School Board Approves 2014-15 Budget, Teacher Contract - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

School Board Approves 2014-15 Budget, Teacher Contract

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Posted: Friday, July 4, 2014 7:59 am

Historically the last school board meeting of the academic year, in this case the one held June 26, 2014, has lasted less than 10 minutes. Typically the session is called to ratify the school district’s budget based on the latest budget numbers emanating from the California Legislature. However, these are different financial times and the last meeting of FY 2013-14 ran for nearly four hours in length, and was devoted almost exclusively to budgetary matters.

When considering the school district’s budget, what you are really talking about are financial commitments over a three-year period of time. The Coronado Unified School District, like all of the other school districts in the state, must affirm that they have sufficient funds to operate for the current year, plus two additional years, while maintaining a three percent cash operating reserve.

So while the district’s 2014-15 budget was eventually approved at the June 26 meeting, the board also had to take preliminary action on both the 2015-16 budget and the 2016-17 budget. Essentially the question facing the board was, ‘Do we cut now or cut later?’

Trustee Bruce Shepherd introduced a resolution that would address the district’s budget deficit by immediately cutting funds starting with the FY 2014-15 budget. Shepherd said of his proposal, “I continue to disagree with the philosophy underpinning the budget. We learned at the ballot box the community is saying we should live within our means. Absent the ballot box, our objective is to get to a balanced budget. We shouldn’t be running a deficit budget.”

CUSD operated at a net loss of $1.5 million in FY 2013-14, with the deficit covered by cash reserves on hand. In FY 2014-15 the district is estimated to operate at a $600,000 deficit with unassigned reserves dipping to $1.4 million at the conclusion of the coming year.

Shepherd’s resolution provided a preview of the types of decisions the CUSD Governing Board will have to face in the future. “I would cap the cuts (for FY 2014-15) at the $1.7 million initially proposed and not expand to $2.16 million. (The latter amount was recommended by the district’s principals for the coming year.) I would continue with the same number of student days, five furlough days (teachers and staff) and pocket that amount to close the gap by $450,000 or $500,000. I also would propose cutting the transportation budget from Silver Strand and use that $70,000 to keep two of the four ASE (Academic Support and Enrichment Program) teachers.”

Trustee Maria Simon agreed in principle with Shepherd and seconded his motion for discussion purposes. “I think there is merit with what Bruce is saying; that we should live within our means, which are very meager. We have our backs against the wall timing-wise. At this point, in two months’ time, we can’t ask our parents how they are going to get their kids to school.”

Shepherd’s resolution outlining immediate budget cuts was ultimately defeated 4-1 with Shepherd casting the lone vote in favor.

That brought the Board back to the original FY 2014-15 budget proposal, which would operate at a $600,000 deficit. Simon said, “I don’t think we have made enough cuts. Agreements (with the teachers’ union) were made in good faith. The day after this is done (the budget is passed), every single thing and person is on the table. I don’t believe we have done enough, we have just run out of time.”

Going forward District Superintendent Dr. Jeff Felix and Asst. Superintendent of Business Services Dr. Keith Butler recommended cuts of $1.1 million for the FY 2015-16 budget and $2 million for FY 2016-17. The Board questioned that approach and instead opted to institute $1.7 million in ongoing cuts for FY 2015-16. Since the cuts are ongoing, they would carry over to FY 2016-17 as well. In theory at least, the cuts would keep the district’s modest reserves intact from FY 2015-16 going forward.

Before the vote was taken to make the $1.7 million in ongoing cuts for FY 2015-16 and 2016-17, Felix said, “I just have a question. On behalf of the children in Coronado, ‘Why are you hurting me more than you need to?’ There was a palpable pause after which Board President Dawn Ovrom said in part, “I don’t think that’s fair. I think we are all here to support the children in Coronado. In order to make sure that education is the absolute best it can be and to remain solvent, we have to balance our budget.”

Simon added, “I agree. I don’t think that was a fair question. I think we have a fiduciary responsibility and that is the oath we took. And delaying it by one school year is all we are going to do. It’s going to be even worse the following year. For you to suggest that we out here hurting kids, we have kids in school, I think it’s unfair. I think we’re doing the best we can, given the circumstances that we were dealt by Sacramento. I resent that comment.” Trustee Brenda Kracht said, “I would appreciate it if you would subtract that comment, too.”

Trustee Ledyard Hakes decided to vote against the cuts, saying, “I’m going to vote ‘no’ to say it doesn’t give us the latitude to make changes.” The future ongoing $1.7 million in cuts passed 4-1 with Hakes casting the lone vote against the motion.

The Board then moved to a discussion of approving the tentative contract agreement between the district and the Association of Coronado Teachers. The vote was split into two motions, with Shepherd requesting that a vote on contract elements 1-3 and 5-8 be taken together, with a separate vote on element No. 4 dealing with the teacher work schedule of 180 student days, one professional development day and four teacher work days. The vote on contract elements Nos. 1-3 and 5-8 passed 5-0. The vote on contract element No. 4, which did not include the furlough days Shepherd recommended, passed 4-1 with Shepherd voting against the motion.

Part of the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which reduces the amount of funding the Coronado Unified School District will receive going forward, is a requirement for school districts to provide accountability for where LCFF funds are being spent. This is accomplished via a new concept entitled the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Think of the LCAP as the world’s most detailed three-year plan. The board passed the plan for delivery to the state by a 5-0 vote.

That vote was followed by a series of three project requests that met with considerable scrutiny from the board. The first was a request by CHS Principal Jenny Moore for the purchase of 250 textbooks for the school’s AP World History class, which is a course taken primarily by freshmen and sophomores. The texts, which come with six-year digital licenses to access the materials on-line, cost $126 each.

Moore said the current textbooks cover the period through the end of the Cold War (a date which varies from between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to 1991) and are therefore more than 20 years out of date. Moore’s original request for 400 history books made at the June 12 Board meeting was tabled. The estimated cost of the revised number of 250 textbooks comes to $31,500. Payment for the books would come from a Textbook Flex Fund which contains $592,047.

Hakes voted against the proposal commenting, “I feel it is premature. I don’t think we went through the right process and we don’t know where it fits into the total textbook environment. I’m going to say ‘no’ due to those reasons.” The vote was 4-1 to approve the expenditure.

After considerable discussion, the Board voted 4-1 to table a motion calling for an expenditure of $200,000 at Palm Academy as part of a pilot project to upgrade security throughout the district. Simon voted against the motion because she was against the project and didn’t want it brought back in April 2015.

A staff request to spend $155,000 on concrete and railing repair at the Coronado High School Stadium (Niedermeyer Field) was turned down by a 4-1 vote, with Ovrom voting in favor of the repairs. Felix said the staff would, “Investigate something and bring it to you as soon as possible.”

The final staff request considered by the Board was an expenditure of $81,657 for a lock retrofit of all district-wide facilities. Butler noted the past lack of internal control of the keys and also that the current key system is no longer patented, meaning keys can be duplicated by individuals, as reasons for the request. The vote to approve the expenditure was 3-2 with Ovrom, Simon and Shepherd voting in the affirmative. Kracht and Hakes voted against the motion.

Just prior to adjourning the session, the Board decided to place the concept of the creation of a Facility Oversight Committee on a future agenda. Hakes, who proposed the concept said, “The committee will be limited in scope and bring outside skills into the district.”

The next meeting of the CUSD Board of Trustees is set for Thursday, August 21, 2014, at 4:30 p.m. CUSD Board meetings are held at the District’s Office located at 201 Sixth Street in Coronado.

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