Coronavirus will impact school budgets for years to come. Trustees are urging 'aggressive' financial conservatism. | Town Square | Palo Alto Online |

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Coronavirus will impact school budgets for years to come. Trustees are urging 'aggressive' financial conservatism.

Original post made on May 13, 2020

Facing the likelihood of the coronavirus impacting the school district's budget for several years, trustees on Tuesday urged for a conservative approach to budget cuts to stave off deep deficits.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 13, 2020, 9:19 AM

Comments (24)

42 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 13, 2020 at 10:29 am

Student enrollment is DOWN and projected to continue to decline further. It is time to rightsize PAUSD. Labor costs need to be cut; some staff will need to go.


47 people like this
Posted by Budget Reality
a resident of Downtown North
on May 13, 2020 at 10:40 am

PAUSD has a quarter billion dollar budget and managed to overspend it. The board and the managers should all be fired.

That's a quarter billion for about 12,000 kids. We are over $21,000 per year per kid and somehow still over budget. Meanwhile, no one is raving about the PAUSD school experiences like they used to. To the contrary.

That's a pretty stark reality.

This is the same organization that tells parents they won't have science, art, or music without personal donations.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 10:50 am

>> "It's for a rainy day," he said of the reserves. "It's clearly raining."

Absolutely. This is what reserves are for. Not everybody seems to understand that this is going to have a long-term impact. We can't pretend "business as usual".

>> Staff presented two plans for cuts to the 2020-21 budget on Tuesday. One would save $3.7 million by cutting four administrators, 13 certificated staff and seven classified staff

How much would be saved just by cutting the administrators? What jobs do the classified staff do? Obviously, we all want to keep as many real teachers as possible. But, that is going to put more work on the teachers to do stuff that other staff/administrators are doing now. I hope the teachers will support that organizationally-- the alternative is to cut teachers.


18 people like this
Posted by Just Sayin'
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2020 at 10:58 am

Worth mention:
It was also expressed several times during the Board meeting that:
1) The arts are important to the mental & emotional health of many, many students.
2) It's not ok to give preference to STEM over the arts.


20 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 11:19 am

Posted by Just Sayin', a resident of another community

>> 1) The arts are important to the mental & emotional health of many, many students.

Agreed.

>> 2) It's not ok to give preference to STEM over the arts.

I would add vocational ed to that. Not every student in PAUSD is destined for University of California level universities. Not necessarily University-of-Anything. There are plenty of CC/CSU or even no-college kids in PAUSD that are ignored, at best.


10 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2020 at 11:37 am

my kids have stem majors and would not
t have acceptance letters without their 4 years in the arts.

almos all their peers grew up with musc and art : stem is not separate from music

would have n
been nice to see stem staff support music and arts

i guess they are too busy clicking on links to send kids and making up grading policies against don austen’s directives.

threat of a failing grade if paly sci kids don’t jump through new online hoops

teachers look at score only. there is no teaching

kids need the arts to experience beauty and people who know not to threats
en failing grades during a pandemic


27 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 13, 2020 at 11:44 am

@Budget reality --- btw pre covid PAUSD has unfunded liabilities of $187 million for teachers and $62 million for classified staff. Web Link
That nets out to a debt/Palo Alto household of $9000 --- $9000/each Palo Alto household owes for unfunded PAUSD pensions. That gives you an idea how well they are managing our tax dollars --- current consumption is obviously been too high.

Plus they're not delivering much of any instruction to our kids.

Time to cut labor costs. Now.


23 people like this
Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on May 13, 2020 at 11:57 am

But Paly's still getting new grass for the football team to play on (it's going in right now). And that's what matters most!


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 12:15 pm

Posted by Independent, a resident of Esther Clark Park

>> That nets out to a debt/Palo Alto household of $9000 --- $9000/each Palo Alto household owes for unfunded PAUSD pensions. That gives you an idea how well they are managing our tax dollars --- current consumption is obviously been too high.

Independent-- I'm in favor of forward-funding pensions 100%. That hasn't been standard practice, but, I would go for it. If the State would set up a reliable "lock-box" trust fund to hold the money, I would vote for a property-tax surcharge to pay it off over the next, say, 5 years.

But, I'm NOT in favor of abolishing pensions. Pensions are there because nobody knows how long they will live, and, it actually would be economically infeasible and even damaging if everyone saved/invested enough to cover the "worst case" of living to, e.g., 100.


15 people like this
Posted by It's pouring
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2020 at 12:41 pm

Are admin pay raises still connected to teacher pay raises? How much could be saved if annual pay increases negotiated by the teachers union and possibly also extended to admin staff were frozen?

Desperate times will call for a bit of sacrifice for all. Covid is not magically going away come fall.


16 people like this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2020 at 1:04 pm

Questions?

Why did senior admin not propose to take pay cuts before they started cutting programs. It is not atypical for senior staff to take the first cuts. Senior District Admin earn $200K to over $300K (Superintendent). A

Are senior staff "taking" their contractual step increases?

What is the District philosophy for cuts? At least MBC started asking the right questions. Do we want to protect programs that will sustain our students or do we want to figure out how to make class sizes larger. These are important questions and totally appropriate for the Board to direct admin to do. Specifically, why cut ILs who can help us transition to distance learning and larger class sizes saving much more in the long term than in the short term.

