MUSD Enrollment Continues to Decline, but Attendance is On the Upswing
Also, City Council to discuss code enforcement, homeless services, City Hall staffing and ballot measure to convert city clerk position from elected to appointed; Martinez lauded for historic district
The Martinez Unified School District Board of Trustees received a mixed report on the district’s enrollment and attendance trends at Monday’s meeting. While a multi-year decline in enrollment shows no signs of abating, the students who are enrolled in the district are showing up to school more often.
MUSD reported a preliminary enrollment figure of 3,760 students for the 2023-24 school year, representing a nearly 10% decline from the 4,159 students enrolled during the 2019-20 school year. And the projections show the decline continuing, albeit at a modest pace, in the coming years, with an anticipated enrollment of 3,694 students in the 2025-26 school year.
But on a positive note, attendance was up in the first two months of the 2023-24 school year compared with the same period last year. Average daily attendance, which is used to calculate state funding, was 3,551.69 in August and September, compared with 3,469.98 in those months last year. The overall attendance rate for 2023-24 stood at 95.6%, compared with 94% last year. The attendance jump was particularly pronounced in grades 4 through 6.
In addition to being good news for students’ education, the attendance jump is good news for the district’s budget, with a projected increase in funding of nearly $200,000 from what was budgeted in June.
Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding is based on a three-year average, so increases in attendance not only affect the current year’s budget but also those in future years, Andy Cannon, the district’s chief budget official, explained to the board.
An attendance increase of 170 students today, he said, “would have huge ramifications over the next two, three, four years going forward.”
The enrollment picture is not nearly as rosy, as it continues to fall overall despite increases in transitional kindergarten (TK) registration. Superintendent Helen Rossi said a major factor in the decline has been families moving out of state since the pandemic.
The district’s declining enrollment is not a surprise giving the declining population of the city and county as a whole in recent years, as the affordable housing crisis and lack of new housing have made it increasingly difficult for families to live here. According to population estimates from the California Department of Finance, Contra Costa County’s population fell from 1,165,927 in April 2020 to 1,147,653 as of Jan. 1, 2023; Martinez lost nearly 1,000 residents during that period, going from 37,537 to 36,543.
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City Council meetings preview
The City Council has scheduled a special study session for 6 p.m. Wednesday to discuss possible steps to “enhance the effectiveness of code enforcement” in response to comments it has received “from residents whose neighborhoods are impacted by code violations, property nuisances and vacant, fire-damaged properties.”
Increase administrative citation amounts, particularly for building and safety-related violations. It notes that some neighboring cities have fine levels at least twice as high as Martinez.
Remove the Planning Commission from the nuisance-abatement procedure and leave the role with the City Council, “which has the authority to declare public nuisance, confirm the abatement costs and order the assessment lien.” This would streamline abatement proceedings.
Add additional conditions that constitute a property nuisance, particularly in regard to vacant structures and properties.
Empower the city to withhold issuance of licenses, permits and other entitlements to a responsible party on projects, properties or applications until the nuisance is corrected.
The study session will precede the council’s regular meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. and will feature presentations and discussions on three key topics:
The work of Coordinated Outreach Referral and Engagement (CORE) services for the unhoused
The current state of staffing, ongoing recruitment and workforce development
Consideration of changing the city clerk from an elected to an appointed position through a March ballot measure.
The CORE report comes on the heels of recent complaints from downtown merchants on the impact of the unhoused on their operations. As a staff report accompanying the agenda item points out:
The barriers to resolving issues can also create distrust within the community in which residents or business owners become frustrated because (of) the lack of resolution. Additionally, a funding source to maintain the program at the current service level has not yet been identified.
CORE reported providing services to 117 unique (unduplicated) individuals and making 675 contacts during the period of July 1 to Sept. 30. The breakdown of individuals served is as follows:
43% reported that they lost their housing in Martinez
78% reported that they have roots in Martinez, having grown up here or having family or friends here:
The top three self-reported causes of homelessness of those contacted by CORE are:
1) low income
2) loss of job
3) thrown out
The county-run program says that its “north star is to transition those living outside to a stable housing destination.” During the July through September period, it provided 653 housing coordination services to 111 individuals. In a positive sign of the effectiveness of its services, the agency said that “none of the individuals that were exited from CORE this quarter returned to homeless within six months of exit.”
On the staffing front, the city reports that since the beginning of the year, it has hired 26 permanent staff members, promoted three staff members, and hired 52 seasonal employees. Of 151 budgeted and authorized positions, 126 were filled as of the writing of the staff report accompanying the agenda item. The highest number of vacancies continues to be in the Police Department. The city’s anticipated vacancy rate by the end of the year is expected to be 12%, with 18 positions remaining to be filled.
Martinez is one of only three cities in Contra Costa County — and 100 of 482 cities statewide — with an elected rather than appointed city clerk. Given “the rapid evolution of complex duties required of the position,” city staff is recommending that the City Council ask voters to convert the position to an appointed one through a ballot measure in the March 5 election. According to the staff report, Martinez’s longtime elected city clerk, Gary Hernandez, supports the change at the end of his current term in November 2024.
The agendas for both of Wednesday’s meetings, with information on how to attend remotely, can be found at the following link:
Waterfront Marina plan recommended
As expected, the Planning Commission on Tuesday recommended that the City Council approve the Waterfront Marina Trust Land Use Plan. Once the council adopts the plan at a future date, it will go to the State Lands Commission for final approval. The video of Tuesday’s Planning Commission public hearing on the plan can be viewed here: https://granicus_production_attachments.s3.amazonaws.com/martinez/10b202db7e947a52e478c8a2ed7e573d0.pdf
The draft Waterfront Marina Trust Land Use Plan can be viewed here: https://legistarweb-production.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/attachment/pdf/2243576/Attachment_A_-_Waterfront_Marina_Plan__dated_October_5__2023.pdf
Martinez makes list of top historic districts
Martinez was recently ranked by worldatlas.com among the Northern California small towns with the best historic districts. It was the only East Bay city to make the list, which also consisted of Marysville, Sonoma, Mendocino, Eureka, Crescent City, Yreka, Monterey and San Juan Bautista.
Here’s what the website had to say about Martinez’s historic district.
Less than an hour from San Francisco, you will arrive in Martinez. A must-see stop here is the John Muir National Historic Site. John Muir is often referred to as the Father of National Parks. His published works in the late 19th and early 20th century poetically advocated for the importance of experiencing and protecting nature. This led to him being a key player in the creation of Yosemite, Sequoia, Petrified Forest, Mount Rainer and Grand Canyon national parks. During your visit to Martinez, be sure to spend some time enjoying nature. Stroll through one of the over 15 public city parks including Waterfront Park, Mountain View Park, Rankin Park and Hidden Lakes Park.
Correction: Last Sunday’s post incorrectly reported the date by which the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s 0.01 standard for particulate matter is supposed to be reached, according to the Rule 6-5 amendment. The deadline is July 21, 2026.