District spending under scrutiny
Oversight committee suggests Measure B funds may be misused
by Brian Howey
The Citizen’s Oversight Committee presented a report deeply critical of the district’s use of Measure B funds at the Feb. 27 Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees meeting. Presented by Committee Chairperson Michael Mills, the report accuses the district of a “refusal to provide clear numbers” on how the district manages and spends Measure B funds, which the report claims disproportionately funds classified personnel salaries.
“Transparency appears to have gone by the boards,” Mills said in an interview with the Tower. “It is impossible to understand if the district is in compliance.”
Measure B is a parcel tax passed by Alameda County voters in 2012 designed to help fund the PCCD, and generates around $8 million annually for the district. The funds should be spent on math, science, and English courses taught by adjunct (part-time) faculty. But according to the oversight committee’s report, the “overwhelming majority” of the funds have been spent on classified (non-teaching) salaries.
The oversight committee is a group of voters appointed by the district to oversee the district’s Measure B spending. According to the committee’s report, in the 2015–16 school year, the PCCD spent 83 percent of Measure B funds on classified positions, and there was “little change” in the district’s spending habits the following year.
This is not the first time the district has been scrutinized for Measure B spending. In April 2017, the district came under fire when the San Francisco Chronicle reported that it had misspent the funds on classified salaries rather than adjunct faculty salaries. The Chronicle’s report was widely contested by Peralta administrators, and the district hired third-party accounting firm Vavrinek, Trine, Day and Co. to perform an independent audit of the district.
The firm’s audit determined that the district had “properly accounted” for Measure B spending, but Mills said that its assertion was “questionable,” and that he has “not yet seen the numbers” to back up the audit’s conclusion. “If we are wrong, tell us, show us where we’re wrong,” he said to the board.
Peralta Federation of Teachers President Jennifer Shanoski said the PFT is also concerned about the district’s handling of Measure B funds. “We would like to see an immediate return of funds to instruction,” she said, adding that parcel tax money hasn’t been properly spent at the Peralta colleges and has been used to “grow the administration” of the district instead of bolstering adjunct salaries or educational spending.
A recent leaflet from PCCD Chancellor Jowel Laguerre states that the district uses Measure B funds to “increase programs, the number of faculty on our campuses, job and career preparation, and student success.” The pamphlet does not provide specific data on which programs Measure B supports.
In an email to the Tower, Chancellor Laguerre reaffirmed that last spring’s audit found that the funds were “used properly.” He added that he had suggested an additional, internal advisory committee to help with the district’s budget decisions.
“I am pleased that we are moving toward a resolution of this issue as it has created unnecessary angst and has detracted from the collective work we need to do, that is, to improve opportunities for student success,” he said.
Brian Howey is co-editor-in-chief of the Laney Tower.