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Measure E Fails

School parcel tax that needed to win by 67 percent received only 65 percent.

Measure E failed Tuesday night by less than two percent — which means Pleasanton's budget-strapped schools won't receive a reprieve.

"We were so close," said Valerie Arkin, president.

"Now that we don't have it, we're going to have to start making some very difficult cuts."

Out of 20,610 votes, 13,430 people voted yes, while 7,180 voted no, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters website.

That means 65.16 percent voted yes, while 34.84 percent voted no. To pass, the parcel tax needed a two-thirds vote, or 67 percent.

The election outcome was posted here about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday. Residents mailed in ballots between April 4 and the 8 p.m. Tuesday deadline.

"This measure wasn't going to fix anything," said resident Doug Miller, who opposed the measure because he worried the money would go toward teacher salary increases and benefits rather than academic programs or thwarting teacher layoffs.

"Until and unless the board freezes the step-and-column increases while we're having these financial difficulties, the board will have to continue to lay off teachers," he said.

If the measure had passed, property owners in Pleasanton would have paid $98 per parcel each year for four years, generating about $2 million per year, or $8 million total.

The district is facing a $7.7 million shortfall for the 2011-12 school year. Local officials say that Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent announcement that schools might see a reduction of up to $5 billion after his May budget revise could bring budget cuts up to $12 million in Pleasanton.

This money would have gone a long way toward bridging that gap, said measure supporters.

Arkin said that over the past several years, Pleasanton schools have seen increased class sizes, cuts in library and custodial services, and recently the district had to lay off 67 teachers and 20 administrators.

Before the votes were counted, resident Chris Armstrong, 45, said that while the school system in Pleasanton has a stellar reputation, so do all the other districts in the area.

"We need this tax in order to compete with other districts, and the reality is, they have these parcel taxes," said Armstrong, who has two girls, 11 and 13.

We all need to contribute," he said. "The parents, the teachers, the administrators. If we're willing to pay this, then the teachers need to be willing to compromise and the administrators need to start making some tough decisions that might upset teachers."

Opponents said Measure E would have led to $15 million in step-and-column pay raises throughout the district, but school officials said the number was more like $6 million over four years.

"I thought it was interesting that if you look at both sides, the Measure E supporters and opponents, people were generally against pay raises and that really was at the heart of the opposition," Miller said.

He said he hopes the district will take a hard look at the pay increases.

Arkin said that while it's too soon to say whether the community will float another measure like this, it will probably happen.

"It took a lot of money and volunteer effort to get this measure on the ballot, so I would say there won't be a new measure anytime soon," she said.

"But the cuts we will have to make going forward are going to be so devastating that I anticipate us having to consider it at some point in the next two or three years."

