the CalPERS unfunded pension liability, which means that the cost of debt for education is even larger.

"And yet the towering $73 billion unfunded shortfall in the state pension fund for teachers" - which is money that will ultimately be diverted from the class room to pay teachers pensions (even though they've skimmed money from their own pension system which is costing taxpayers billions), the unfunded pension liability last year was only about 63 billion. In other words, the teachers retirement system has added about 10 billion in taxpayer debt in the last year alone.

The California Education System is in BIG trouble. Prop 30 funding that was voted for because we were told the money would go to the classroom. The money is going to the classroom - in the form of increased pension contributions to the teachers union members. None of the additional tax increase to fund education will increase programs or reduce class size.

Of course we have our politicians looking at ways of being creative in order to reduce cost. What they are really doing, or about to try to do, is convince the public that the goal of 80% funding over thirty years is acceptable. Of course that isn't is the case and 100% funding should always be the goal - especially with thirty years as the horizon, but our politicians, quasi independent actuaries, and CalSTRS want to kick the can as far down the road as they can.

I guess it's just easier for some groups to pass the problem to future generations then it is to solve the problem like responsible adults.

The article: Web Link


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Posted by Headshake
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Wow, talk about a one trick pony....


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Posted by Arnold
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2013 at 12:59 am

With all do respect, Mr Headshake, the issue is extremely serious. That you consider myself a "one trick pony" for continuing to highlight the topic of pensions (rapidly rising taxpayer debt really) only confirms my belief that I need to do a much better job of educating taxpayers about the massive pension debt we're currently incurring and the 800 pound can of debt we're kicking down the road for our children, and their children, to deal with.

It doesn't seem that anyone in state or local government really wants to fix the problem. The city of Pleasanton isn't really fixing the problem.


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Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 23, 2013 at 7:52 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Arnold, Administrators, if certificated, are CalSTRS. Examples would be vice principals, principals, and district office positions like the superintendent and most assistant superintendents who once were teachers. Examples of administrators who are CalPERS can often be the Chief Business Officer or classified managers from maintenance and operations. On rare occasion there are administrators who collect from both pension systems (I've only known one).

And this may be an unnecessary point of clarification, but (just in case) the city does not control the school district's employees, pensions, or budgets. They both have employees in CalPERS, though. (A teacher who earns a pension from STRS could end up in a city position and become part of PERS.)


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