LIVERMORE -- Whichever two candidates are elected to the Livermore school board in November can expect a four-year term that includes possible budget cuts, an application for a third charter, an aging infrastructure and an expiring parcel tax.
Incumbent Chuck Rogge and appointed incumbent Belia Martinez are seeking re-election on Nov. 6 against challengers Thomas McLaughlin, who last served the board in 2008 and David Jonas, a newcomer to school board politics.
One of the first items the board will contend with after the election is whether or not districts throughout the state will face steep cuts if either Propositions 30 or 38 fail to gain the two-thirds majority vote. Both measures would increase taxes with some of the money going toward public education.
Livermore school district members agreed to new contracts with the district's employee groups that include trigger cuts if the average daily attendance is reduced. If the district has its budget cut it could lose between $280 to $420 per student per day, or more. It could lead to a loss of up to three instructional days and the loss of professional and flex work days.
"We have cut as much as we can," said Martinez, who was appointed to the board in January to fill Stewart Gary's seat after Gary won election to the Livermore City Council. "So the question we will have to ask ourselves is what else can we cut?"
Over the past four years, the district has cut nearly $34 million out of its $106 million budget.
If the tax initiative fails, districts could lose up to $441 per student, according to School Services of California, a consulting group that advises districts. Livermore could lose up to $4.6 million in funding.
All four candidates said that if elected the budget would be the top priority given the uncertainty surrounding the propositions.
The candidates were also in unison on charter schools in saying they all support them, with Rogge, Martinez and Jonas saying they need more information on a proposed third charter school in the district.
McLaughlin, 81, went even further, saying he would like to see the district go completely charter. McLaughlin, who was on the board from 2001 to 2008 and is a retired teacher, said charter schools would give parents more freedom to decide where their kids go to school.
"I would like to see the whole district go charter, but you would have to have more than half the teachers agree," McLaughlin said. "If the district was all charter, then site principals would give more freedom to parents."
Livermore has two charter schools within its district, and the organizers of the Tri-Valley Corporation are in the process of resubmitting an application to have a third school approved. The corporation had an application for a similar school turned down by the district, the Alameda County Board of Education and the state Board of Application because it failed to meet some requirements.
Rogge, 60, who was first elected in 2008, said that in addition to the budget the district's aging infrastructure will need to be addressed over the next three to five years and cited the board's recent decision to refinance some of its bond debt to lower the cost to taxpayers.
"At some point we are going to need to rebuild some schools and paint and replace some maintenance units," Rogge said. "Our maintenance department has done a great job, but we are kicking the can down the road."
A decision to begin the process to reinstate or let a parcel tax expire will also be on the plate for the winning candidates toward the end of their four year term. Measure M, which was approved in 2008 and is a $138-a-year parcel tax is set to expire in 2015. The board will be faced with the possible decision to ask voters for a new tax.
Jonas, 55, and a business owner, was appointed to the citizens' oversight committee for Measure M in March.
"The number-one thing is funding," Jonas said. "The state is in crisis, and schools had to cut back dramatically, so we need to find a way for the revenue to keep coming."
Jonas said that included the parcel tax but also more fundraising and partnering with more corporations.
The candidates agreed that the parcel tax was necessary.
Contact Robert Jordan at 925-847-2184.
Occupation: Business owner
Community Involvement: Member of the citizens' oversight committee for Measure M
Education: BA in English, Duke University
Occupation: Program coordinator East Bay Youth and Family Initiatives
Community Involvement: Appointed school board incumbent, named in January to fill the remaining term of Stewart Gary, who was elected to the Livermore city council
Education: BA in business administration, Texas Woman's University
Occupation: Retired school teacher
Community Involvement: Served on the Livermore school board from 2001-08
Education: BA in education, Chico State
Occupation: Stay at-home dad, who worked in the software industry
Community Involvement: Incumbent school board trustee, elected to the board in 2008
Education: Attended Cal State Hayward