The Palo Alto school board will discuss Tuesday night further proposed budget allocations, including to mitigate class sizes at the high schools, as well as take action on its legal contracts for the 2016-17 year.
Tuesday's meeting will be the last discussion of the 2016-17 budget before the board votes to adopt it at its final meeting of the year on June 21. The budget includes major new raises for teachers and administrators, additional staffing to accommodate enrollment growth and $2.3 million in program additions approved by the board last month, among other items. (The board approved a total $3.2 million of additions, but $832,000 of that will be part of the 2017-18 budget.)
Staff has also recommended that the district use $341,000 in additional property-tax revenue to further reduce class sizes at the middle and high schools, provide breakfast to low-income elementary school students at an additional school, reclassify several district-level positions and support a new "Learning Design Team" that will be tasked with looking at ways to innovate at the secondary schools, according to a staff report prepared by Chief Budget Officer Cathy Mak.
Staff has proposed the following allocations for the additional property-tax funds:
$250,000 to reserve two teachers to help mitigate large classes at the middle and high schools, which would allow schools to request additional sections to keep class sizes under 35 for the high schools and under 30 for the middle schools, as well as accommodate any "unexpected increase in registrations" during the summer, according to the staff report. Any unused funds will be released back to the 2016-17 fund balance in August.
$20,000 to provide breakfast at one more elementary school (Walter Hays) beyond the five Title I schools the board approved
$50,000 for reclassification of four management positions, including director of elementary education; chief academic officer for the secondary level; professional development coordinator; and director of research, evaluation and assessment
$21,000 for Learning Design Team "planning activities"
The revenue assumptions in the proposed budget are based on an increase of 8.67 percent in property taxes, according to Mak. Property-tax revenue makes up more than 71 percent of the district's General Fund budget.
The "bulk" of the district's expenditures 85 percent is allocated to employee salaries and benefits, Mak wrote. The remaining 15 percent is used for contracted services, supplies and materials, capital outlay and other expenses.
The board will also consider a salary increase for substitute teachers: a new daily rate of $165, a long-term day rate of $220 and a partial-day rate of $90, to start in the 2016-17 school year. This is a $13-per-day increase for the daily rate, $18-per-day increase for the long-term rate and $7-per-half-day increase for the partial-day rate.
Staff estimates the proposed increases will cost the district about $125,000, given the number of absences in the last school year. The substitute teacher rates were last adjusted for the 2014-15 school year and the board requested that the district review the rates every two years, according to staff.
In other business Tuesday, the board will vote on its legal-services contract for the next school year. Notably, the board could give the green light to hire a new special-education law firm to replace Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost, whose handling of special-education issues for the school district has been criticized for creating an adversarial relationship with families and contributing to high legal costs.
Superintendent Max McGee recommended in April that Pleasanton-based firm Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo replace Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost, which has represented the district for close to 10 years.
Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo was selected from five firms (including Fagen, Friedman & Fulfrost) who responded to a Request for Proposal (RFP) for special-education services that the district issued in February.
Staff is asking the board to enter into a contract with the new firm for $200,000.
Staff is also recommending to renew contracts with Lozano Smith, which has worked for the district on issues relating to personnel, the teacher's union and general governance, among others, for $200,000; with Dannis Woliver Kelley, which provides facilities and construction related services, for $100,000; and with Dora Dome, which supports the district on student-services matters, for $15,000.
District staff will be "as conservative as is prudently possible in its use of attorney funds," Mak notes in the staff report.
The board meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.