Palo Alto school district hosts town hall on budget shortfall

Discussion will also be live streamed online

The Palo Alto school district will hold a town hall to solicit community input about how to manage a $3.3 million budget shortfall, the result of overestimated property-tax revenue, tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 7-8:30 p.m.

Wednesday’s meeting will be the first of two public town halls on the budget. The second is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 15.

"Following a short presentation on the impact of the less-than-anticipated tax increase and some ideas we have for managing it the next two years, we will be eager to answer questions and listen to ideas," Superintendent Max McGee wrote in a weekly memo about this week’s town hall.

Staff will alternate taking questions from the public in person and online.

The school board has been grappling with how to address the shortfall since the district discovered in July that property-tax revenue had come in far lower than budgeted for.

At its most recent meeting, the board supported using much more conservative budget projections over the next five years, but disagreement between trustees over the urgency of the problem persisted.

District staff have made several proposals so far for how to make up for the budget shortfall this year and next, including tapping reserves, reallocating professional-development funding and unused dollars left over from not needing to hire elementary teachers due to lower-than-anticipated enrollment growth.

The board will again discuss the budget at its regular meeting on Sept. 13, and is set to adopt the 2016-17 budget on Sept. 27.

Both of the in-person town halls will also be streamed live online on a platform where viewers can submit questions and/or comments. To participate, go to

There will also be a budget workshop focused on the 2017-18 budget on Oct. 18.

All of the scheduled meetings will take place at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave., Palo Alto.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


12 people like this
Posted by Marc Vincenti
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2016 at 2:15 pm

Marc Vincenti is a registered user.

"Reallocating professional development funding"--although this is a vague phrase that doesn't define "reallocating"--would seem to make a lot of sense, and I'm glad District staff has proposed it.

During my fifteen years in the classroom at Gunn I saw that you can professionally develop and professionally develop and professionally develop your high-school teachers until they have it oozing out of their ears, but if you're sending them every semester into an overcrowded environment--classes numbering upwards of thirty, full of anxious teenagers who require help and attention and TLC--the "development" has nowhere to plant itself and is beside the point.

So, yes, let's get rid of what's beside the point, and concentrate on safeguarding our at-risk kids by giving them a daily social-emotional fabric that is woven much more securely. It makes no sense to be offering our young people "wellness centers," when, upon returning from a visit or two there to obtain relief, they must take their seats again--hour after hour and day after day--in classes of an unhealthy size.

I applaud Mr. McGee's staff for putting forth this option--and let's take it.

Marc Vincenti
Campaign Coordinator, Save the 2,008

3 people like this
Posted by 4andcounting4
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 7, 2016 at 7:40 pm

Can anyone at the district office speak to the $25 million dollar "rainy day" fund? Most districts save around 3% but I think this is about 20%. Anyone?

9 people like this
Posted by teacher
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 7, 2016 at 8:38 pm

@ Marc Vincenti-

I wholeheartedly respect your sincere and heartfelt opinion but as a teacher who has been in the district classroom as long as you have been know that it's all in the dynamic. You can have a bright eyed and bushy tailed class of 30 and be ecstatic at their game and intensity and at the same time have a class of 16 and dread going to work. It's how you work it and unfair as it is it's not going away so walk the walk and talk the talk and stop blaming the Silicon Valley woes on "class size". Sounds good but it is not all encompassing.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 7, 2016 at 9:25 pm

The total budget is $226 million. The state minimum reserve is 3%, PAUSD policy is 10%, so that is $23 million. For reference, the shortfall this year now appears to be $4.2 million (per the online presentation tonight), so that's almost 2% right there, just from a budgeting error.

Like this comment
Posted by 4andcounting4
a resident of Professorville
on Sep 8, 2016 at 5:36 am

And isn't the "rainy day" fund that the district is withholding, ($25 million) exactly for the purpose of an overestimated tax revenue? It all appears very political when the $ is there, for this very purpose.

12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 8, 2016 at 11:01 am

Typically the "rainy day" comes when the economy and property value growth slide, in the usual California cycle. This doesn't seem to be a downcycle (yet), but a self-inflicted budgeting error, compounded by agreeing to (large) raises a year in advance vs. the usual practice of determining raises in the middle of the year or later.

The fear is that if we use the reserves now, when the actual downturn comes, we won't have enough and will have to fire teachers, which equals raising class sizes.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 6,721 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 13 comments | 2,238 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 2,120 views

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,534 views

The kindness of strangers
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 650 views


Register today!

​On Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More