Election Day this coming Tuesday is a big one for Mammoth Unified School District. During last Thursday’s regular Board of Education meeting, finances in one form or other, in particular Proposition 30, were on the minds of many in the MHS Library.
Prop 30, aka Governor Jerry Brown’s Tax Initiative package, which is designed to shore up funding for education programs and avoid planned cuts in January, continues its downhill slide with likely voters. According to the School Services of California’s Oct. 26 fiscal report, less than 50% of voters are inclined to vote for the initiative, with support decreasing by as much as 8 percentage points from this time in September. Estimates suggest Prop 30 needs as much as 56% favorable polling to ensure a favorable margin of victory at the ballot box.
Proposition 38, the state income tax hike measure, also dedicated for schools, is faring considerably worse. Polling for Prop 38 only shows support at about 39%, well below the 50% plus one needed for passage. One USC poll has the measure at just 31% supported.
Once again, MUSD Superintendent Rich Boccia reminded all in the meeting that the District is looking at a $500,000 cut if Prop 30 fails with voters.
“We’re trying to get ahead of the curve,” Boccia elaborated, “getting an insurance committee set up, streamlining Food Services and getting it to be more self-sustaining, even in light of new state mandates.” Still trying to wipe out an $800,000 deficit spending gap this fiscal year, the District has already made up $430,000 in savings, but overall still needs almost $200,000 in additional savings.
“If Prop 30 fails, we’ll have to do that $430,000 all over again,” he warned.
The District has $2 million in its Capital Facilities Fund, but MUSD Business Manager Donnie Salamanca pointed out that money is very restricted in terms of its usage. “It can, however, be used to borrow against, should MUSD find its back up against the wall,” he advised.
Meanwhile, the District is looking at its Reserve for Economic Uncertainty falling below 23% within about one year, which could impact its ability to meet payroll. “Currently we are not budgeting in a way that is sustainable for schools,” outgoing Board member Greg Newbry commented. “We’ve got a real problem.”
If the saying is true and every little bit helps, then that thinking applied to unanimous ratification of AB 1200 and AB 1213. The two agenda bills were for new Collective Bargaining Agreements between the District and the California School Employees Association and the Mammoth Education Support Personnel unions. In particular, the unions and the district agreed to five furlough days at the end of the school year, which would net MUSD an almost $39,000 decrease in deficit spending.
“This will have a positive impact, and mean our District’s fiscal picture is slightly improved because of it,” Board member Jack Farrell remarked at the bills’ passage.
The Board also passed a resolution to refinance $10.5 million in General Obligation bonds, lowering the interest rates from 4.5% to 3.1%, saving Mono County property tax payers about $140,000 in debt service over the length of the loan, about 10 years. The vote was 3-1, with Vasquez dissenting, charging that up to $9,000 in fees would be a net loss to the district.
“Those $9,000 in fees … would ultimately be taken from the students,” she stated.