Palo Alto Weekly

News - December 2, 2011

News Digest

Arrests made in burglary at Duveneck

Seven people have been linked to a school burglary that occurred in Palo Alto over the summer, police said Thursday (Dec. 1). Several computers stolen from Duveneck Elementary School at 705 Alester Ave. have been recovered, police said.

In the July 25 burglary, someone forcibly entered the school and stole Apple laptops and iPad tablets, police said. The investigation led police to believe that 20-year-old Jaime Maldonaldo of Menlo Park was responsible for the burglary. Maldonado has been arrested and charged with burglary and possession of stolen property, police said.

Police named six other suspects who they said purchased several of the stolen computers. Gloria Cahuich, 37, of Menlo Park; Redwood City residents Yadira Cahuich, 33, and Antonio Garnica, 32; and Hayward residents Norma Palominos, 38, Giovanni Palominos, 20, and Stephaine Garcia, 20, have been charged with possession of stolen property, according to police.

Palo Alto schools to see budgets shrink

Palo Alto schools are bracing for their third round of budget cuts in as many years and face some "tough decisions," officials said.

By February, district managers said they will recommend between $1.2 and $2.8 million in cuts to the current year's $162.4 million operating budget.

That would get this year's "structural deficit" down to a manageable level of $4 million or $5 million, Co-Chief Business Official Cathy Mak told the Board of Education Tuesday (Nov. 29). That deficit could be covered by the $12.9 million in "unrestricted, undesignated fund balances" the district has held to plug that gap as well as additional deficits anticipated in the next few years.

The prospective cuts come atop $3.8 million in cuts made in 2010-11 and another $2.7 million reflected in the current year's budget. Much of that was achieved through incremental increases in elementary class sizes, which have risen from 20 to 22 in grades K-3, and from 23 to 24 in grades 4-5.

"In the last two rounds we could shield our instructional programs from deep cuts, but this may not be possible for the upcoming cuts," Mak said. "We'll have tough decisions to make."

In recommending where to cut, school managers will adhere to "budget balancing values" approved by the school board in 2009 as well as a 2009 PTA survey on budget tradeoffs, she said.

Several factors, including the state budget crisis, enrollment growth and lower-than-budgeted county property-tax receipts, are behind the grim economic news.

The $3.7 billion state budget gap reported by the state Legislative Analyst Nov. 16 triggers a $2.5 million "fair share" cut for Palo Alto, Mak said.

Since 2006-07, Palo Alto's share of state categorical funding (money designated for programs aiding specific categories of students) has plummeted from $13.6 million to just $527,000 this year, after the anticipated "fair share" cut.

As a so-called "basic aid" district funded primarily through property tax, Palo Alto does not collect revenue based on headcount, so enrollment growth means less money per student.

City looks to become testbed for new technologies

Looking to bolster the city's already sizable reputation for high-tech innovation, Palo Alto officials on Tuesday (Nov. 29) recommended creating a new $200,000 program in the Utilities Department that would focus on testing emerging technologies.

The program, which the City Council's Policy and Services Committee unanimously approved Tuesday night, targets technology companies that are looking for a place to test their products. Jonathan Foster, chair of the city's Utilities Advisory Commission, said many of these companies see Palo Alto, which has its own utilities department, as the perfect place for such demonstrations.

The Emerging Technology Demonstration Program provides funding for consultants to evaluate potential projects and their impacts and streamlines the process for reviewing proposals for demonstration projects. According to a report from Debra Lloyd, a manager in the Utilities Department, these technologies can be in such areas as water and energy efficiency and conservation and renewable-energy generation. The program would be funded from gas, water and electric funds in the Utilities Department.

"The purpose of the program is to support the deployment of innovative ideas, particularly from the local business community, provide recognition to the City as an innovation leader, and further enhance Palo Alto's stature as a technology and innovation hub in Silicon Valley," Lloyd wrote.

Foster said he believes the program would both help the companies working on cutting-edge products and enable the city to benefit from the latest technology. The city could, for example, allow a company to test technology that promotes home-energy savings. If this technology proves effective for local customers, the city would be able to deploy it on a vaster scale.

— Gennady Sheyner

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