CUSD Board Meets And Approves Interim Budget That Anticipates A Higher Structural Deficit - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

CUSD Board Meets And Approves Interim Budget That Anticipates A Higher Structural Deficit

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Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2019 9:47 am

The Coronado Unified School Board (CUSD) held its regular meeting on Thursday to consider, among other items, its first interim budget of the current school year. The original budget, which was approved prior to the start of the school year, included a structural deficit of approximately one million dollars. At that rate, the district was expecting to manage itself through the use of Fund 40 reserves until the time that it would be expected to get back to basic aid status, whereby the district would have higher ongoing revenues. Unfortunately, the budget presented last week indicated a revised deficit of approximately 2 million dollars, meaning that managing the budget has become a more serious endeavor.

The meeting commenced with Trustee Valdes-Clayton absent, but having sent a proxy for her votes on the two items that required votes: the Consolidated Motion for Consent Calendar and Certification of the Interim Budget.

Prior to board items, several individuals from the audience spoke. Jean-Marie Bond, President of the Coronado Schools Foundation, thanked members of the public for their contributions on “Giving Tuesday,” which totaled over $5,000.

Coronado High School (CHS) Assistant Principal, Tim Hopper, and history teacher, Casey Tanaka, both spoke about the flood that happened in the 500 Building on the final weekend of Thanksgiving break. As a result of the damage, several classrooms were moved to other temporary locations. Tanaka came to praise the process of moving the classrooms and beginning the repairs, calling it “flawless.” Hopper also came to thank the displaced teachers as well as everyone who has helped in the process. The work of repairing the classrooms is well under way and, according to board President Lee Pontes, is expected to be completed prior to the end of the winter break.

A final important speaker came from the Association of Coronado Teachers (ACT), CHS science teacher, Amanda Vanasse. Vanasse came to highlight the items that the ACT would like to open for discussion during the upcoming renegotiation of the certificated teaching contract. The items include hours/duties, salary, and class size, among others.

Several reports were presented to the board, among them the annual report from Coronado Middle School (CMS). Principal Karin Mellina and Assistant Principal Brooke Falar, presented on three new initiatives that have been implemented in the current school year: the new bell schedule (including a later start time and somewhat shorter class periods); the addition of “Triton Time”/advisory period four times per week; and the creation of an “innovation lab.”

According to their report, all three initiatives have been well received – particularly the later start time of 8:20, to which 100% of faculty surveyed responded favorably.

The bulk of the report concerned the creation of a new “innovation lab,” which is meant to be a space for kids to “challenge themselves using a design thinking approach.” CMS hired a new teacher, Laurie Narmore, who has built “i-labs” out in other districts in the county and she has been working with faculty and staff to create the new lab which will be used for co-teaching beginning in January of 2020.

The two voting items – the Consolidated Motion for Consent Calendar and Certification of the Interim Budget – were approved unanimously. Pontes noted several items of interest on the consent calendar, including a $51,000 payment for window tinting for CMS and CHS as part of the CASLE Committee’s endeavor to improve the temperature of the classrooms. He also noted the emergency waiver for contracting services related to the CHS 500 Building flood.

Perhaps the most significant decision-making of the evening was the decision to certify the first interim budget of the school year. The initial budget was adopted in June based on projections at that time. But CUSD Superintendent Karl Mueller, who presented in Assistant Superintendent Donnie Salamanca’s absence, said that there had been significant changes since that time. These included an unanticipated increase in revenues partly as a result of increased enrollment at Silver Strand Elementary and higher “unduplicated” pupils than in the past. But there were also unanticipated increases in expenditures. Among them were increased special education costs. Unfortunately, the increases in expenditures outpaced the increases in revenues, resulting in a now expected structural deficit of about $2 million – thereby increasing the originally anticipated $1 million deficit by nearly a doubling.

The overall discussion of the budget indicated concern among the trustees. Mueller pointed out that there are “unanticipated costs (as a public school) and a requirement to meet special needs.”

Trustee Maria Simon agreed, saying, “You can’t – you don’t know what special education costs will be and you can’t control a large portion of the costs.” She also added, “It will be important for the community to know where we are,” as teacher negotiations begin in the spring.

Pontes sounded frustrated: “In six months to have this much of a change from the interim doesn’t give me a lot of confidence … I don’t know if we need to be more conservative in our projections … We have to approve it and send it on … but the numbers point in the wrong direction.”

Mueller indicated ways in which the district will continue to carefully manage the budget – 2020 rental rate increases, early retirement notifications, etc. – and said: “We are hopeful that the next interim report will bring additional information.”

The vote in favor was unanimous.

The board will hold its next regular meeting in January.

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