School District Looks at Budget Assumptions, Passes Election Consolidation

In an action packed meeting Thursday night, the Davis Joint Unified School District received the first interim budget from Budget Director Bruce Colby. Despite uncertainty about the state budget, Mr. Colby reported that the school district has enough in its rainy day reserves to survive this fiscal year with no additional cuts.

“General Fund is deficit spending and has adequate rainy day reserves to maintain positive budget certification with the approved current state budget assumptions. The District budget will need to be adjusted once the state acts on revisions due to the state budget crisis.”

That is the good news for the school district. The bad news is that next year they will not be in such fortunate shape. Depending on the budget that is ultimately approved, the district is probably looking at a sizable deficit of at $1.8 million. This is entirely due to the state’s budget crisis and the prospect not only of zero COLA but the likelihood of budget cuts barring a major surprise.

Based on current budget assumptions, the district will be in the black for the three fiscal years covered by the report. The caveat is that once a new budget is passed, the assumptions will change and the district will have to adjust its budget.

One of the interesting aspects to the discussion last night over the budget is that the Governor’s budget provides more flexibility on categorical funding than the Democrat’s budget. Mr. Colby suggested that at least from the standpoint of this district, we are better off with greater categorical fund flexiblity. Board member Susan Lovenburg mentioned that the district had received a letter from Senator Gloria Romero who chairs the education committee asking the district to her know what their needs are in terms of categorical fund flexibility. The district will have Mr. Colby communicate with the legislature including our own representatives to let them know about our needs.

Board Votes Unanimously to Consolidate Elections

Richard Harris felt truly conflicted about the issue of extending his own term by one year. He understood the budget realities facing the district. The fact of the matter is that the county was going to impose much larger fees for conducting an election. He still wanted to look toward a means of compromise for his term. He expressed frustration at the meeting about the process and the fact that the County Clerk was passing along fixed costs to local jurisdictions. He also questioned the decision by the Clerk to hire a new chief deputy. Very similar to the views expressed in the Vanguard yesterday.

In the end, he did the right thing and voted to consolidate the terms even though he recognized he would earn the scorn and ridicule of a local columnist who had previously given him an “A” for standing against such a move.

If it means anything to Richard Harris, I grew a measure of respect for him during this process as I could see a very genuine conflict in his mind between two principles–the first being a democratic principle of not extending his term that he was elected to and the other being a fiscal principle that he had to steward the school district through appalling economic times.

I think it was important that this vote not go down 3-2. I think that would have cast more doubt on the process and the legitimacy of it. So it was pleasing to see Mr. Harris and Susan Lovenburg do the right thing and join their colleagues on what was clearly a painful (and rightfully so) decision.

For that I give Richard Harris an “A” even though I recognize it does not mean nearly as much coming from me as it does from my longer term counterpart at the Davis Enterprise.

Board Votes to Extend Health Benefits and Bruce Colby’s Contract

I am disappointed to report that the board voted 5-0 to extend the health benefits of certain classes of district employees during this time of economic crisis. As I explained earlier this week, the raises are much deserved and needed. The timing is suspect. The district has basically frozen open positions to balance out the books. That is both noted and appreciated.

That said, if they could freeze open positions to offset these costs, that means those freezes will not be available in the future to offset other needed cuts. That is my chief concern.

Boardmember Lovenburg voted for this one suggesting that the district had already promised this increase for health benefits because they had done the rest of the district’s employees in a previous year and promised these employees that they would get their turn.

However, when it came time to extend the contract of Bruce Colby, Ms. Lovenburg held the only dissenting vote. She expressed strong support for Mr. Colby. However, she said she would only support a three year extension on the same terms as before. We could not afford to do a pay raise at this point in time.

As I stated earlier this year, no one has more appreciation for the work he has done than myself. This is not an issue of support or lack of support for Mr. Colby. Unfortunately we live in times where we will need maximum budget flexibility. The district has done an admirable job of balancing these pay increases.

I want to be clear that the district has made the funds available for these increases and it has come at the expense of the very departments where these individuals work. In other words, in exchange for greater pay or benefits, they will have to do more work. I want that point to be clear.

My problem with this is that once you cut these positions you will not have that flexibility next year when you face huge budget cuts. The district decided that their health benefits were irresponsibly low and that had to be rectified, I just do not believe this is the year to rectify that problem.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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24 Comments

  1. Black Bart

    One thing I never saw discussed during the debate about when to have the election is that voter turnout during these school board elections has been ridiculously low. By consolidating they will have greater participation. Suffering with this lot for an extra year is worth the benefits of greater participation in the future.

  2. Anonymous

    Concerning the election date:I would give an …A… to Tim, Sheila and Gina for making the right choice in the first place and then sticking to their convictions. This hand wringing and reluctant about face by Rich and Susan shows their true colors as stereotypical politicians worried about their next bid for office.

  3. Anonymous

    I don't know how to start a new subject here: when the Davis police raid the house of a suspected woodburner, there may be two or more people on the couch. Who goes to prison after lighting that third Duraflame log (…THE THIRD OFFENSE…), everybody? What if I say, …she did it…? And do the kids go to emergency foster care while we are inside?

  4. Mom not happy

    If they come back asking the public for more money before their time on the board is up I will be voting no.I have supported the other taxes, but I just love the way that an administrator, doesn't get all of the run around like teachers got when their contract was up for consideration.Where are the priorities? Sorry to say, but not with supporting and keeping good teachers. Colby is doing a good job just as you said David, but they could have waited on giving him this increase. This way the money is being spent is a disgrace in my opinion. David, can you find out how much money is being spent on the consultants?

