In a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Dec. 4, members expressed relief at the first good financial news in some time, and teachers reiterated a request they made last June for a pay raise.
Teachers union president Teri Baldwin said teachers have had neither a salary increase nor a cost-of-living adjustment since 2009 — a period in which the Bay Area consumer price index has increased by 7.6 percent.
"In a survey we gave to our teachers we asked if anyone worked part-time jobs outside the classroom or summers," Baldwin said.
"Fifty percent of the teachers that responded said they worked in the summer, and a very large majority of those stated it was to 'make ends meet.' Forty-three percent said they worked a part-time job during the school year."
Baldwin said the teachers' comments included: "Need more money to support my three children," "It is necessary to afford to live in the Bay Area," and "It is a financial necessity."
The improved financial picture for Palo Alto schools includes $5.4 million in state revenue due to passage of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative. The school district had conservatively assumed failure of Proposition 30 in its 2012-13 budget, which the board approved in June.
The good news also includes an additional $3.2 million in anticipated revenue from growth in property taxes based on the latest estimates of a 4.21 percent increase over last year — up from the budgeted 2 percent.
School district Chief Business Officer Cathy Mak now projects the district's 2012-13 income at $169 million and expenses at $165.3 million.
Combined with other smaller developments, the Proposition 30 passage and higher property tax estimates have turned what was a $5.6 million deficit into a surplus of about $4 million, Mak said.
The funds will be allocated according to directions the Board of Education attached to its June budget in the event more revenue became available: toward eliminating the district's deficit; toward program needs; toward employee costs and toward professional development.
In addition to remarks by Baldwin, a physical education teacher asked for smaller class sizes and former teachers union president Triona Gogarty reiterated the need for an employee pay increase.
Gogarty said she personally knows of teachers who have moved either farther from Palo Alto or back in with their parents to make financial ends meet.
"During the past five years the district's employees have worked with the district to ameliorate the budget woes," Gogarty said in an email Wednesday. "Employee-compensation improvement should be No. 1 on the Board's agenda."
The Palo Alto Educators Association, representing more than 800 full- and part-time teachers, in June asked for "a general salary increase which is commensurate with the district's ability to pay," which would come on top of automatic, seniority-based step-and-column increases.
Currently, a starting teacher in Palo Alto earns $51,422, with an additional benefit package worth $12,865. A teacher with seven years' experience and 60 units of graduate work earns $74,753. A teacher with 20 years' experience and 90 units of graduate work earns $97,666. The maximum for a teacher with 30 years' experience is $103,836.
Palo Alto is among the higher-paying, but not the top-paying, school districts in the area.
Also Tuesday, newly elected board member Heidi Emberling, as well as returning incumbents Melissa Baten Caswell and Camille Townsend, took the oath of office. The board had intended to elect its officers for 2012-13 Tuesday but postponed that until Dec. 18 after staff members pointed out a provision of election law indicating Emberling is not technically allowed to be a voting member until after the first Friday of December.
Another item — a proposed board policy on guidance counseling — also was pulled from the agenda after Superintendent Kevin Skelly said it had caused confusion for a Gunn High School advisory committee currently working on reforms to the school's counseling system.