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Los Gatos School Board President Admits 'Mistake'

Trustee president Kathleen Bays says despite error in lack of parcel tax oversight committee, funds have been accounted for through quarterly financial reports.

Voters living within the Los Gatos Union School District boundaries approved a $290-per-parcel tax in June 2008.

An independent oversight committee to monitor the expenditures of the funds should have been formed in the fall following that election.

However, that committee was never organized and now parents and LGUSD Board of Education critics are crying foul, accusing trustees of being disrespectful of voters.

Board of Education President Kathleen Bays explained trustees four years ago had talked about forming the committee and have the already existing LGUSD Budget Advisory Committee assume that role.

But that didn't happen and the omission was brought to the trustees' attention in March by parents unhappy with and past district blunders.

"Somewhere ... it broke down," Bays said. "It was a mistake in not forming it by the district and a mistake and oversight by the board that it didn't happen."

Also, the charter needed to be changed for the Budget Advisory Committee and that didn't happen either, she said.

A change in superintendents between Suzanne Boxer-Gassman and Richard Whitmore and chief business officer at the time could have contributed to the oversight, she said. "It's not really an excuse, but it did happen."

Bays also said the previous parcel tax didn't call for the formation of a committee, but the new one did.

The six-year parcel tax expires in 2014 and Bays said the district will ask voters to extend it and already has a committee in place, which was formed about two months ago by a volunteer parent.

Bays said the LGUSD collects $2.6 million a year from the parcel tax, which goes straight into the district's general fund.

The members of the Budget Advisory Committee are community members, parents, teachers, school administrators, classified employees and two board liaisons, with the current ones being trustees Tina Orsi-Hartigan and Scott Broomfield.

Did the BAC fail? "I don't think the committee failed, we failed," Bays said.

Bays said one thing important to note was that while the oversight committee has been missing, trustees are "absolutely positive" that none of the parcel tax money was misspent because the district's quarterly budget presentations made by the LGUSD Finance Department include thorough reports giving trustees updates that tell them how funds are being spent.

"Despite the fact that we didn't have an oversight committee, as a board we knew where the money was being spent," Bays said. "We have no concerns that the money was not spent as it was supposed to because we got a report quarterly for all those years ... It was just the forming of the committee that was the oversight, not the spending."

Bays said trustees have changed the BAC's title so that it will become a financial advisory committee being charged with watching the district's budget spending and looking at additional ways to generate income.

Approval of this change is expected at the LGUSD trustee meeting June 5.

The community is now giving trustees input as to who the members of this committee should be, Bays said.

Bays and district supporters, who didn't want to be identified, said there's a group of parents who is going through every LGUSD document and materials and that the agency has recently been inundated with Public Records Act requests.

"They're just looking for errors and they found one ... It's incredibly frustrating as a volunteer, which is what we [trustees] are ... we don't get a single dime from serving ... because the past six years, it's been incredibly challenging," Bays said, adding that she's been on the board for the past 10 years.

"There are people who get up at every meeting and yell at us ... It's very difficult," she said.

Sheila Sanchez May 30, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Hi Larry, yes there are senior tax exemption forms available to opt out of the parcel tax. If you are 65 years of age or older on or before June 30, 2012, and you are the owner of a parcel within the Los Gatos Union School District, and that parcel is your principal residence, you qualify. You must own and live in your home as of July 1 of the year the tax is due. To apply go here: http://www.lgusd.k12.ca.us/business/parceltax/index.htm
AR May 30, 2012 at 09:23 PM
any senior who does so should be dragged out of their homes and quartered. the baby boomer generation had a twenty year bull market, pensions, easy employment, cheap college, cheap houses, low taxes, a massive peace dividend, and will probably be the last generation to enjoy the full benefits of social security and whatever is left of medicare. and even after receiving so much after having given so little, the boomers are still looking to exempt themselves from their obligations to support the education of future generations. i cannot wait for the baby boomers to shrug off this mortal coil, the lot of you typify the absolute worst of this country.
Erica Goss June 01, 2012 at 12:55 AM
I think she should resign. That would be the decent thing to do. Lexington parents have suffered through enormous amounts of stress with this badly managed project. For 10 years we have waited for our school's rebuild. We need action now.
R U Listening June 01, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Dear LGUSD Board ... Are You Listening Now?
KH June 04, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Ms. Bays' statements are false and misleading. The so-called "error" of not instituting a parcel tax oversight committee as CLEARLY OUTLINED IN THE INITIATIVE THAT THE TRUSTEES PUT ON THE BALLOT was not discovered through a public records request, nor was it a part of any supposed witch-hunt. The LGUSD Board of Trustees asked the Resource Council to provide feedback on the new charter for the FAC (Financial Advisory Committee). As part of that process, the "error" was discovered and a constructive recommendation was made by one of the Home & School Clubs at a Resource Council meeting to have this function be included in the new charter. The Trustees do not get paid, but they are elected officials, chosen to represent the public, and if they fail in their duty to properly govern the district, then they should be held accountable. There is absolutely nothing wrong with exposing this negligence and demanding that it be corrected immediately. It is shameful that a trustee would make any assertion to the contrary. Ms. Bays is a victim only of her own poor choices.

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