14 October 2007

Fwd: Parcel tax aftermath

--- In wccusdtalk@yahoogroups.com, "gregorychang" <gregorychang@...>

The school board held its second study session on Oct. 11 on how to
cope with the financial hardship caused by the failure of the parcel

There was a general sense that WCCUSD will try again with another
parcel tax, and will try to develop a clear message on why the funds
are needed. Members of Local One union who attended the meeting were
vocal in their support of another attempt to extend the parcel tax --
some spoke of the need for a perpetual parcel tax, not one that needs
to be regularly renewed. The earliest possible election appears to be
June 2008.

Chief Financial Officer Gamba gave an informative presentation to the
board about the financial picture. Declining enrollment means that
cuts will have to be made with or without the extension of the parcel
tax. Even if the tax passes, it will still be a painful situation.
Assuming a parcel tax passes, the district will have to cut $5.2
million out of the budget for the next three years. If the voters
reject the tax again, she presented an estimated budget that shows we
need to cut $6.4 million in spending, plus all parcel tax programs
except for class size reduction. The parcel tax currently supports 94
jobs in areas including libraries, sports, counseling, psychology
custodial services and others. The CFO also recommends that six
schools be closed in the next three years whether the parcel tax
passes or not. She estimates that we can save $300,000 per school
closure. She recommends that the first step in school consolidation
taken at a board meeting on Nov. 28. Her financial presentation is
available on the WCCUSD website and should be required reading.

The board actually did acheive some dialouge and some creative ideas
were thrown around about how to increase revenue and not just cut
expenses. AM suggested that the district needs to do a better job
recruiting prospective students. KP pointed out that ECHS has its
information night in January, while private schools hold theirs in
December. So the competition is getting a jump on us. DB mentioned
that we could do a better job at preventing people from dropping out.
He also brought up K-8 again as a way to keep people in the district.
CR made a point which suggested that districts with more than 30,000
students are required to have less in reserve for economic
uncertainties. If we could stay above that number the extra money
could help during the lean years.

IN terms of cutting expenses, the board is still trying to figure out
what to do about employee benefits. They appeared to be doing basic
information gathering about what the options are regarding benefits,
some seemed to suggest we should explore whether it makes sense to
leave Calpers and negotiate directly with providers. Union One
employees who spoke were very opposed to the idea that benefits be
dramatically -- the programs are needed to attract and retain

On CSR it was pointed out that 99% of California districts do invest
in CSR and doing away with it may drive enrollment down farther. DB
mentioned that there is no evidence that CSR improves academics
their are less than 15 students in a class.

In terms of closing schools, KP and CR were the most willing to
consider this action. DB and MK were somewhat lukewarm. AM was
opposed. It was pointed out to me by another parent that closing
schools will make it that much harder to pass the parcel tax because
people will be resentful. The staff will prepare a preliminary study
on consolidation and redistricting.

Overall I felt that the meeting and discussion was a big improvement
over the Sept. 5 meeting, which was a little unfocused and
disorganized. I earlier criticized the board for focusing too much on
school closure. Now I recognize they need every tool at their
to deal with the financial crisis. If they must close schools, I hope
they do so in a thoughtful and systematic manner that includes a lot
of communication with the schools that may be meeting their
unfortunate destiny. They must consider selling the property of any
school that is closed to reduce the debt burden.

Notably absent from the meeting were the leaders of the teachers'
union. At the first meeting on Sept 5 the teachers were well
represented and the union said it is ready to lead a grass-roots
campaign for a parcel tax. It wasnt clear to me what changed over the
last five weeks to make them decide to skip the meeting this time. It
does seem quite clear that a parcel tax has little chance of passing
without strong teacher support. It is my wish that the teachers and
board can set aside their differences on other issues and collaborate
on getting another parcel tax passed.

Also very few parents in attendance. Perhpas parents are not yet
realizing the magnitude of the financial challenge. We are looking at
some very deep cuts in services and programs over the next few years.
The funding may rebound in a few years as the stroller brigade begins
entering school. Or maybe the cuts will reduce quality so much that
more parents will flee and the declines will snowball rapidly.

--- End forwarded message ---

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