Board awaits state budget numbers
By Misty Volaski
At Tuesday night’s Ojai Unified School District board meeting, superintendent Hank Bangser presented the 2010-2011 Preliminary Budget No. 2 to the board, with some unexpected but necessary increases in expenditures.
Dannielle Pusatere, OUSD assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, explained that the rates for the OUSD health plan increased 12 percent over last year. The district, said Bangser, has planned on 6 percent. OUSD was also not expecting six additional teachers to retire this year, meaning they needed to find additional funds to cover retirement-related costs. Those two expenditures alone totaled almost $200,000. Coupled with an almost 20 percent decrease in the amount of money the district gets per student per day, the district suddenly had a large chunk of money to make up.
To make up that difference, “We found almost $100,000 in projected savings,” said Bangser, “non-personnel savings.” But that still meant the loss of almost all the unappropriated funds. OUSD will take another look at the budget at the next meeting, and by law must have a budget ready by June 30. The state will almost certainly not have their budget ready by that time —- probably not till “July, August, or even September,” said Bangser. Once that budget comes in, OUSD may receive more bad news and have to create even more cuts.
One way OUSD is looking at reining things in would be to refuse acceptance of any new students. With class sizes nearing maximum capacity, he said, a few students transferring in to, say, third grade at San Antonio Elementary could force the district to hire additional teachers, something it cannot afford. “We will look at enrollment in August and see whether there are some openings.”
On a brighter note, the board announced that it is going forward with the re-roofing for Mira Monte Elementary School and Matilija Junior High. Funds for these projects have been categorized as deferred maintenance funds and will not hurt the proposed 2010-2011 budget.
The board also formally recognized this year’s OUSD retirees: Patricia Atkinson (11 years); Marty Babayco, (21 years); Linda Bell, (27 years); Karen Courington, (21 years); Cathy Maynard, (21 years); Joanne McFerron, (13 years); Nancy Roelle (four years); and Jule Wichman, (38 years).
After a short break for cake and mingling, the board jumped into a hot-button topic: the height of the fence that will surround the new Ojai Skate Park.
Said Bangser, “The 8-foot fence has been included in the plans since November, but only in the last few weeks has it become an issue.”
City manager Jere Kersnar, who attended the meeting, said the fence would be 8 feet high and made of tubular steel. Although it is expensive, around $45,000, Kersnar said it would be durable and not need much maintenance.
For now, he asked that the school board defer making a decision to either lower their height request or reaffirm their request for an 8-foot fence — at least until he and his staff could further research materials and similar parks.
However several community members offered alternatives and voiced frustrations with the proposed height. As a group, they praised the idea of the fence sliding open during park hours, but said an 8-foot fence is unnecessary.
People asked about lowering the height — “It would make them feel like caged animals” said Dusty Fernandez — and whether the savings from the lower fence could be put toward motion sensors and security cameras. “An 8-foot fence is a challenge, not a detractor,” said Stan Green. Deterrents — like security cameras — “are better than a barrier.”
The board agreed with Kersnar and decided to table the subject until the OUSD Skate Park Committee could learn more from Kersnar and staff.