June 6, 2013
Misty Volaski, firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time in several years, the Ojai Unified School District (OUSD) received good news on the financial front.
According to OUSD Superintendent Hank Bangser and Assistant Superintendent Danni Pusatere, the word in Sacramento is that the distict may be getting a substantial funding increase for the 2013-2014 school year — upwards of $230,000 or more than last year.
That’s thanks in part to the passage of Proposition 30, passed by California voters last fall to fund schools; but it’s also thanks to state revenues being higher than Gov. Jerry Brown and his staff had anticipated.
“We’re past zero,” Bangser said. “We actually have a fund balance! … It appears we will get some more money than what the governor was projecting.”
Pusatere explained that the district arrived at that $230,000 number based on extensive number crunching and new information from consultants. However, she cautioned, “Everything we’re hearing is, ‘Well, we’re not sure (of the amount) yet.’”
Nothing will be finalized, Bangser noted, until Brown signs the state budget at the end of the month. But OUSD administrators remain hopeful.
“I don’t think it’ll be $230,000, and it won’t be $500,000, but it could be $350,000,” Bangser said.
The big question now becomes where should the OUSD put the windfall?
In the last five years, the OUSD has had to lay off teachers, support staff and other employees; reduce the number of days in the school year from 180 to 175; reduce pay for all OUSD employees through furlough days; increase the number of students in each classroom; shrink its “rainy day” fund by more than half; and eliminate many class offerings entirely, among other things.
But the first thing Bangser and Pusatere recommended the OUSD board do is to “buy back” furlough days — at least two, maybe three, depending on the amount they receive.
To run the OUSD, it costs roughly $75,000 per day, according to Bangser.
“We’re not asking you to do anything tonight,” Bangser told the board at it’s meeting Tuesday. “We’re getting your reaction … (to) the idea of spending $150,000 — some fund balance — to buy back two furlough days.”
One furlough day would have classes in session, the other would be a staff development day.
Currently, teachers receive eight furlough days, while support staff, including secretaries, janitors, cafeteria workers, etc.) receive nine, administrators 10 and Bangser 12.
Board member Pauline Mercado asked Bangser why Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) has been able to buy back all of its 10 furlough days from teachers, “and we’re only able to do two?” Bangser explained three primary reasons why the much-larger VUSD may end up doing so: the district sold $30 million worth of property, the city passed a parcel tax to supplement VUSD coffers, and they haven’t suffered declining enrollment as Ojai has.
Board member Thayne Whipple asked whether flexibility could be worked into negotiations with the certificated (teacher) and classified (support staff), as a contingency plan in case the funding from Sacramento doesn’t come in as projected. “My sense is, I wanna do that (buy back furlough days) … But it seems like we need some flexibility,” Whipple said. Pusatere and Bangser reassured him that would be the case.
The OUSD will soon meet with the unions, and administrators will ask the board to make a decision on what to do with the surplus funds — however much it ends up being — at the June 25 OUSD board meeting.