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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

School District Staff Has More Bad News in the Latest Budgetary Update

• Tax Extensions Are Key Element

BY JULIE FULMER WALLACH

Jan Maez, assistant superintendent and chief financial officer for the district, delivered a bleak report of budget predictions at last week’s board of education meeting.
Maez said, “At this point, the possibility of having the tax extensions on the June ballot is now very remote.” She explained that there are two potential scenarios in losses to the ADA, or average daily attendance, an amount given to schools based on number of students attending districtwide.
One possibility is that the district will lose $350 per student, or $3.6 million per year. In order to save $2,816,250 of those funds, Maez discussed eliminating programs that were able to stay in place last year from “Save Our Schools” funds. These include teaching positions, elementary school class size ratios, music and arts programs, reading specialists, library services, and restoring school counselor layoffs.
She emphasized, “I’m not suggesting that we cut these things. Before any decisions are made, we’ll need a lot more detail.”
Furlough days require union approval, as does a freeze on step increases in teachers’ salaries. Without factoring these cuts, the district is looking at a $7.8 million shortfall by the end of the 2012-13 school year.
Maez spread out cuts over the next two years with options to implement some changes by the coming academic year, allowing for flexibility in changes to furlough days within the coming two years. She said, “By making $7.8 million in cuts over the coming two years, the balance will stay positive.”
An extra $300 per ADA was added to the second scenario for a total of $650 per ADA. The amount is an educated guess, according to Maez, based on losing $1 million per $100 factored into the scenario.
She said, “In the second scenario, we don’t have sufficient numbers in the third year to have a positive fund balance. We’re negative in 2013-14, and it will just get worse.”
There has been discussion of tax extensions not requiring a new tax measure passed by the voters. According to Ben Allen, “It is my understanding that there is a strong legal argument that the governor could go ahead and extend the current taxes with a majority vote of the legislature (not two-thirds) if he does it before the taxes expire at the end of June. But this would just be an extension of existing taxes, not the creation of new taxes.
“The governor has worked like crazy to make a deal work with the Republicans but has failed, and I think that he could in good faith say that he tried everything to make it work and that his other campaign pledges to preserve, protect, and invest in public education were just as important as his pledge relating to a popular vote on revenues.”

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