Foster City continues to face pre-existing, perpetual and newly revealed challenges. This has been ongoing and by nature are part of growth and prosperity. These issues include the structural deficit in our Budget and our overcrowded schools. In both cases, these issues were foreseeable and anticipated. Each has been addressed in differing ways and utilized different methods of analysis and potential resolution.
The ability to create a solution is based upon a number of interconnected factors and variables. While it is no small task to create any solution, it is often challenging and in some cases, improbable that any one solution can be enacted or will in fact solve a particular problem. In the case of a complex problem, the sheer number of interdependent deliverables can make the implementation and realization of a solution challenging or unattainable. I would like to offer my insight regarding both of these challenges and the proffered solutions.
Our City has enjoyed great prosperity based upon a number of unique circumstances. In more prosperous times, the City was able to manage its resources to create and maintain our current quality of life. The hard fact is that we must now find additional financial resources or reduce our current expenditures to balance our budget. If we cannot or will not, we will continue to deplete our capital reserves to the detriment of our city and its families. Since this is not an option, the Council and City Staff have undertaken an aggressive course to balance the budget within certain parameters. This included several rounds of review by City Staff. They were tasked to reduce their expenditures while maintaining the high levels of service our residents expect. I believe that our managers have employed their best efforts to meet the seemingly diametrically opposed goals of less expenditures and status quo of service.
However the task is not complete, this year we must find even more savings or face additional cuts that are likely to affect our quality of life. In our upcoming meetings, we will present a number of alternatives which will address the deficit and will offer viable solutions. There is no doubt that we will see this task through this year and enact one of these solutions to solve this problem. This is in our control as policy makers and it is a duty that we owe our residents.
This year the San Mateo Foster City School District under the direction of Dr. Simms offered the first ray of sunshine and hope for the overcrowded schools of our City. They employed a broad-based approach of review that encouraged participation and input from various stakeholders. After this review the SCORE committee offered a solution that gained the most support amongst its group.
The process was a welcome relief to the past practices of administrations past. There is no doubt it was inclusive and transparent. The process allowed the sharing of ideas both old and new as well as those previous discounted as unattainable or improbable.
The next question is whether the group was able to create a solution that could attain critical mass. Simply stated, would there be enough buy-in from the various stakeholders to support the pro-offered solution. Now this serious question creates the first series of potential problems. The majority of stakeholders, who are residents in the district, will have to buy into the solution and be willing to float a substantial bond measure to fund the solution. Whether or not this critical mass can be obtained is yet to be seen. There are many parents who are not enamored with this solution and feel it will create a campus with too many children sharing too few resources.
The school board decided that this was not the proper timing to put this question before the voters. The timing of placement for a bond issue on the November ballot would not allow for adequate planning, education or the building of public support. This opinion is well-reasoned and responsible to the political reality with which the school board is confronted.
It is important that we as residents stay vigilant and focused on this possible solution. The creation of a solution is not the end-game. It is in fact, just a starting a point. The best solution unimplemented is no better than no solution at all. The better news is that additional time will allow the school board and its staff to evaluate the suggested solution and consider ways to ensure that it can be effectively implemented and be seen thru to fruition. Moreover, new opportunities may arise that will affect the proposed solution or may create new pathways to solve this problem.
In closing, I do not offer any judgment of the solution but merely speak to the importance of timing and follow-through. There is no doubt that an additional year will pass before the possibility of the solution is even considered. Our schools will remain crowded and it is highly likely that children currently enrolled in our elementary schools will not see that solution implemented. The good news is that the process is underway and has positive and productive. In the case of our city’s budget, we as policy makers can the end in sight and with regard to the schools we must remain vigilant and ever diligent in our efforts to see it completed.