The staff and Board at the Eastern Sierra Unified School District are still playing an unavoidable game of wait-and-see with budget projections. They are, however, aware of the consequences this time around.
The bulk of the District’s revenue is produced by county property tax dollars, according to Caty Keller of the Mono County Office of Education, but these figures are not gathered until the end of each calendar year and are not revealed until some time in January of the new year. This means that the ESUSD Board was left fumbling in the dark this week when members were presented with the District’s first interim financial report.
“It’s too early to tell so we are staying in line with the adopted budget from June of this year,” explained Keller, which means that if all goes well on the property tax front, the District should have a positive fund balance at the end of the 2010/11 school year.
Last year at this time, a chain of events led the District to a budget deficit of $1.8 million. The Sheet reported the following:
“The first interim financial report for the district, which covered the period ending Oct. 31, 2009, showed a projected deficit of about $800,000.
Mono County Deputy Superintendent Colleen Wright warned the ESUSD Board last January that ‘because of the large deficit spending projected by the District along with the projected reduction in local property taxes, the county office encourages the district to carefully review property tax revenue projections to ensure future interim and budget reports are fiscally credible and able to be certified as positive.’
By the time a property tax shortfall and other unexpected factors came into play, the District found itself facing the large deficit and an angry community.
So how does this year compare? Keller would not go into detail.
“The first interim report for last year is over; we are just focusing on the numbers from this year,” she said.
When Board member Gabe Segura asked what she expected, Keller refused to speculate on potential new budget shortages from the State
This year, in an attempt to not repeat history, the Board did adopt a generally conservative budget which projected flat property tax revenues
Newly appointed Board President Doug Northington requested that Keller get the Board the property tax revenue information as soon as possible.
“That way we know as early as possible whether or not we were really wrong or just right,” he said.
Keller expected to have a number sometime in January 2011.
Board tables electoral change
A resolution on the agenda for the Dec. 15 ESUSD Board meeting would have opened the door to allow the District to implement a district-by-district voting system for Board elections in the future. This would mean that community members could only vote for Board members that represent their individual district rather than the Board as a whole.
The issue was raised by the District’s legal counsel because of civil rights litigation in the Central Valley that, according to www.signonsandiego.com, “alleged that at-large voting disenfranchises significant blocs of minority voters in violation of the California Voting Rights Act.”
There seems to have been some confusion however between the ESUSD Board and legal counsel. The Board was expecting the item to be on the agenda for discussion and exploration, not as a resolution to be voted upon.
“It’s not something we need to do right now, it’s just something we need to investigate,” Northington said to a room full of community members that had attended the meeting upset that the idea was not vetted before being presented as a resolution.
Northington motioned to table the item to a discussion at the Board’s January meeting. The motion was approved unanimously.