Should the spend federal stimulus funds during a time when its financial outlook hinges on the extension of special taxes that would lessen the amount of cuts it must make to balance its budget?
That was the question in play during an intense special meeting of the Board of Education held inside the chambers of the . Last night’s debate centered on the inclusion of Ed Jobs funding in the amount of $739,000 into the budget.
The school board directed its chief business official, Cecile Nunley, to construct two versions of a budget, one with the Ed Jobs funding included, one without it. In addition, both of the budgets Nunley is to present to the board will exclude a 2 percent reduction in salaries as originally included in the budget she prepared Thursday.
During the mid-May Revision of the governor’s budget, the governor will get an update on where his budget stands and may change things. Once this happens, the school district is expected to make minor revisions to its budget as well.
“He may know exactly what the state revenues are,” Nunley said. “He many know other pieces of information, he has more information than he did in January (come mid May). And because he has more information he typically makes revisions to the budget.”
Most of the Ed Jobs money would be used to fund 8.5 (full-time employee) instructional assistants in every kindergarten and first-grade classroom along with three physical education teachers for each of the district’s elementary schools. The funding would last for about 18 months, with an approximate yearly expenditure of $263,500 for the assistants and $180,000 for the PE teachers.
This was the recommendation that the Dixon Teacher’s Association and SEIU made to the board in order to enhance the level of service to students, restore the public’s confidence in the district and make things less stressful for teachers.
Theresa Loarca, a first-grade teacher at l, told the board that most of the physical education sessions at Anderson turn into an “extended recess” as the student-teacher ratio is about one teacher to 100 students.
“We are running on a skeleton crew,” she told the board. “We are doing more with less.”
Another teacher, Penny Dwyer at , told the board that it’s difficult to run her kindergarten class without help. She said the student-to-teacher ratio is at 30-1.
But at least two members of the board – Herb Cross and Jim Ernst – were not willing to commit to spending the Ed Jobs funding and said it would put the district in a difficult position should the tax extension not be placed on a ballot and voted in favor of by the public.
“If we spend more money than we have, we increase the amount of deficit spending,” Cross said. “We put this district in line for a negative certification and state takeover.”
“This is not an issue of the value of the program, this is a question of how this district manages its financial state,” Ernst said. “It’s clearly that. We don’t want to be the ones to say we spent money we don’t have.”
But board members John Gabby, Irina Okhremtchouk and Gil Pinon refuted their colleague’s claims.
“We still are going to have a very healthy reserve,” Okhremtchouk said.
“We are going to put more kids in our classrooms, so you aren’t going to get a quality education,” Gabby said.
The school district is bracing for a scenario in which the tax extensions do not go through and the exposure for K-12 schools is a drop in the Proposition 98 guarantee of $2 billion to $47.3 billion. This would amount to a $330 cut in Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding per student. It is the scenario that Solano County has directed all districts within the county to prepare for.
A best-case scenario has the tax extension go through and a planned cut of $19 in ADA funding per students. A worst-case scenario envisions the tax extension failing to make it on the ballot or failing at the ballot altogether and assumes no suspension of Prop 98 funds. The result could be losing $620 per ADA.
“We are told it could be $620 or higher,” said Nunley, adding that it could be a cut of up to $1,000 per ADA.
To help the district save some money, the Dixon Teachers Association Co-presidents Amy Circo and Julie Felkins gave the board several suggestions, with the input from Budget Advisory Committee and DTA membership.
Those included the elimination of Superintendent Roger Halberg’s Annual Transportation Allowance for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years; a freezing of Halberg’s annual 3.2 percent annual salary increase for those same years; a renegotiation of Halberg’s contract; five furlough days for certificated and classified management staff for 2011-2012; elimination of attendance vice-principal at Dixon High and many other suggestions.
For now the district must attempt to adopt a budget that is fiscally sound and takes into account the changes in funding that will come from the state.