Fortunately, a majority of school trustees slowed down the process at their meeting last week. Trustees expressed concern that very little has been delivered on the $270 million bond issue that voters approved in November of 2016, most importantly a new elementary school that was a key selling point to citizens. The district has not identified a site or a preferred option.
The district is dealing with over-crowded schools on the northside of Pleasanton. Trustees and staff have been considering a range of ideas and trustees currently are slated for a workshop on those alternatives Dec. 18.
Board Chair Mark Miller wisely suggested putting off any decisions about another bond measure until trustees make their decisions. They would also do well to consider public input.
The rationale for putting another measure on the ballot so soon is two prior measures, passed in 1988 and 1997, will be paid off in 2023. Thus, if voters approve another bond, taxes would not go up--the debt would be incurred for another 30 years.
That’s a pretty weak rationale, particularly with limited deliverables from the earlier bond. Because construction costs are soaring (7 percent yearly), Superintendent David Haglund told trustees that the purchasing power is shrinking and it’s likely the money would not cover the projects listed on the 2016 ballot. The district has spent just over $70 million to date.
That included paying off debt from certificates of participation issued several years ago. That moved extended the debt payment schedule but lowered the interest rate.
Haglund had wanted trustees to approve polling and a potential project list to determine the public appetite for another measure.
Trustees should not be in a hurry. And, as former trustee Kathleen Ruesegger observed, they will need a much stronger message to convince voters of why more money is necessary. They also need to deliver tangible progress on the 2016 projects.
Switching to another financial matter, the “Black Tuesdays” for teachers have ended now that the association has approved a deal with the district. Assuming trustees approve it, teachers will receive a 2.5 percent raise this year. Teachers had started wearing black on Tuesdays to protest the lack of progress in negotiations.
I have previously expressed my concern that the teachers’ union would want an increase matching the 4 percent bump that was given to the superintendent. With the teachers’ approval of the agreement, that will let everyone focus on educating kids without the distraction of labor negotiations.