The toll of nearly 40 teachers really understates by a large magnitude the final decision of the school board. In addition to that there were 17 classified positions lost, they that during closed session to decision that another 35 temporary position would be terminated.
The presentation by Bruce Colby laying out the final budget numbers preceded a discussion of John Gray, of School Services of California. It is a company that does the same work as FCMAT to monitor the fiscal health of the district. The district and board had called in FCMAT to evaluate their decisions, but it seemed that FCMAT has been overextended trying to monitor many other districts in the state, so Mr. Gray came in.
He told the board that while there is a 3% mandated reserve, FCMAT recommends an excess of that. Most districts actually have slightly over a 10% reserve. This district has roughly a 6% reserve, which puts it in good stead. He reminded the district that reserves which are the year ending balance are one time money, once the decision is made to spend down the reserve, it is gone. This is deficit spending.
FCMAT monitors fiscal health looking at spending trends. They do not like seeing deficit spending or the spending down of reserves. He told the district that they are doing all the right things. They are constantly updating multiyear projections and taking advantage of all possible flexibility provided by the state of California. This will enable them to mitigate cuts and prevent the district from spending down reserves.
He argued that those district that get in trouble will take on deficit spending and hope that it gets better later.
The district and board clarified the misperceptions of raises. They argued that the district leadership team–Superintendent and his assistants received no raises in either 2007-08 and 2008-09 but they did get a 2% increase in health care, the same as teachers to put them on par with the rest of employees.
Board Member Tim Taylor argued that the pay-raise issue was over blown. It was only in the health care realm, on-par with what the teachers got. He believes the district has an obligation to provide good health care.
Board Member Richard Harris argued that ideally you plan for the worst and hope for the best. However, he thinks that they’ve planned for the really really bad and hope for the best. We have not seen the worst yet.
Mr. Gray agreed that no one has a true crystal ball. That there is a lot of risk in the current budget with the possibility that things could get far worse at the state level in June. However, he reiterated that the district has done the best that it could under these conditions.
During public comment, DTA President Cathy Haskell asked if this was the time to borrow $10 million to build a stadium.
At this point, Board Member Sheila Allen lost her temper somewhat and told Cathy: “You were at the meeting, you know this is untrue.” According to Superintendent James Hammond, the project itself is in the the $8 to $8.5 million range. He said at best the district will borrow $4 million of that money. He believes the whole project can be down with a $4 million COP (Certificate of Participation) not a $10 million loan. He also once against reiterated that there were no instructional money going to this.
Some of the additional board comments included Board Member Susan Lovenburg proclaiming, “this is a significant backward step in public education in the state of California.”
Board President Gina Daleiden added that the survivors will have tougher jobs, and they are hard jobs to begin with.
Board Member Sheila Allen, talked about the community through the Davis Schools Foundation and Measure W helping the district last year. “I don’t think there’s Knights in shining armor this year. So here we are.” She added with the line that usually is reserved for Ms. Daleiden, “This is not why I wanted to be on the board.”
The general thought by all board members was that this was the most difficult decision that they’ve ever had to make, but it’s one they know they must do.
Board Member Tim Taylor in expanding on Ms. Allen’s thoughts, added “It’s impossible to take solace in a we’re not alone comment, but we’re not alone.”
There was the expressed hope that the DTA and other bargaining units would change their mind and accept some paycuts. But that does not seem likely.
“It’s not going to get better, it’s going to get worse. This is what we have to do. These numbers are accurate. What we’re saying is true. We’ve identified the cuts. I hope the collective bargaining units can work with district to help alleviate the burden on people on pks list. This is just what it is.”
Likewise, Suan Lovenburg said that this is difficult, but the only thing within the power of the board to do is reduce services and programs. She suggested that these notices are not final and plead with bargaining representatives to consider salary reductions so that we can pull back from program loses.
For Gina Daleiden, the only choice the board did not have was inaction, they did their job. She said, “I know full well that teachers are the program.”
And so they moved the resolution that would lay off teachers, it removed all of the ROP cuts except for No.18 on the list below. This is just the identification of the cuts, the specifics have not been done yet. The board has more heartwrenching decisions yet to make.
—David M. Greenwald reporting