Dec 17 2016

PUSD Budget Requires Spending More Than Revenue

School Budget Advisory Committee includes teachers, District Administrators, and interested community members.

On December 8th of 2016, I attended Piedmont Unified School District [PUSD] Budget Advisory Committee Meeting at District office Board Room 760 Magnolia Avenue. The PUSD Budget Advisory Committee meets once every three months. The general purpose of the meeting is to discuss where PUSD money is coming from and where it is going; in other words, budget funding.

I realized however, after the first few minutes of listening in on this meeting, that budget funding sounds much more simple than it is. The long stream of numbers and expenses listed on the slides were extremely detailed, at times hard to follow, and only emphasized how much detail and planning goes into budget funding. The meeting covered topics of the amount of money the school receives and loses due to student absences, parcel tax, federal revenue, restrictive revenue, donation sources, pension costs, retirement benefits, and the different levels of expenses and gains year to year. One issue that was addressed/voiced was the fact that we are spending more and more each year because of heightened expenses which is causing us to cut into our budget fund savings, whittling away at that number year by year. The issue that comes with this statement was discussed by Mr. Best, a leader of the meeting, who was highlighting how this is a very dangerous statistic.

Another issue voiced, because there were many teachers at the meeting, was the lack of benefits teachers have. California is one of the few states that does not cover teachers with social security so that is something that is really detrimental and takes a portion away from their paychecks. This is an issue that I believe is something that should be shared and highlighted because while California seems to be a very progressive, fair state, it does not seem fair that teachers are not covered under social security. During this topic, I asked the Committee a few questions about this particular topic as well as voiced my opinion on the subject.

At the end of the meeting I interviewed a Middle School teacher named Gabriel Kessler. Kessler, the vice president of the teachers union, said “It’s really important that I’m familiar with the budget and understand it because I’m involved with a lot of decision and negotiations.”

Kessler said that the other reason he attended the meeting was his “belief that teachers, as well as students, should take some civic interest in what’s going on in the community.”

Kessler said there are some concerns he had that he came to the meeting wanting to address. “The budget reserve getting lower and lower is definitely a big issue,” Kessler said. “The rise in pension benefits is also causing a real problem.”

The other issue Kessler brought up were the budget cuts that are going to be taking place.

When asked how we can combat these issues, Kessler responded by saying “I think we have to put pressure on our law makers and representatives of finding ways to fund education.” Kessler’s other idea to implement positive change was about the giving campaign and where that money goes to.

“A lot of that money is designated to specific uses. I am wondering if that money can become undesignated so that the School Board and Superintendent are able to put it to where they feel is most important,” Kessler said.

Maddie Wolfe, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author. Meetings of the Budget Advisory Committee are not broadcast or recorded.  The meetings are open to the public. 

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