So the last time we looked into the Pasadena Unified School District things weren't going so well. They'd come into a whole lot of dough thanks to the generosity of the voters in passing both Measure Y and Measure TT, but then later something didn't go quite right. Apparently somebody had been ripping the PUSD off for a sizable chunk of that money.
Way back in January of this year we posted an article called School Daze. In it we discussed how this school district had handed over $217,000 to a contractor, who then just pocketed the money and walked away. Didn't do much work, but kept the cash anyway. And as bad as that was, the situation got even worse. The PUSD had this all investigated by the Pasadena PD, plus they'd done a forensic audit as well. But then something very embarrassing happened. Here is how the Pasadena Weekly described this particularly unfortunate turn of events:
However, when (Pasadena) detectives submitted their evidence, prosecutors declined to file criminal charges because the school district's Measure Y record keeping was not adequate to secure a conviction.
So it appears that the PUSD forked money over to this grifter of a construction guy, but their financial record keeping was so lousy there wouldn't have been enough evidence to prove anything in Court. And the District Attorney refused to prosecute. Pretty sad state of affairs, and certainly something that would make you want to question the basic competence of those running the show.
Now it's been a year since that Pasadena Weekly article appeared, and the PUSD finds itself back in the financial hole. And despite the passage of both Measures Y and TT, it looks like they're going to have to go back to the taxpayers and ask for even more money. Again the Pasadena Weekly tells the story.
Cutting bone: District could be forced to lay off teachers and cut programs to close 'historic' $20 million budget gap - A colorful brochure recently mailed to residents of Altadena, Sierra Madre and Pasadena - the three communities that comprise the Pasadena Unified School District - paints a grim picture of the district's financial situation, one in which the Board of education may have to lay off teachers, close schools and cut math, science and arts programs in order to close a $20 million budget deficit in the $225 million budget for 2010.
(As an aside, should an organization that is both broke and begging be spending money on expensive glossy color brochures and mailing them to 10s of thousands of homes? Just asking.)
Not an usual circumstance in this economy of course, but given their past shaky record keeping and the consequences that had on the prosecution of that grifter of a construction guy, there could very well be some skepticism about raising even more money for these guys. After all, Measure Y alone was worth a cool $240 million big ones. A lot of money no matter what fund you put it in.
So nowadays the PUSD is on a bit of a charm offensive and hopes to get the voters to approve a parcel tax to help them close that $20 million financial gap. Which is why they were very upset when the following e-mail started making the rounds a week or so back.
In An Effort To Keep The Community Informed ... your attendance is needed at the PUSD board meeting on Tuesday, December 8th. There are many issues concerning the use and disbursement of Measure TT and the ability of the PUSD board to ensure that there is local and minority participation by contractors, trades people, and other local businesses. The community does not want to see a repeat of what happened with Measure Y in which many jobs were let to businesses outside Pasadena, Altadena and Sierra Madre, and therefore not allowing our tax dollars to recirculate within our communities or allowing our local and minority contractors, trades people, and other local businesses to benefit from the work that is generated by this Measure.
You certainly would also hope that whoever is hired does the work they're paid to do, and if they don't that the PUSD would be able to prove that they wrote a check and get the money back.
So the group that sent out the above e-mail apparently created a document and passed it out at this meeting. And though I have not seen the document, it would appear that they had fleshed out some of the points made earlier, particularly on the school district's contractor hiring practices. Something that apparently sent PUSD President Tom Selinske through the schoolhouse roof. Which is certainly understandable given the delicate nature of selling a new parcel tax to the citizens during the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Hardly the time you'd want any controversies.
And yesterday on the usually insipid Pasadena Now website the following notice from PUSD President Selinske appeared:
Letter to Community From PUSD Board President - Recently a document was distributed in the community that cast numerous inaccurate allegations regarding the Measure TT School Bond program which was approved by the voters in November 2008. The document was filled with incorrect and untrue statements. It is important for the community to understand the facts in regards to the Pasadena Unified School Districts (sic) facilities bond and clear up unsubstantiated rumors and inaccuracies.
The notice then went on to try and refute many of the things that were apparently said in the offending distributed document. I linked to Selinske's statement above if you wish to examine the entire document.
Now all of this would be highly entertaining except for one thing. That would be the fate of the students who attend these schools, and the teachers who work in them. Why is it the PUSD seems to be in a constant state of financial crisis and must go back to the taxpayers time and again and keep asking for more money? Two massive bond issues have been passed, and now we're expected to approve a parcel tax on top of that? Where does it end?
I personally voted for both Measure Y and Measure TT. But despite the hostage taking it will take a considerable change in my current thinking to get me to vote that way again.