Oct 30 2018

School Support Tax Renewal, School Budget Deficit

On October 24th, I attended the Piedmont Board of Education Meeting. It took place in City Hall and these meeting occur twice a month. The purpose of the meeting was to review and discuss activities in the Piedmont Unified School District. There were four main items that were discussed at the meeting.

First was the approval of the 2018 Piedmont High School Accrediting Commission for School Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC) Self Study Report. Before this item was approved an extensive presentation was given by Piedmont High School Principal Adam Littlefield and Piedmont High School Social Studies teacher Dave Keller. They elaborated on the process of accreditation and how WASC representatives will be visiting Piedmont High School from November 4th through November 7th. After the presentation the item was unanimously approved by the Board.

The second item that was discussed was the approval of the 2018 Piedmont Adult School Accrediting Commission for School Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACS WASC) Initial Visit Report. Millennium High School Principal and Piedmont Adult School Principal Shannon Fierro gave an informative presentation on the initial accreditation process that Piedmont Adult School is undergoing. This will accredit them for two years after which they can apply for a full accreditation, which lasts six years. The WASC representatives visited Piedmont Adult School on October 25th. The item was unanimously approved by the Board.

The third item that was discussed was a review of the 2018-2019 General Fund Working Budget and Multi-Year Projections and the authorization of appropriate budget transfers. A lengthy presentation was given on the budget by Ruth Alahydoian, the Chief Financial Officer for the district. The District is over budget and will not meet the 3% required reserve. Ms. Alahydoian stressed the importance of taking action to ensure that this reserve is met in future years. The budget transfers were all unanimously authorized by the Board.

The final main item from the meeting was an update on the School Support Tax and timeline. The current School Support Tax is going to expire on June 31, 2021. This tax is on the 3,921 taxable parcels in Piedmont. It raises $10 million dollars for the district which is around 25% of the district’s $40 million dollars worth of revenues. In the spring of 2019 the Board will poll the citizens and hold public meetings on the topic. There will be campaigning in the fall of 2019 leading up to the election in November of 2019.

I spoke on the issue of the School Support Tax. I advocated for student involvement in the public meetings and in the campaigning. They are the group that is going to be most significantly impacted by whether the tax passes or not. Without the money from the tax, the program across all Piedmont Schools will be significantly changed for the worse. Students could get involved by creating flyers and short PSAs advertising the public meetings in the spring. They can also help with the canvassing that is going to be happening in the fall. The Board should get students involved with this process.

I interviewed Board of Education Member Sarah Pearson. She was at the meeting because she is the President of the School Board. As an elected official Dr. Pearson has to listen to the difficulties and problems brought forth by the community. Given the information that was presented during the meeting by the Chief Financial Officer, Dr. Pearson is concerned about the budget. The next step is at the Budget Advisory Committee Meeting on November 8th the Chief Financial Officer will present a much more in depth breakdown of district expenses.

by Anna Smegal, Piedmont High School Senior

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