If we are cutting ILs, why are we not cutting them proportionately? Some departments have more time for ILs, if a department (like choir or art, only has one period of IL time and we cut that IL time, then we've cut 100% of the time. We make no value judgment when we cut all departments by 1/4 (for example).


28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 1:10 pm

Any time I have been in a school office or at Churchill, there are people standing around chatting, laughing, often looking as if they have nothing to do.

Perhaps it is time to whittle down admin.


33 people like this
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2020 at 1:13 pm

Administration at PAUSD should take a temporary cut in pay. How about 10%?


26 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2020 at 1:16 pm

When was the last time pay was ever cut at PAUSD? If anyone has an answer that'd be an interesting fact. Given that PAUSD continues to use the phrase "unprecedented times" to preface or excuse any shortcoming, let's see if they're willing to take unprecedented actions.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident 2
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 13, 2020 at 1:20 pm

If everyone were taking pay cuts, then certainly senior mgrs should too. But I would think that the unions would have to agree to any pay cut, even temporary, and I don't see that happening. Have you seen other city or school agencies do that? I have not. Stanford Hospital (a private non-profit) did 20% across the board cuts but that's the only one I've seen.


13 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 13, 2020 at 1:27 pm

@Anon - no one suggested abolishing pensions. The point is that PAUSD's current consumption (the salaries paid and benefits awarded as they represent 86% of PAUSD expenditures) has been too high --- because they have allowed unfunded pension liabilities to build up over time. For those unfunded pension liabilities to be fully funded, money has to be devoted to pay those off, rather than going to fund salary increases, or further benefit increases.

And no, definitely would not be in favor of any extra property tax surcharges to pay for this ---- PAUSD can make do with our already generous property taxes --- just about higher than anywhere else in the state.


20 people like this
Posted by Fiscal responsibility
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 1:34 pm

I appreciate the need for deep cuts, but how about we don't use the word "conservatism" - in recent decades that word has stood for running up big debts and deficits while pointing fingers at political opposition, hollowing out good governance from the inside and making spendthrift cuts in services, in short, being the OPPOSITE of fiscally responsible.


17 people like this
Posted by Fact Checker
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2020 at 1:47 pm

The union cannot be the only one to bear fault. Teri Baldwin will take everything she can get, but does our Administration have to hand it to her on a silver platter. I don't think so.

Don Austin approved the MOU on 3/25 that gave teachers full pay with no live teaching requirement from the closure through the end of this school year. The Board didn't question it.

The administration needs to take the first pay cuts and lead the way before cutting student programming. It's irrelevant if it's never happened before. Everything is new game, new rules.


11 people like this
Posted by Health Commissar
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2020 at 3:39 pm

Time to open up the county again so that it can earn some tax revenues. Otherwise, there will be no revenues to fund anything — including schools.


11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2020 at 3:47 pm

Posted by Health Commissar, a resident of Midtown

>> Time to open up the county again so that it can earn some tax revenues.

Time to open low-risk businesses and activities, perhaps. Not all businesses have the same risk to the public. I am opposed to this "open everything at once" idea -- that policy very likely will lead to a high impact on the general public. Businesses that are low-contact are much less risky to the general public than, e.g., bars, crowded restaurants, basketball games, and, sadly, large funerals ...

Please accept that not all businesses have the same risk to the public.


4 people like this
Posted by Realtalk
a resident of Professorville
on May 13, 2020 at 11:53 pm

Don Austin’s comment on all the “heavy” arts resources is a calculated one.

Department leaders = stretched thin assistant principles who have little to no experience in art education and advocacy.

Sure co-taught classes but those classes are the large ensembles with 70+ kids. Essentially 1 teacher for 35 students (when the average class is around 28.) That seems pretty reasonable.

And the part-time TOSA is to replace a full-time admin the program lost last year.

PAUSD find the money for this VAPA IL somewhere else. Our kids need these programs to remain vibrant to stay connected healthy. When you cut off their lifeline to the district these wonderful programs will diminish. This decisions effects our students.


13 people like this
Posted by LJLC513
a resident of Stanford
on May 14, 2020 at 6:04 pm

Austin's statement that the Arts are "heavily, heavily resourced," with department leaders, team teaching and full-time teachers on special assignment." Didn't he eliminate an Art Administrator last year? And I know one of the Spectra Art teachers is being guided by ONE TOSA, who is only 40%, so that one TOSA can't even get out into the classrooms because she herself is still teaching three classes. And the music class that my student is involved in at Gunn has 108 kids in it! They BETTER have two teachers for that many kids! Austin doesn't even know his own district or the facts.

"department leaders, team teaching and full-time teachers on special assignment": I know that the electives department at each of the middle schools has a department lead that covers all electives, including the Arts for a tiny stipend.

I was also quite disturbed by the superintendent's dismissive tone and lack of respect toward Ms. Baten Caswell.


9 people like this
Posted by LJLC513
a resident of Stanford
on May 14, 2020 at 6:10 pm

I've watched that budget presentation several times and it looks like the district is adding $9 million in SpEd costs, and cutting $8 million. Does that really make sense right now?!


3 people like this
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 14, 2020 at 10:22 pm

No raising property taxes! They are outrageously high already and no, we didn’t just buy our home recently.
How about 10% across the board pay cut for ALL staff?
Oh, I forgot, unions rule.


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