District finances under review
Publication Date: Friday May 24, 1996

SCHOOLS: District finances under review

Superintendent and board asks consultant to look at budget, management practices

A consultant from a Sacramento-based school finance consulting firm is reviewing the Palo Alto school district's budget and management organization at the request of the Palo Alto school board and Superintendent Jim Brown.

The goal, said board member Don Way, is to compare the district's spending to other districts, and look at the district's organization as compared to what is known as "best practices" and see where "we are at variance."

The consultant was expected to complete his district visit by the end of last week. The review is meant, in these frugal times, to make sure the district administration is as lean as possible.

"We've got to find ways to do it better, cheaper," Way said.

The review includes a look at the senior administrators and how they are organized, and whether it is best to have associate superintendents, deputy superintendents, or a combination of both.

The consultant, Ken Hall from School Services of California, Inc., along with a colleague, expect to report back to Brown and the board next month. Hall has been meeting with various groups including representatives from the teachers' union as well as the PTA.

"This isn't an audit," Brown stressed. "They are reviewing our district budget looking at revenues and expenditure patterns. They provide good comparative data. They are providing some recommendations concerning some administrative reorganization."

The district and the school board have come under fire recently because of a series of financial and management decisions.

In a climate of fiscal cutbacks, the school board approved the promotion of Associate Superintendent Pat Einfalt to a new position of deputy superintendent in March and gave her a 10 percent salary increase.

On May 10, the district and the teachers' union reached an impasse in teacher contract negotiations. Teachers have asked for a 7.5 percent increase. The district said it could afford no more than 2 percent. This year, the district is also facing the potential of more budget cuts because of declining property tax revenues.

Since 1994, the district has cut its administrative budget by more than $1 million, cutting positions and resources at the district office. Previously, the district administration eliminated $650,000 from its annual budget responding to two management audits done in 1989 and 1991.

--Elizabeth Darling 

Back up to the Table of Contents Page