  5. Anonymous

    I am 8:09 anon. Yes, understand master plan is required, but in these days of budget woes and worse, do NOT think we need to spend money on consultants who spend valuable staff time on wish lists then do not report the numbers in realistic terms or even in Emerson needs $X to stay in compliance or safety, etc.And we enthusiastically support the stadium then raise salaries and benefits…..with only one dissenting vote. I for one will NOT be willing to shell out more money with this apparent attitude of the board. You can't have it both ways…..And am sure the enthusiasm will continue with the charter for Da Vinci….without looking at what it will cost down the road after the grant money is spent……and to think Valley Oak could have been 'saved' with 200K per year…..ah hind sight….

  6. Anonymous

    No offense anonymous but it doesn't appear that you understand how the process works. The consultant is paid to evaluate the school sites. He then creates a list of all possible projects. The list is accepted by the school board, it then goes through a process to determine which projects are needed. The consultant can't make those kinds of judgments, their job is to create a list that can be whittled down throughout the process. Don't worry they get paid a flat fee for service not by the project.

  7. Anonymous

    thanks I didn't understand the process….but still think in these times it is somewhat fruitless to list a wish list; I will dream list then have to whittle down. it would seem more efficient to start with the 'absolutely necessary' then whittle down! I guess also in watching his presentation, the architect seemed not to understand the budgetary crisis and stressed how good it was to get all wishes down. It just seemed such a disconnect. But I appreciate your info!

  8. Disappointed

    I'm not bothered about the architect, but I am disappointed at the administrative pay raise. This is a scaled-down equivalent of Wall Street financial types giving themselves bonuses thanks to the government bailout.Maybe you could figure that administrators would ask for a raise, but I would have thought a majority of the school board would have been sensitive to how this would have come across.Do they read the Vanguard? Did anyone pass these thoughts on to them?

  9. Robin W

    I am a long time strong supporter of our schools and School Board (volunteer work for multiple schools, PTAs, and district-wide committees over the past 14 years, and monetary donations). I also think Bruce Colby is doing a great job. But our administrators (including Mr. Colby) are already being paid very hefty salaries — enough to afford to pay health insurance costs themselves (or to have their salaries reduced by that amount if they want the district to pay the insurance costs). And now is decidedly not the time to be increasing costs to benefit administrators.I communicated to one Board member my concerns about the timing of this substantial increase in Bruce Colby's salary and the increase in health benefits for administrators, but I'm just one voice.I am also only one vote, but that one vote will not be in support of another parcel tax, a renewal of any existing parcel taxes, or any fundraising for the school district while the current Board members are are in office. Unfortunately, it looks like they will now have more time to make seriously flawed financial decisions.These actions by the Board are like the auto industry execs flying private jets to Washington to ask for a handout. I am appalled.

  10. David M. Greenwald

    Chuck:The district is going to hold open positions in the administration office to offset the cost.So from an immediate standpoint, these costs are zeroed out.The concern is they are losing budget flexibility with this move and will not be able to use that money next year to off-set a 1.8 million cost.If they end up having to layoff teachers, this decision will have to be scrutinized. I don't think it's the worst move in the world or wholly irresponsible, but it does lose budget flexibility.

  11. No on W

    I warned you what was going to happen if you passed Measure W. Watch for more waste – it has been going on for years and years. When the public keeps passing parcel taxes, the School District/Board figures it is a mandate for them to spend money like water…

  12. wdf

    I warned you what was going to happen if you passed Measure W. Watch for more waste – it has been going on for years and years. When the public keeps passing parcel taxes, the School District/Board figures it is a mandate for them to spend money like water…You seem to be wise in district history. So you must also know that the district has cut programs funded by Measure W in periods of fiscal difficulties that were not as tough as what we now face.And when times got better and the district restored those programs, it took 4-20 years to restore them to what they were prior to cuts (finding qualified, committed teachers, rebuilding student interest, etc.).I don't defend what the board did in approving the salary and benefits (I think it was poorly considered on the part of the board), but I don't regret voting for Measure W.I think the problem is that professional relationships (between the board and district staff) develop into social relationships to the point where trustees seem to lose a certain amount of objectivity and perspective on the issues and how they are perceived.I hope to see good evidence of fiscal discipline in the candidates who run for school board in 2010.

  13. wdf

    I’m surprised that Richard Harris didn’t oppose the increases. Last January he was the lone vote in opposition to increases to teacher compensation. I remember he took plenty of flack for that, some from this blog, in fact.

  14. Anonymous

    I watched the whole meeting and could not believe the architect who spent so much time explaining the process of going to each school, spending staff time with wish lists then gave the $200 million dollar total…HOW much money have we spent on this project and these consultants. They are clueless and the Board should be ashamed for listening. And then after all the hand wringing and boo hoo ing over the budget woes, went ahead with the stadium, pretty much said ‘we’ll do anything Emerson needs’ and passed the benefit package and Bruce Colby’s salary increase. When will they get it? I admire Susan Lovenburg for her stand and her logic….I have not been a fan, but she gained my respect last night. If they think another parcel tax is possible, think again. When will they say no (except of course to Valley Oak….ironic isn’t it?)…sorry but I am steaming about this.

  15. Anonymous

    That’s why I voted yes on Measure W. I wanted to make sure the highest paid administrators all get a raise. Next year, when we vote on Measure Y, I hope we will have the opportunity to pass a much higher parcel tax–how about $800? If we are smart, we can give everyone in the district offices a free European vacation, a bright shiny new Hummer, and boob jobs for the ladies.

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