Thursday, April 24, 2008

OUSD Closing In On Budget Decisions

Board still has $555,000 to go

By Sondra Murphy
It was another evening of unwelcome choices for the Ojai Unified School District board of directors Tuesday at Matilija Junior High Auditorium.
To date the board has reduced expenditures by $1,387,000 from its approximately $25 million budget. Needed cuts total $1,943,055.
Personnel reductions of five full-time staff members, as well as in management and support services, secretarial, maintenance, grounds, custodial, warehouse, nutrition and the high school career counselor make up the bulk of these cuts. Hourly reductions for elementary library technicians, high school athletics and activities directors, plus changes in the nutrition program, strict adherence to transportation boundaries, and site cuts of 10 percent to all departments make up the rest of the $1,032,000 agreed to by the board at the April 1 meeting.
An additional $355,000 in cuts and new revenue sources was agreed upon Tuesday. School secretarial support, implementations in the green plan, donations from the Save Ojai Schools campaign, increases in facilities use fees and a freeze on all expenditures for the rest of this school year account for that number.
The combination leaves a remainder of $555,055 to be cut by the June 3 meeting in order for the board to submit a balanced budget to the county by its deadline. Still under consideration are elementary physical education and a plan to increase Nordhoff food sales, but these would only save another $147,000. Leasing the downtown district office site for business development is also on the list as a possible long-term solution.
A citizenship incentive has been under development to make Nordhoff High School a closed campus, with juniors and seniors eligible to earn off-campus lunch passes based on several criteria. A fiscal advantage to this proposal is the potential for increased food sales at the high school. The board requested a detailed presentation of this proposal by high school staff at its next meeting.
Changes in site schedules are also being looked at for prospective savings at elementary campuses as it pertains to elementary P.E., which affects teacher preparation opportunities. Member Pauline Mercado voiced hesitation about the proposal saying, “The detail I would like to see is the day-by-day schedule mapped out … I would like some reaction from the teacher’s union, as well.”
Superintendent Tim Baird requested that the board wait on decisions impacting K-through-eight class size reductions or about closing any elementary school pending fund-raising efforts by the Ojai Education Foundation and the SOS campaign.
The proactive community involvement, including Sunday’s rally at the district office, brought fewer speakers to the meeting as a greater understanding of the budget prioritization process has been achieved. “I want to congratulate Summit School parents for their restricted donation of $30,000 for the running and maintaining of Summit Elementary,” said Baird.
District administrators have determined that another $300,000 is still needed to avoid closing a larger elementary school and PTAs and PTOs are working closely with school staff and OEF to raise that amount.
The board officially joined the SOS campaign, which allows it to accept donations procured for OUSD schools. A donation account will be established in which to collect the funds. How donated money will be used all depends on the amount raised. SOS participants are hopeful that enough will be raised to keep all elementary schools in operation, but if the funds fall short, the money will be channeled into other categories.
The next OUSD board meeting is scheduled for May 6 at 6 p.m. in the Matilija Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Road. Due to delays by the state in producing its anticipated May budget revision, the May 13 OUSD board meeting was rescheduled to May 27 at 6 p.m. Its location is still to be determined. This gives administration a chance to study any changes by Gov. Schwarzenegger and adjust numbers, if necessary, before the board reconvenes.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to see State government cut some fat before it takes money away from public schools. Is the State of California governmental infrastructure doing everything it possibly can to rein in the daily cost of operation? Probably not.

Anonymous said...

On the Ojai Post blog, someone asked this question, and I think it's worth repeating here:

"Isn't that $300K figure about the same as OUSD was forced to pay in legal fees to defend that frivolous lawsuit filed against San Antonio school?"