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Monday, December 12, 2011

Guest Column: Art Hoff

The Tattler introduces guest columnist, Arthur Hoff.  
A longtime Emeryville resident, business and community leader, Art Hoff is a former president of the School District Advisory Board of Trustees and he now sits on the Planning Commission.
Mr Hoff has long concerned himself with the success of the schools in Emeryville and he has been a major philanthropist to the school district, generously giving both his time and money for the betterment of our schools.
Mr Hoff is concerned that the decision makers adjust their planning properly and be open to new iterations as the Emeryville Center of Community Life school/community center is buffeted by large Measure J bond funding perturbations in the wake of Emeryville's skidding assessed valuation.    
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The latest financial report from the Emeryville School Board indicates that the School District will have negative cash flows for the next two years, and unless we can make $1.6 million in unspecified budget cuts, we will have a negative fund balance by 2014.  This raises the question of the fiscal stability of a 750 student school district.
Many years ago, when I served on the board, conventional wisdom was that we needed a school population of 1,200 students in order to keep overhead costs is proper proportions to the total budget.   A school of 750 students was not considered financially viable.
The plan was to build an all-new 1200 student school as part of the Center for Community Life. Unfortunately, 5 years later, because of the unavailability of bond funds, the proposed new school complex will only accommodate 800 students.  We will need to wait another 5 years to bring the school to the sustainable level of 1200 students.  In view of the current economy and the financial condition of the District, can we wait that long?
Perhaps we should go in another direction: activate the [existing but abandoned] Middle School. While a 3rd campus increases overhead costs,  they should be more than offset by the additional income from the 300 students the middle school can accommodate.

Arthur Hoff
Past President, Emery Schools


  1. Finally, someone with knowledge speaks out. Mr.Hoff is right. Plus, the ECCLis a pioneering experiment, to be funded by substantial public money that we don't have. Wake up Emeryville! The State is broke; and Emeryville is looking to spend its way into the same abyss. That's OUR money. Doesn't anybody care? I would wager that none of the advocates would risk any of their own funds on such uncertain projection(s). This is not the time.

  2. I wouldn't call the Ralph Hawley site abandoned, right now that property brings in ~$500k to the district each year.
    So moving back into that site is going to be another hit to the schools funds, aside from the overhead costs.
    Running three schools at once is what killed the district. Shutting down Ralph Hawley is what saved the district the first time around. We just DO NOT have the enrollment numbers to support three schools.
    Unless the district recommits to doing community outreach with enrollment, it's all a pipe dream, ECCL, Ralph Hawley. None of it will be sustainable without enrollment numbers.

    The brackets, [ ] in Mr Hoff's piece were added by me for clarification for those who may not know about Emeryville's middle school, the Ralph Hawley campus. The claim that the middle school is abandoned is made by me, not Mr Hoff. I used the term abandoned because the school has been closed as an educational campus for the Emery School District some years ago. Now it is being rented out occasionally for other uses.

  4. I think we should really reconsider all our options in light of how much our assumptions for the ECCL are being challenged. The failure to have significant meetings on the budget short-fall constitute the worst sort of hiding our collective heads in the sand.

    Need I add that cost over-runs on public projects are the norm? Or that there is no "cushion" anymore, if every there was one?