All About the Budget

There has been an overwhelming amount of information recently in the newspapers, on television and radio, at school board meetings and probably at every gathering or social event in town.
 
As you all know, our nation’s economy is not very good. We are all aware that the fiscal crisis has now hit the Pleasanton school district.
 
The school district, based on the governor’s proposed budget, will be $8.7 million short by the fall of this year.
 
Why is the budget crisis so severe?
 
  • It costs Pleasanton schools $2 million annually to maintain pay scales and operating expenses. The state, which usually funds these increased expenses, did not provide those funds this current fiscal year, even though that money had already been budgeted.
  • The school district dipped into its reserve funds to the tune of $4 million for expenses typically covered by the state which were not funded this fiscal year.
  • The district will not get state funds for a cost of living adjustment for the upcoming fiscal year, resulting in another $2.7 million loss.
  • Grand total: The school district will be $8.7 million in the hole by September 2009.
 
The school district has released a detailed list of possible cuts to make up this massive budget shortfall. Click here to see the entire list.
 
Possible cuts – and these are just possibilities, no decisions have been made – include:
 
  • Increase classes sizes K-3 and in 9th-grade English and math
  • Reduce the number of counselors
  • Administrative layoffs at schools and the district office (including one VP per middle school)
  • Reduce custodial hours
  • Eliminate help for academically at-risk students
  • Reduce reading specialists
  • Cuts school site budgets
The school board is discussing whether to put a parcel tax on the June ballot to help offset the impending budget deficit. A parcel tax would help restore specific cuts. Parcel taxes are levied once a year for a set amount per parcel (piece of property) owned. Parcel taxes typically last two to four years. The Pleasanton parcel tax could range from $100 to $300 per year.
 
Pleasanton is one of the only school districts in the area that does not have a parcel tax. Residents in Livermore, Dublin, San Ramon Valley, Oakland, Orinda and many other school districts pay parcel taxes to subsidize their schools.
 
Please send your suggestions about how the district can save money to PFA President Lucia Holman at luciaholman4hart@yahoo.com. She will pass along these comments to the superintendent and school board. Let us know which programs you can live without and which ones you see as being critical to our schools.
 
What does the budget crisis mean for Hart? Admittedly, these past few weeks have been difficult as we’ve had to cut our operating budget by $59,000. The money had been saved in the past few years and designated for Hart’s intervention programs for struggling students. The district needed the money to help balance the current budget. Fortunately, we were able to continue the programs with money from other funds.
 
Hart could lose 17 to 20 sections (classes) and at least three full-time teachers for next school year. The district no longer funds supplies for our health office, so our health clerk must seek other ways to fund supplies. Our landscaping contract ends Feb. 13. The district will be charged with maintaining landscaping, a job that previously was done by a private firm.
 
All in all, the picture seems dismal. If we all pull together, we can weather this storm of uncertainty and budget constraints. Our Hart community has strength of character and commitment. Please join us as we strive to get through these difficult times.
 
Both of us are available for any clarification and/or discussion. Please do not hesitate to drop us a note or call.
 
Most sincerely,
 
Steve Maher                             Lucia Holman
Principal                                                PFA President