Special School Board Meeting Fails to Produce Measure J Spending Priorities

New Chief Budget Officer recommends increased reserves, restoration of signature programs, teaching positions and more, as Measure J and new State funds change the District’s financial picture

Published : Monday, January 14, 2019 | 5:39 AM

The Pasadena Board of Education asked School District staff to make “stronger recommendations” for spending a new yearly influx of $7 million in revenue resulting from the passage of Measure J after reviewing an initial listing at last week’s Special Board Meeting.

“We don’t want a wish list, we want something specific,” said Board Member Scott Phelps.

The Board was focused on responding to a request for funding priorities from Mayor Terry Tornek, who chairs a joint ad hoc committee composed of Pasadena City Councilmembers and members of the Pasadena School Board working out how to implement Measure J.

We need a game plan for how the Measure J revenues should be allocated, Tornek had said at the Ad Hoc Committee’s initial meeting last December.

Before last Thursday night’s meeting, School Board Member Kim Kenne said she believed the Ad Hoc Committee wanted to get a consensus from the School Board on the use of the fresh tax revenue funds.

But at the meeting, Board Member Elizabeth Pomeroy asked “What exactly does the City Council want from us?” in terms of spending plans.

“This,” said new Pasadena Unified Chief Business Officer Leslie Barnes’, referring to a report she prepared for the meeting.

Barnes’ report named six categories of funding—Signature programs, restoring funding of positions and funding shifts from the Fiscal Stabilization Plan; adjusting the budget for enrollment projections, backfilling lost grant funding, technology needs, and increasing reserves to District funds.

The signature programs include the International Baccalaureate programs, Dual-language immersion, STEM and STEAM Magnet schools, visual and performing arts programs, math academy, and the International Academy, all of which suffered cuts over the past year.

The report also recommends restoring the $750,000 Special Education reduction, as well as restoring Early Childhood TOSA teaching positions.

Both Board member Phelps and Michelle Richardson Bailey spoke in favor of restoring teaching positions.

“It’s a question of morale,” said Richardson Bailey, “and that’s important.”

Board Member Patrick Cahalan also recommended raising the $2.7 million dedicated to signature programs, to $3 million.

Both PUSD President Lawrence Torres and Board Member Kimberly Kenne spoke on the danger, however, of making decisions that could not be reversed.

“Let’s not make promises that we can’t keep,” said Kenne, while Torres told the Board, “It’s important not to set things in stone.”

Superintendent Brian McDonald told Phelps, “We’re just guiding the Board in.”

The revised spending recommendations will be discussed at the PUSD’s next board meeting, set for January 24.

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