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News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Economy begins to turn around for Los Altos School District


Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo

Los Altos School District officials are reviewing the costs associated with introducing the full-day kindergarten program, currently offered at Gardner Bullis School, above, at all district schools.

Los Altos School District officials are preparing for the possibility of sunnier days ahead, financially speaking.

Rising property-tax projections and the passage of Proposition 30 may freeze any additional educational cuts, providing a spark of optimism after years of budget tightening.

Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services, informed the Board of Trustees of potential uses for excess funds, should they begin to trickle in.

“We need to be looking at our current and future obligations and commitments and make sure we begin setting aside funds to meet these commitments and obligations before we start making any new expenditures,” he said.

Spending decisions usually involve a balancing act among competing items in order to provide the “best result,” he added.

Kenyon advised the board to consider retiree health benefits, employee compensation, debt reduction, assets preservation and the expiration of the district’s six-year parcel tax in 2017.

He said it is also important to factor in potential “landmines” such as state budget cuts, pension system funding, possible repeal of flexibility provisions in the state budget and changes in the state funding system.

Prioritizing programs

Trustees identified which programs they wanted to examine for reinstatement down the line – PTA relief, Los Altos Educational Foundation (LAEF) relief, capital needs, employee compensation, increased technology specialist time on campuses and a full-time kindergarten program.

At the Jan. 25 board meeting, Kenyon itemized estimated funding for the programs, including priorities, target costs and timelines for potential goals. Specifics will be discussed at a later date.

• Currently the local PTAs provide nearly $600,000 of the district’s annual budget. The trustees expressed interest in relieving that burden. Kenyon proposed the goal of reducing the PTAs’ contribution to $100,000 by the 2015-2016 school year.

“That will give them the chance at the local level to fund the programs they want to fund,” he said.

• Kenyon shared that LAEF officials have indicated that they would like to decrease their contribution for K-3 classroom-size reduction. The group currently provides $900,000 annually for this purpose.

“This is just a start to the discussion,” he said. “This would allow them to focus most of their fundraising on program enrichment.”

• Trustees also expressed a desire to increase employee compensation to keep pace with inflation. Kenyon said it is difficult to plan ahead in that area, because employee contributions are subject to collective bargaining. He added that an across-the-board increase of 1 percent would cost the district approximately $300,000 annually.

• Another major area that should be addressed is facilities upkeep, Kenyon said. He suggested setting aside approximately $200,000 a year for major maintenance or replacement of facilities.

“Funds are needed to preserve assets and extend useful lives,” he said.

Another facilities goal would be to earmark funds for new portables, Kenyon added. In the past, new-developer fees covered the costs, but recently those fees have proven insufficient. He said the board should consider allocating $300,000 annually for new portables.

• Kenyon said it is a “high priority” of teachers and principals to increase the time technology specialists spend at each school. He recommended upping their time to 30 hours per week at each campus. The board could integrate the specialists’ salaries, approximately $105,000 for this year, in the current year’s budget.

• The trustees inquired about the cost of introducing a full-day kindergarten program in all district schools. Currently, the district offers the program for all schools at one location, Gardner Bullis School.

If the board implements the roll out by the 2014-2015 school year, it would be a one-time cost of $350,000 for additional facilities and an ongoing cost of $230,000 annually for additional staff, Kenyon reported.

Kenyon said the total cost of all the suggested items – PTA relief, LAEF relief, capital needs, employee compensation, increased technology specialist time on campuses and full-time kindergarten program – could run $15 million through 2018. He emphasized that he offered the information for the purpose of encouraging the board to weigh the importance of each goal against its financials impact.

“I want you to begin discussing priorities,” Kenyon told the trustees. “We are going to start planning for next year, and you should consider this information.”

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