Melissa Klopatek May 04, 2011 at 01:53 PM
It is a sad day for education when people are denying children $98 a year, so they can make a point. What happened to communities pulling together no matter what the cost, financially or emotionally? We can all stand our ground I only hope that the children are not the victims in the end... Melissa Klopatek Parent and Educator
nemo mysterioso May 04, 2011 at 03:44 PM
I teach in Pleasanton. Off the top of my salary I contribute close to 800 dollars a month to my pension and I am paying over 1900 dollars a month for a family health care and dental plan. Those of you who are focused on the step and column could go to the highest box on the step and column chart and subtract those costs from my gross pay before you tell me that I am overpayed. My health care costs have gone up significantly in recent years, and I have lost additional thousands of dollars of gross pay to furlough days. I will teach summer school this year and so will continue to deliver a service to this community, but I am also developing a second income source beyond PUSD because I now must seek money elsewhere in order for my family to have what they need. This means that the personal time I have formerly given to doing off the clock work for PUSD --doing the grading on those more complex or extra assignments, developing fresh material, responding to requests for extra help--goes away because I must find time to make the money necessary for my family and, to be blunt, why should I go the extra mile for a community that can't do the same for me? Being an excellent teacher requires considerable extra time, but don't ask me for this when I can't keep up with increasing costs and you can't give me less than 50 cents a day in extra revenue. Sincerely, A. Teacher P.S. Yes, this is during school hours, but my students have AP tests. Back to the grading now.
Reg Beer May 04, 2011 at 03:56 PM
You are correct Melissa, it is a sad day for students. Their teacher's union is so selfish they will not forgo a step and column freeze so that new teachers won't be fired and classes can stay small. The overpaid district administrators will not voluntarily take a pay reduction either. What part of increasing taxes while giving out $15M in new raises during an economic meltdown does not seem greedy to you? BTW, my wife is a University educator who has taken a pay cut to keep her fellow teachers employed. Reg Beer Parent and Taxpayer
Liz Hallahan May 04, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Everyone wants a raise, no one wants a wage reduction or a lay off. At this point in time these things are just not feasible. Raises have been non-existent for everyone, and we are all paying more for healthcare . Teachers are precious, but they are not being asked to do anything the rest of the community hasn't already experienced. That's reality. Now we need to move on and do the best we can to ensure PUSD remains among the top school districts. That will undoubtedly include even more parental participation with the classroom. My local elementary school, Donlon, has always had a plethora of parents willing to volunteer time. Let's not forget this is perhaps even more important to our children's education than money. Liz Hallahan
HRoark May 04, 2011 at 07:20 PM
The result of the Measure E election is an encouraging sign that a growing number of citizens are growing wise to the reasons why our once great state is at the brink of failure. I believe that the vast majority of supporters of Measure E are sincere and had the best of intentions. Measure E was never going to address the education funding problem. Direct ballot initiatives and measures that focus only on good intentions are how we got into this mess. The politicos in Sacramento and their union bosses ("When children start paying dues, we'll start representing the interests of children") are feeding us propaganda and attempting to use us to cover over the fact that they are both corrupt and incompetent. Here are some scenes I'd like to see to help us understand the real problem: Our state senators and representatives should appear at the next school board meeting and explain where our tax money is going and how it is being prioritized. Why was there no crisis in 2007 when we were spending less money than today? Teachers union rep could publicly admit to his members that getting a year older and taking a college course does not put one more dollar into the budget and it is insane to think any organization could run that way. Pensions are (sadly) a pyramid scheme and the sooner we embrace a 401k (type) program the sooner teachers won't be so dependent on a corrupt union. The problem is not that our neighbors are not taxed enough. We need to apply some common sense.
Heck May 05, 2011 at 12:16 AM
My daughter is in middle school and I can see that not all teachers are equally good. Some have bad attitude or skills and the kids routinely get subsitutes who don't teach at all, just wasting time and get paid. Unfortunately I see NO way to motivate good teachers and do anything about the bad ones. What is worse, after every year, the position of the bad teachers is becoming more secure, no need to mention their pay. This is so fundamentaly unfair. We can't say our schools are excellent. Yes, there are a lot of smart kids and dedicated parents who pay attention to their kids education. There are a lot of great teachers. But there are many bad teachers also. And instead of saying let's through more money to keep the schools as is the PUSD should be telling how they can do better with less. I was on a business trip in India. I met kids walking from the school. They looked poor, didn't have shoes and frankly didn't look well fed. I asked to take a look at their math book. I was shocked. It was a high school grade math, really advanced. And they knew that stuff. No wonder there are so many foreigners working in Pleasanton and Silicon Valley. We really need to raise the bar. There are better schools in the world delivering better results for way less.
Heather May 05, 2011 at 01:47 AM
My joob relies heavily on measure E, as a student teacher I don't see how I can be hired as a teacher when I finish this program. I think the problem is that people don't understand the public education system clearly. Money is not the key to motivate "good" teacher. No one has any cotroll over that, but money is needed to provide schools with enough salary to keep teachers, and to keep the class sizes down, and to keep Physical education, music, science, and art! If you know anything about child development you would know how important these are. Thanks to those who voted yes.
Heck May 05, 2011 at 04:02 AM
I was curious how PUSD actually spends money. I went to their web site - no information there. No budget, no income, no executive pay - nothing. Isn't it ironic that any "greedy" and "evil" publicly traded company does disclose all that information and it is freely available and the taxpayers funded non for profit organization either doesn't or makes that information hard to find? Does anyone knows a way to get that info?
