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Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 26, 2013

News Digest

Teachers get 3 percent raise in tentative pact

Palo Alto teachers and school staff members, including managers, will get a 3 percent raise plus a 1.5 percent bonus for the current school year in tentative agreements set for union ratification by May 1.

For the first time, the teachers' contract also calls for required but compensated "professional development" hours and specifies that teachers will provide students and parents with updated information about grades "at least every three weeks."

The tentative raise for Palo Alto's more than 800 full- and part-time teachers will be the first permanent cost-of-living increase since a 2.5 percent boost in 2007-08. It will be retroactive to the start of the 2012-13 school year.

Last year, teachers and staff got a one-time bonus amounting to 1 percent of 2011-12 pay.

All members of the Board of Education Tuesday indicated they will support the new contracts when they come to final board vote May 7.

In March, district finance officials said the district's situation had "significantly improved" since adoption last June of a $162 million operating budget for 2012-13 that contained a $5.5 million deficit.

Projections for county property-tax revenue as of March were $4.4 million higher than had been assumed in last June's budget, and November's passage of California's Proposition 30 tax package saved the district another $5.4 million.

Under the current salary schedule, a brand-new teacher in Palo Alto earns $51,422; the maximum salary for a teacher with 30 years' experience is $103,836.

Higher water use still a challenge for Palo Alto

Palo Alto officials had more reasons than usual to smile this Earth Day, with the city recently switching to carbon-free electricity and dramatically cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions.

But the annual celebration is also casting a spotlight on the one blight on the city's pristine environmental reputation — water usage that remains among the highest in the region.

The topic of water conservation has risen in prominence in recent weeks, with council members debating whether to introduce recycled water for irrigation, water rates going up and Palo Altans' water use per capita remaining among the highest in the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency (BAWSCA), a 26-member organization of suburban customers who buy their water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

According to BAWSCA statistics, Palo Alto's average residential customer uses about 100 gallons per day, more than customers in all but three agencies in the regional organization (only those in Bear Gulch, Hillsborough and Purissima Hills use more). This helps explain why the city's water bills are among the highest in the region. According to BAWSCA's 2012 annual survey of partner agencies, the monthly water bill for an average single-family household in Palo Alto stood at around $65 in fiscal year 2011, well above the average of $53.

The problems of high bills and heavy usage aren't going away anytime soon. In July, Palo Alto rates are slated to go up by another 7 percent, largely because of capital upgrades to water infrastructure and the high cost of buying water wholesale. And usage, while lower than it has been in the past, is expected to rise along with the city's population.

Though Palo Alto's record on water conservation leaves plenty of room for improvement, the city has already made other major strides on the water front. According to the 2010 Urban Water Management Plan, water use per account in Palo Alto dropped by 27 percent between 2000 and 2010, with industrial customers leading the way with a 46 percent reduction. Water use for single-family-residential customers dropped by 22 percent during this period, according to the plan.

Stanford wants to expand undergrad enrollment

Stanford University's undergraduate enrollment could increase if the school can raise the money to build housing for the additional students, University President John Hennessy said last week.

Hennessy characterized the potential growth as a "rebalancing" to bring undergraduate enrollment to rough parity with graduate enrollment but said no "framework" for the expansion is yet in place.

While Stanford's undergraduate and graduate enrollment were about equal 30 years ago, graduate and postdoctoral students today make up about 60 percent (8,796) of the student headcount and undergraduates just 40 percent (6,590).

"We couldn't expand the number of students until we had housing," Hennessy said.

The remarks came in a presentation to the university's Academic Council titled "Stanford: A Thirty-Year View and Some Implications," in which Hennessy presented a series of metrics on Stanford's faculty, students, finances and facilities from 1981-82 to the present.

The number of undergraduate applicants to Stanford has nearly doubled since he became president in 2000, Hennessy said, and this year the university was "the most selective major institution in the entire country" with an admission rate of 5.7 percent.

— Chris Kenrick

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