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Voices from ABCUSD

Email from Mr. Toan Nguyen on Payroll and 1997 Modernization Bond

In response to an email inquiry to Supt Dr. Mary Sieu dated July 27

August 8, 2014

Dear Mr. Ao,

Please see responses below.

As words about recent events spread, I have been receiving email from various community members. Some of them still want to find out what really happened with the 1997 bond money, and why the various projects for school modernization are now described as a series of system repairs and replacements. Others send links to websites with public information they find disturbing.

The 1997 $59 million bond program was 17 years ago. We were able to do many things with this money. Since the passage of Prop 13 in 1978, school districts throughout the State basically received very little funding to maintain our facilities. I am attaching the power point presentation, slides 5 and 6 detailed the types of projects that were done with the 1997 bond (see below also). The 1997 bond was much needed just to keep our facilities from falling apart. Certain projects such as HVAC and Roof, were not done at every school, because it wasn't needed. The schools that didn't have their HVAC or Roof replaced with the 1997 bond will likely need to have that done this round, should the people approve the measure.

What we did we the 1997 bond program?

Architectural and Structural
  §Replace roofing and repair canopies
  §Abate asbestos and lead
  §Upgrade restrooms, replace toilet partition and restroom hardware
  §Re-paint & re-carpet

Mechanical Systems
  §Replace heating ventilation and air-conditioning units
  §Provide solid state energy management system

Plumbing Systems
  §Replace galvanized piping and exterior hose bibs
  §Evaluate and add hydrants per code
  §Replace drinking fountains and plumbing accessories
  §Correct drainage and replace drains
  §Correct irrigation with replacement of sprinkler heads, re-plumbing, timer and shut off valves

Electrical Systems and Low Voltage
  §Provide new power distribution
  §Replace technology distribution system and re-cable all classrooms
  §Replace light fixtures with T-8 lamps
  §Install emergency lighting
  §Provide standardize Fire Alarm Systems
  §Replace intrusion detection system

One website in particular is the Transparent California Database. There people can download payroll information of every school district. According to the data there, in 2013-14, ABC USD had 3824 employees and spent a total of $153,175,218.41 on their payroll. If true, that would be about 87% of the actual total expenditure of $175,994,925.

I am attaching an analysis of our payroll, comparing with the two neighboring school districts. I have also attached all the back up information for your references. As you are aware, we are in the education business. The majority of our expenditures go toward payroll and benefits, just like all districts up and down the State. Not every District will have the same percentage, due to the local decision by the school board. Some may have more special education teachers, some may have more teachers due to class size, some may have extra programs that pay teachers more such as summer school, and some may just pay their teachers more to be competitive and retain the best employees. About 85 percent of our expenditures go toward salary and benefits, to teachers, nurses, psychologists, counselors, supervisors, secretaries, custodians, ground keepers, principals..... There is really no "correct" percentage that should be allocated toward salary and benefits, there certainly is the "State average". However, please keep in mind of the cost of living here is a little bit higher than some other places in the State. Please see the chart below.

As you are aware, with the implementation of the LCFF funding formula, school districts with a higher percentage of students with low income, English learners, and foster youth, will receive a much higher per dollar per student funding than those with lower percentage. When comparing with neighboring districts, such as Norwalk La Mirada, ABC will receive $1,205 LESS PER STUDENT per year for the general fund. This will put us at a disadvantage since those school districts will have a lot more resources to offer different programs to their students. Please see chart below.

Back to the bond measure, I want to share with you that our neighboring districts also approved their bond measures to be placed on the November ballot. One neighboring District that is actually smaller in size than ABC, will be asking voters to approve a $375 million bond program. This is after the voters approved a $165 million bond program in 2002, which is five years after ABC 1997 bond program. Once again, these bond money will provide these districts with resources to renovate and upgrade their facilities. And if we don't keep up, again, we will be at a disadvantage. Please see chart below

As shown on slides 21 and 22 of the power point presentation, the current $28 per 100,000 in assessed value to pay for the current bond, ABC has the second lowest tax rate for Unified School District in the County of Los Angeles, and the lowest tax rate per student in the County.

Mr. Ao, everyone knows the importance and value of quality schools. From higher achieving students to greater neighborhood safety to improved property values, quality schools make a difference. But even though ABC USD¡¦s schools and classrooms have been maintained over the years, these buildings have an average age of over 50 years! Our classrooms and schools require major upgrades and improvements not only to meet today¡¦s technological, safety and educational standards but to avoid even greater repair costs in the future. According to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a well-maintained, clean, safe, and highly functional 21st century learning environment facility will:
  Increase academic performance;
  Improve student attendance;
  Attract and retain talented, high quality teachers and support staff.

Should the people approve the bond measure, the money will be used improve school facilities by:
  - Repairing and modernizing aging classrooms at schools throughout the District.
  - Repairing and replacing roofs and outdated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.
  - Expanding and improving education facilities for science, technology, engineering, and math.
  - Improving student drop-off/pick-up locations for greater student safety and reducing impact to local neighborhoods.
  - Upgrading classrooms throughout the District with up¡Vto-date technology and computers.

With regard to accountability, we can guarantee the following:
  - No funds can be spent on administrator or teacher salaries, benefits or pensions!
  - Review of all expenditures by an independent citizens¡¦ oversight committee.
  - Annual financial audits by independent accounting firm.
  - All funds must be spent on our local school facilities and CANNOT BE TAKEN BY THE STATE AND SPENT ELSEWHERE.

I find those numbers hard to believe, because according to California DOE website, the 2011-12 state average of expenditures allocated to teacher salaries and administrative personnel salaries for unified school districts with ADA >= 20,000 are just 38.26% and 5.08%, respectively.

I hope this answers some of your questions. If you have any other questions or need further information, please do not hesitate to contact me. I apologize for the format of this email, since I have to cut and paste different chart into the email.

Thank you,

Toan Nguyen

Attachment 1: Bond_Resolution_7-15-14.pptx

Attachment 2: Bond Info.pdf


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