The Menlo Park City School District board of trustees faces a full agenda during its meeting on Thursday, Jan. 9. The agenda includes considering a timeline for renewal of a parcel tax, guiding principles for non-teacher compensation, and a raise for the district superintendent.
Superintendent Erik Burmeister is expected to propose a timeline to gauge public support for a possible bond measure for the district and for renewing or replacing the Measure X parcel tax, which passed with an initial rate of $360 per parcel and will expire in 2024, according to a district staff report.
The board last year had preliminary discussions about putting another tax measure before voters to help address deficit spending that could be a result of last year's teacher salary hike.
"Measure X was a temporary solution, along with $2 million dollars in cuts made by the district, to address the district's structural financial deficit," according to the staff. "The passage of Measure X provided the district more time to devise a longer-term approach to fiscal health. As such, the district made clear during the Measure X campaign that the district's financial runway (the time before which the district would once again begin deficit spending) was only four years. Now approaching the four-year mark, (Menlo Park City School District) must take action regarding the many long-term options it has considered since passage of Measure X, including the replacement of Measure X."
The structural deficit is caused by the following factors, according to the staff report:
• 20 years of increased enrollment.
• A more than doubling of the burden (from 8.25% in 2014 to 18.40% on 2021) the state has placed on local school districts for mandatory state pension programs.
• Limited state funding for public education.
• Community desire that our schools remain strong.
According to a staff presentation prepared for an October meeting, with implementation of a 5% raise for district teachers during the 2019-20 school year, the district's required reserve funds will drop below the minimum amount stated in board policy – at least 15% of total annual spending – within two years unless voters approve a parcel tax to replace Measure X.
The school board will consider establishing principles of compensation for district employees other than teachers and some other certificated staff, following the establishment of a "teacher compensation philosophy" in 2019 that emphasizes giving teachers pay increases that are higher than what neighboring districts offer, according to a staff report. In November 2018, Jarrod Coombes, president of the district’s chapter of the California School Employees Association, told the board that support staff felt like an afterthought since the new policy includes only teachers.
The groups that will be included in a non-teacher compensation policy are: classified employees represented by CSEA; unrepresented certificated employees including psychologists, counselors, occupational therapists, site and district administration; Early Learning Center teachers; assistant teachers; and others.
In the fall, the district's teachers represented by the Menlo Park Education Association received a 5% raise after the school board approved the teacher compensation principles. The raise is higher than they have been given in recent years. The board last approved raises for all district employees on June 20, 2017, when it authorized a 2% pay increase for the 2017-18 school year and a 3% increase for 2018-19, according to the district website.
The school board will also consider a 5% raise for Burmeister. The raise would be retroactive to July 1, and would cover the 2019-20 school year.
Board members will also consider a three-year extension of his contract to June 30, 2023, with a "retention bonus" at the end of each of the three years. It would be 5% at the end of the 2020-21 school year; 7.5% at the end of the 2021-22 school year; and 10% at the end of the 2022-23 school year, according to the staff report.
During the Thursday meeting, the school board will review, and possibly vote on, a contract, not to exceed $13,800, with San Mateo-based Enrollment Projection Consultants to study district enrollment projections. Of that amount of money, $11,800 will be for completion of a basic enrollment forecast update and optional study additions.
Although enrollment in the district has slowed in recent years, it may grow in the next two to three years with new housing projects along El Camino Real opening according to the district website and district officials. This could impact capacity at Hillview Middle School, a former district administrator told The Almanac in the fall.
The district has worked with Enrollment Projection Consultants in the past for similar enrollment studies and has been satisfied with the results, the staff report says.
The contract would run from Jan. 10 to June 30.
The meeting takes place at 6 p.m. on Jan. 9 in the TERC Building, 181 Encinal Ave. in Atherton.