PUSD passes $506 million facilities plan | February 1, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 1, 2013

PUSD passes $506 million facilities plan

Board president: 'I look at it as an aspirational document'

by Glenn Wohltmann

Members of the Pleasanton School Board want to make it clear that they have no intention of seeking funding for all the projects detailed in the Facilities Master Plan they approved Tuesday night on a unanimous vote.

The plan was more than a year in the making and calls for a long list of potential projects, some, like a $20 million performing arts center and a multi-tier parking structure at Foothill High School, unlikely ever to be built.

"I look at it as an aspirational document," said Board President Jeff Bowser. "I am certainly not comfortable saying that we're going to spend $500 million."

That was the consensus of the entire board, which agreed to include a preface to the master plan making it clear that it is a planning document and subject to change.

That idea was brought up by Board Member Valerie Arkin, who wanted the preface to include that it is a guide, that the plan would be updated periodically, and that "implementation is dependent on funding."

While many of the proposals in the facilities plan may never come to fruition -- only about 25% to 30% generally do, according to Board Member Jamie Hintzke -- the plan does include a list of priorities.

First on the list are must-do items, what Bowser previously described as "squeaky, leaky" problems. That list comes to nearly $14 million, and includes replacing roofs, windows and skylights at some schools, along with heating and air conditioning work, replacement of some floors and painting.

Second-tier items, those of the lowest cost and highest impact, include district-wide technology upgrades, improvements at some elementary schools where they're easily done, and time-sensitive projects -- $13.4 million worth -- for which the district would have to reimburse the state if they are not done quickly enough.

Altogether, those second-tier projects would cost $85.6 million.

Third on the list are projects listed as medium cost, short range. The price tag on those projects comes to more than $205 million, and includes $37 million for a new elementary school.

While a 10-year demographic projection shows the elementary school population decreasing, many new students entering the district are expected to come from transit-oriented housing projects, where two elementary schools are overcrowded. Also on that list are new classrooms for the district's four oldest elementary schools, Lydiksen, Alisal, Valley View and Vintage Hills.

The last category, those that are high cost and long range, comes to nearly $188 million. Many of those, like the performing arts center at Foothill, may be wish list items.

"There's so much that needs discussion.... For me, it's all about the process, a road map," Hintzke said, adding, "How are we going to pay for this?"

During recent board meetings the possibility of a bond issue was mentioned for the first time. The board could also liquidate the Sycamore Fund, which was created by the sale of property and can be used to buy other land or build a school. The district could also swap land in the area where it wants to build a new elementary for its 13-acre site on Vineyard Avenue known as the Neal property, or sell the land the current administration building is on.

The district will consider hiring a Realtor to help make decisions based on property values.

Two people spoke at the public hearing about the plan.

Peter MacDonald, an attorney representing a local builder, BRE, brought a demographer's document that shows no growth in younger students in the district.

"Your demographer's data is telling you (that) you don't need another elementary school," he told the board.

The other speaker, Julie Testa, disagreed.

"That elementary school should have already been built," Testa said, adding that most schools in the district are already overcrowded.

Testa, however, did not support the facilities plan.

"I don't think it was honest. I don't think it was realistic," she said.

In other actions at the school board meeting Tuesday night, the board heard an update about the state budget and its impact on the district.

Deputy Superintendent Luz Cazares noted that the flat funding to the district that will come as a result of Proposition 30 is only temporary. Cazares said, though, that the district will likely end the year "with a healthy fund balance," and added that midyear cuts that could have triggered furlough days have been avoided.

Many of the items restored by the board -- such as counselors -- were brought back for only one year. Cazares said her priorities for the coming year are technology services, instructional coaches, counseling services, specialized school support, library services, maintenance and operations services and school leadership.

The district also began the process needed to begin negotiations with the teachers union. Among the items up for discussion are salaries, health benefits and class sizes.