Board approves $2.1 million in school cuts | March 16, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 16, 2012

Board approves $2.1 million in school cuts

Reductions come in personnel, utilities, food service, maintenance and staff development

by Chris Kenrick

Mid-year school-budget cuts were approved by the Board of Education Tuesday, March 13, as officials described an ever-changing financial outlook.

About $2.1 million in mid-year cuts to the schools' $162.4 million operating budget came atop $2.7 million in reductions made at the start of the 2011-12 budget cycle.

Cuts approved this week include $889,000 in personnel, utilities and food service; $389,000 in "routine maintenance allocation"; $200,000 in staff development budget for summer activities and $338,000 in per-student allocation of school site funds.

However, the site-specific reductions will not affect this year's classrooms because they will come from site reserve funds, the district's Business Official Cathy Mak assured board members.

Mak will return to the board in May with proposed cuts for the 2012-13 school year.

School funding for Palo Alto — excluding locally raised money — has declined by $808 per student, 6 percent, since 2008-09, Mak reported Tuesday, even more than the $788 per student she reported on Feb. 28. The current per-pupil allotment is $12,215.

The per-student reduction is a consequence of enrollment increases outpacing growth in property tax receipts, as well as state funding cuts. Mak said she expects the school district will face "large structural deficits" for the next five years, particularly if proposed tax measures expected to be on this November's ballot are voted down.

However, the district has squirreled away surpluses for the past three years, growing its "undesignated fund balance" from $3.1 million at the end of 2008-09 to $12.9 million at the end of 2010-11. Those funds came from one-time windfalls such as federal stimulus funding.

The district has used the surplus to cushion the reductions and uncertainties in the state income and property-tax picture.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Like this comment
Posted by dampener
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 15, 2012 at 8:34 am

"The source of those funds were one-time windfalls such as federal stimulus funding."

Glad to know that stimulus funding is being "squirreled away". Just what it was designed for!

Like this comment
Posted by Where are the real facts here
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2012 at 10:47 am

Why dont we have some real reporting here and lets compare what the per pupil spending is in Palo Alto to all other bay area communities and yes lets include all comines.

Richest district around no doubt.

Like this comment
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2012 at 11:08 am

I wonder why no one has thought to cut the benefits to inmates to keep our educational dollars where they belong. The more we cut benefits to our children, the more of our children will end up as inmates.
Why do inmates get ANY rights at all, when they have taken someone elses rights away from them, ie; the right to keep what's theirs, the right to live, the right to not be accosted in any way! I just don't get our America at all!

But hey, let's just keep taking the money from our kids...pretty soon they will have a 2 hour school day for texting.

We're headed to a "Mad Max" society...and it's pretty scary.

Oh, and PS...Let's keep spending money on the "important things" like, changing California Ave. Heaven forbid we actually just leave it alone!

Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Where are the real facts here:

Meet Prof. Google.

Here is a link:
Web Link

You're welcome.

Like this comment
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 15, 2012 at 4:24 pm

The story prof. Google links to has the following quote and when you click on the name "Palo Alto Unified School District" it takes you to a page that says PA spends about $13,300 per student. Which is interesting since the story makes it sound like the EPA schools are destitute because they spend just $300 less per student. Sounds like the money would go farther in EPA if people would bother to actually speak the language of this country. Here is part of the story -

"One of those districts with higher expenses is the Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto, where about two-thirds of students are English learners. The district has had to hire three full-time Spanish translators – mainly to translate lengthy special education reports as required by law – and has translators working in the school office, in classrooms and at parent meetings.

Ravenswood spends nearly $13,000 per student, yet has cut several programs and may slash two weeks from the next school year, said Superintendent Maria De La Vega.

“It is sad, when you look across the freeway, and see so many other opportunities (for students there),” she said, referring to the Palo Alto Unified School District, in a wealthier community on the other side of Highway 101. “I wish I could do better for our students, but the budget keeps getting worse.” "

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Posted by Dan
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 15, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I wonder if this has anything to do with Walter Hays reducing Kindergarten and 1st Grade from 4 classes to 3 next year? They said it was because of reduced enrollment, but they haven't said what the class sizes will be. They've already gone from 18 or 19 to 22 or 23.

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Posted by FYI
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Mar 16, 2012 at 7:32 am

Dear Citizen: The $13,000 per year does not include fixed costs of structures etc. In other words, it is operating costs only. If one includes all costs, it runs about $17,000/year per student.
Just FYI. It bugs me the way budgets are reported in public schools. A private entity would have to report ALL expenses in its reports,not just staffing costs.

Like this comment
Posted by Mila
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 17, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I think it's a safe bet that if Jerry Brown has his way, we'll be paying for his "legacy" train for decades to come. A part of that debt payment will be underfunded schools at all levels for decades to come. Jerry Brown doesn't mince words on this topic, it's either schools, or higher taxes to fund his legacy train. Jerry Brown makes the so-called elite 1% seem like poor unfortunates. He is planning to squander the wealth of all 37,000,000 Californian's, to stroke his swollen ego. He is the 0.000,003%.