Ken N May 05, 2011 at 03:53 PM
When I read about county municipal workers making $450K and getting housing loans, I know there is still too much waste in the county. Until we get rid of all the other waste, we need to hold firm on not paying any other parcel taxes. It was also shameless that we allowed certain groups to vote even though they were made exempt from paying the parcel tax.
Elizabeth D May 05, 2011 at 06:03 PM
@Heck - I searched under the word "Budget" at the PUSD site....the Budget is very accessible. This is what I got: http://www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us/BusinessServices/Budget/BudgetFAQs.cfm http://www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us/businessservices/Budget/ I'll I want to know is what do we do now to make sure the schools and teachers are supported enough to give our children a good education? I hope those who voted "No" will get involved at their local schools to help fill in the gaps - PTA's, PFC's, and whatever other parent groups are there will be in desperate need of your help..
Heck May 05, 2011 at 11:01 PM
@Elizabeth - Thank you very much, the links you said do provide quite detailed financial information. On a high level 88% goes to salary and benefits, the total budget is about $100M and there are about 800 employees, so that means each employee on average costs about $100k/year. This is not the salary, but the total costs. Excluding benefits paid by the district and pretty high payments by the teachers and keeping in mind that the median household income in Pleasanton is over $100k, that doesn't look too high. At least if we want the teachers to live here and be respected part of the community. It is nothing close to police/firefighters costs. I still think it should be a better system to attract and reward the best teachers but I can't say that overall PUSD is spending too much money for what they are doing.
Pleasantonian May 06, 2011 at 01:14 AM
Why does the district keep saying that they had to lay off 20 administrators like that would save a lot of money and not keep telling the people that these 20 administrators will be collecting way over 100K pensions for the rest of their life - that is not a savings to me that is a waste of our money and steeling from our children. And on top of that they wasted half a million on these to special elections (this one and the previous one). I would hope that the district got the message a year ago and stop wasting our money.
Pleasantonian May 06, 2011 at 01:19 AM
It is not people denying children $98 it is the district steeling money from children. This money was not going to be used for students - they just wanted you to think that way. They would cut student spending from the general plan and use that money for teacher's already huge salaries and that portion that would be cut would be covered from the parcel tax so the student's would not get more it would just look like they have used the tax for students which in reality it would be used for salaries and another waste like huge over 100K pensions to the administrators that they had to let go last year but they don't tell you they they are paying them this huge amount for the rest of their life on top of all benefits
Pleasantonian May 06, 2011 at 01:26 AM
Well this is nothing new to the rest of us who are making less money than you and on top of that working between 45-60 hours a week all year around not like teachers. We all have to pay for our health care and dental plans. And we all have to contribute to our pensions if we want to have one. The cost is going up for everybody - so why should you be any different?
Pleasantonian May 06, 2011 at 01:27 AM
Well said - could not agree more!!
Pleasantonian May 06, 2011 at 01:34 AM
Very true. We had problems with some teachers also. At Harvest park a teacher lost my daughter's project when my daughter was asking her to look for it she would not do it so we had to go to talk to the principal and than she would find the project within the day and it was worth a lot of points and grades were closed so the teacher had to go to fill out all the papers to change my daughter's grade. This is happening all the time. The reason why our schools are good are the parents making sure the kids do what they are supposed to do for school not the teachers.
wilster May 17, 2011 at 05:27 PM
here's an idea--for the 65% of you that voted yes (including teachers): why don't you put your money where your mouth is. Feel free to get out your checkbooks and write a check to PUSD for $100 and do so for the next four years. That's $1.3m/year to the schools. But you won't because your mindset is that other people should pay for it, right??
Sandy Piderit May 17, 2011 at 09:12 PM
I have donated to the schools (through PPIE and my school's PTA) in the past, and I will do so again. The CORE campaign is underway right now to raise funds to pay for library hours and tech support at http://www.ppie.org There is also an initiative underway to raise funds to pay for class sizes to stay the same in grades K-3 next year at http://www.pleasantoncsr.org I pay my taxes, too -- I went to public school in Connecticut, but I pay for schools here, because I live here now. Where did you go to school, wlister? Who paid for your school?
Pleasanton Parcel Tax May 17, 2011 at 10:16 PM
Sandy - What does it matter where 'wilster' went to school? 'wilster' pays taxes in multiple ways that make their way back to school districts, whether it is federal taxes, state income taxes, local property taxes, the lottery, and more. The issue is those who want more taxes imposed should be the first to line up and lead the contributions, like you did. I think the first $250,000 raised by CORE should be given to the school district to replenish the general fund for the cost of Measure E. After all, PUSD took from our kids education to run a failed election that was championed by the 'community' (remember?). Therefore, those who lead Measure E and CORE should be the first to return $250,000 in community funds that could have been used to save 3 teachers this year.
Sandy Piderit May 18, 2011 at 01:28 AM
To be honest, in part I asked because I wanted to hint at the idea that the adult community as a whole should support the education of our next generation. Wilster seems to be implying that those who do not donate voluntarily are somehow stealing from him by advocating for a parcel tax. I think it is democratic to be able to vote as a community on taxes. Sometimes I get frustrated with the argument that parents should bear full responsibility for paying for their children's education. I see the support of education as a community responsibility and I do not believe it should be solely funded by donations. I acknowledge that wilster may not have been making that argument. Nevertheless, I am genuinely curious about wanting to understand wilster's point of view -- and I think personal history shapes individuals' points of view.

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