May 13, 2017 Newsletter

Public trust wanes under new City Council. PAUSD makes painful budget cuts and City dithers on heeding school enrollment impacts

“Young Guns” out of step with community; swap housing for start-ups?

Councilmembers Wolbach, Tanaka and Fine have stretched their wings as part of the new Council majority with policy proposals that would worsen the city’s jobs/housing imbalance and shift parking and traffic burdens to residents. Along the way, they have employed tactics that sidestep City staff, exclude public input and forego opportunities for compromise, repeatedly raising widespread and vocal community concern and undermining public trust….

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Get Up To Speed

School Board cuts budget by $3.4 million, reducing both administrative and programming capacity

 

budgetIn its continuing effort to find up to $4.2 million in budget cuts, on May 3, the PAUSD Board of Trustees approved over $1.5 million in administrative savings including staff reductions at the District Office, increased facility rental fees and elimination of transportation funding for elementary field trips.

Teachers and programming took a $1.9 million hit, most notably through consolidation of the Middle School English Learners program to a single site (JLS), reductions in per student flexible spending at individual school sites, and reassignment of Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) at all school levels.

The loss of TOSAs will reduce the District’s capacity to adopt new standards and textbooks, align curriculum across schools, ease secondary school transitions and provide teacher coaching and professional development. Future budget deliberations will consider eliminating three previously approved teacher positions to reduce middle school class size and requiring that academic planning classes have a minimum of ten students, with average caseloads from 16-20 students.

Opposition by Wolbach and Fine stalls Council agreement consider school impacts in City land use decisions.

 

Todd Collins chart

Maintaining the quality of schools and the sufficiency of local infrastructure to support them are of paramount importance to the Palo Alto community. Nevertheless, the current City Council has shown little interest in either planning to ensure that schools can support Palo Alto’s rate of growth or regulating land uses to accommodate future school expansions.

Instead, the Council majority frequently cites PAUSD’s current decline in elementary enrollment as excuse not to worry about how city growth will impact schools in the future. On May 1, Councilmembers Wolbach and Fine went further, opposing a longstanding City policy to consider school enrollment impacts. They argued that school impacts should not be considered at all in the City’s land use decision-making, regardless of current or future enrollment, because doing so could restrain development, making Palo Alto “unwelcoming” to newcomers….

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Palantir’s 17-day displacement of local field users irks neighbors and draws scrutiny to public subsidy of corporate event

 

handoutPalantir Technologies hit the local news again, raising a stir when it secured exclusive use of community field space at Cubberley for 17 days, displacing previously permitted local soccer teams. Fields are highly subsidized public assets, with low merit fees designed to maximize use by nonprofits and community groups. High demand for public field space is managed through a detailed brokering process, that prioritizes use by local sports teams with high resident participation.

With this atypical event, Palantir was able to rent the field for only $41,000 for its full-time 17 day use, gaining the acquiescence of already permitted nonprofit sports teams with donations of $10,000 each. The low rental cost has triggered community calls for a fee rate appropriate to corporate users and clarity about permit-holders ability to “sublet” their brokered permits.

This recent concern is not reflected in changes to the municipal fee schedule to be considered by the City council Finance Committee on May 18 at 2:30.