In wake of Measure P’s narrow defeat, some in community getting organized
By Sondra Murphy
Like others in this community who voted in favor of Measure P in November, Sara Beeby was disappointed by its failure. The measure, also known as the parcel tax, sought to garner $89 annually for seven years from parcels in the Ojai Unified School District boundaries for the financially struggling district.
A two-thirds majority fell less than 1 percent shy of the 66.67-percent margin needed for the measure to have passed, or just 77 votes. Tim Baird, OUSD superintendent, estimated the measure could have generated about $600,000 per year during its seven-year span.
But 7,140 people voted in favor of the measure and those are the ones Beeby is challenging to put their money where their votes are.
Beeby is urging everyone who supported the parcel tax to send a donation to OUSD. “Any amount is acceptable and most appreciated,” said Beeby. If each person who voted in support of Measure P sent OUSD $89, it would total more than $635,000. Beeby expected that not all supporters would be able to afford that amount, but hopes others might be able to send more than $89. Beeby and husband, Bob, sent their donation in December.
Beeby said her campaign is supplementary to ongoing efforts by the Ojai Education Foundation, which perpetually endeavors to support public education by raising funds for specific programs that benefit OUSD students.
Some of the items being considered for cuts by the OUSD board include athletics, class size reduction, counseling, custodial support, elementary physical education, intervention classes, librarians, music, school material budgets, technology staff, textbooks, transportation, as well as certain secondary electives not yet determined. The board will also revisit class size increases across all grade levels, salary rollbacks and school closures.
Those watching the School District’s struggles during the past several years will recognize on that list departments and programs which have taken repeated hits as declining student populations have combined with state budget crises and unsupported federal mandates to near-lethal results.
Many California school districts have already succumbed to the financial disaster and are in various processes of state takeover, such as in King City.
For the first time in its history, Ojai Unified School District filed a qualified budget report in December and projected that it may not be able to meet its financial obligations in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years. School district administrators are required to submit two reports to the governing board each fiscal year, the first covering the financial and budgetary status of the district for the period ending Oct. 31.
Reports are then either certified as positive, qualified or negative. Qualified certifications may pertain to the current year and/or the subsequent two years. In the case of OUSD, its dwindling cash reserves are also impacting the certification status.
In preparing its interim report for the governing board, Dannielle Pusatere, OUSD assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, determined that, based on financial projections from the state of California, the school district may not be able to sustain any more deficits and remain fiscally solvent. The district is closely following efforts to rescue the state budget in hopes of some good news for schools.
In January, Baird announced anticipated reductions of $800,000 for midyear, a reduction of $1.6 million to $2.4 million for the 2009-2010 school year, and at least another additional $800,000 in 2010-2011.
Donations made to OUSD are tax deductible and donors may designate which programs they want their money to help support. “We have actually received more than $1,200 in donations so far,” said Pusatere. “I’m calling it the ‘We lost the parcel tax’ fund.”
For more information, contact Andrea Pendleton, OUSD executive assistant to the superintendent, at 640-4300, Ext. 3. Donations may be sent to OUSD, P.O. Box 878, Ojai, CA 93024.