A series of meetings designed to get public input on how the Menlo Park City School District should balance its budget will continue on Tuesday, Oct. 18, when the district's governing board looks at staff recommendations for cutting spending and reviews public input about why the recent parcel tax measures failed.
The budget discussions will be part of the regular agenda of the school board's meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in Hillview Middle School's Performing Arts Center at 1100 Elder Ave. in Menlo Park.
Also on the agenda are:
• A discussion about the district's interdistrict attendance policies. Currently 67 students who are the children of 45 district staff members who live outside the school district attend district schools. The district's existing policy says children of employees who work half-time or more have priority to be approved for interdistrict transfers.
• Approval of a contract that would make assistant superintendent Erick Burmeister the new superintendent starting July 1.
• A discussion about videotaping board meetings
• A $12,000 contract with a communication and strategy consultant from Oct. 19 to Dec. 19.
• The creation of an employee recruitment and retention board task force to "study and research salary and benefits and additional employment factors to attract and retain high quality teachers and staff," according to the agenda.
At the district's first public-input session Sept. 27, about 35 people showed up at Hillview, many of them district staff and teachers, to talk about what could be learned from the failure of two parcel tax measures in May.
Each measure needed two-thirds voter approval for passage. Measure A, which would have renewed a tax of a little more than $200 per parcel that will expire at the end of June 2017, won the support of 60.3 percent of voters, shy of the two-thirds threshold.
Measure C, which would have added an annual $2.20-per-parcel tax for each student who enrolled beyond the district's then-2,938 students, was supported by 54 percent of the voters. (This year's enrollment growth of 55 students, would have meant an additional annual tax of $121 per parcel.)
Alex Keh, one of those who led the opposition to the tax measures, said the district has gotten itself in a bind by trying to keep its per-pupil spending up with other neighboring districts that have higher property tax assessment bases to work from.
"The district was on a course of higher and higher spending" with greater and greater reliance on parcel taxes, he said.
Instead, he said, the district needs to have a budget plan in place that is "sustainable in the long term" and retains enough reserves "so that we can weather the next recession" without cuts or more parcel taxes.
"If you put such a plan in place, many of us, like myself can come around to supporting a new temporary parcel tax," he said.
Other speakers said they opposed the fact that the parcel taxes would, like three other parcel taxes in the district, be permanent, with no sunset dates. Mary Beth Sur, a longtime district resident, said, "I would not be inclined to vote for any permanent tax increase."
Scott Saywell, a school board candidate, said, "I think fundamentally one of the issues the school board faces is a trust problem."
See a video of the meeting online.
The district's website will post links to videos of the whole series of meetings about the budget.
The district's website also has a new tool, called OpenGov, for looking at the district's budgets going back to the 2005-06 fiscal year.