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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Time for school district to ask what if?

Uploaded: Dec 17, 2019
The Pleasanton school board, at its final 2019 meeting, heard a report of the options the city is considering to add a second left-turn lane at Bernal Avenue and First Street.
The city can either cut into the hillside on the southside and build major retaining walls or work out a deal with the district to cut down some trees and take some of its parking lot. The choice is obvious and should be a pre-curser to a broader discussion between the two agencies.
The block between Abbie/First/Bernal that the district owns is terribly under-utilized for such a valuable parcel. It’s devoted to the continuation school, the district office, some other offices and the district’s corporation yard, all in buildings that have been remodeled but date to the 1960s or earlier.
With the city expecting to restart the planning process for East Pleasanton and also has finished updating its downtown specific plan, it’s a perfect time to ask “what if” facilities can be relocated and what kind of joint ventures can be planned with the city? The two agencies have different financial situations, but share the same clients—the citizens of Pleasanton.
The district office parcel would be attractive to developers who know people want to live within an easy stroll of downtown. The district also has the Vineyard Avenue school site that could figure in. It’s the wrong place for an elementary school, but would be ideal for upscale homes like the type of houses that surround it.
Trustees have placed another facilities bond on the ballot for March. It totals $323 million, potentially taking a bite out of the estimated $1.1 billion needed facilities upgrades or new construction identified in the district’s 2018 Facilities Master Plan. This will maintain the same tax rate as two existing bonds that will be paid off in next year.
The measure did not promise specific projects, letting trustees and senior staff evaluate how to best spend the money should 55 percent of voters approve it in March.
In the public hearing, parents complained about the old facilities such as the Amador gym that dates to the 1970s.
This measure will address facilities, but the looming elephant in the room is how to deal with the operating budget that continues to be squeezed by the soaring retirement contribution. All districts are part of the State Teachers Retirement System that the Legislature addressed in 2014 by approving a series of increases to bring it back toward financial stability.
State funding for schools has soared almost 50 percent since the low with the booming California coastal economy, but lots of it has been eaten up by these contributions. In addition, because of the agreement between the teachers’ union and the district that teachers would pay for their own benefits, the compensation package is not competitive with other Tri-Valley districts. And, Pleasanton receives the lowest per student state rate.
Perhaps it’s time for Pleasanton trustees to consider a parcel tax that would be local money that can be spent locally.
That won’t necessarily be an easy sell, but it doesn’t matter how good the facilities are if the teachers don’t measure up.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Dec 17, 2019 at 11:38 am

I believe Jaime Lee Hintzke should be recalled, that the next largest vote winner in the last general election be appointed to complete that term of office.

That would pave way for achievement for many of those things Tim suggested to happen.

Posted by James Michael, a resident of Val Vista,
on Dec 17, 2019 at 9:26 pm

James Michael is a registered user.

They WILL propose a parcel tax. They're just biding their time until the state guts Prop. 13 and lowers the voting threshold from 2/3 to 55% or even a simple majority.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills,
on Dec 19, 2019 at 11:37 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Tim, the proposed bond is a new tax. No one should be furthering the premise this is linked in any way to the old bonds. There are so many problems with this bond proposal. First, it, like the most recent bond, spends a lot of money fixing poorly maintained facilities�"in other words, we are paying for maintenance. Second, the priorities were poorly set�"fencing, Chromebooks, and Lydiksen rather than adding capacity at the elementary level and repairing leaking roofs. Third, the resolution that supports the board's action does not require them to do the listed projects, which, as you note, aren't specific anyway. You can't tell what schools they intend to fix. Fourth, it is too soon for another bond, let alone $323MM. We authorized $270MM just three years ago. Most of that money is unspent. The last two bonds were nine years apart, and while we may not need to wait nine years, we most certainly need to see the district actually fulfill its current list of major promises, particularly expansion of Donlon (new school) that relieves the stress of over 200 students traveling to non-neighborhood schools.

As to the general fund budget, the fact that we are talking about once again splitting out benefits should be a concern. Remember it was an interesting concept when that original $10K was rolled onto the salary schedule�"voted for by the teachers at that time. It helped a very senior staff retire a bit more handsomely. And all teachers have been paying the price ever since. Every time a new expense is added to the budget (as benefits would be), someone's hours (usually library time), someone's job (usually custodial), and often programs (Barton reading) are cut. We can't keep cutting vital “organs" of the system to add even a deserved change. Eventually, there will be nothing left to cut. And throwing money at districts so it ends up being negotiated into raises (adding to the increasing pension contributions) is no way to solve the pension or budgeting problems. Where is the will to find a real solution state-wide?

A parcel tax, if not absolutely specific (X counselors, X assistant principals, “This" or “That" program, CSR of X:1 at specific grade levels, or any other specific need) is a non-starter. Approving general language like “to enhance learning" will just be throwing different money at the district and hoping for different outcomes. It won't happen.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore,
on Dec 23, 2019 at 2:09 pm

I need more information from M. Austin to understand how come he wants Jaime Lee Hintzke recalled?

Please explain your reasoning in more detail Thank You.

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