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Monday, September 22, 2008

Addendum to Parcel Tax Post from Saturday

A number of interesting side issues came out of the article on Saturday regarding the parcel tax and particularly the district's spending.

The gist of that report is that the state budget picture with the approval of a new budget is very uncertain for schools. However, commenters have continued to question the district's spending practices and their ability to absorb two million or so in loss of revenue from the state and a lack of COLA to even keep up with inflation.

In particular, there is the suggestion that the district was able to cut $1.1 million from the budget and that therefore those things cut amounted to an admission that there was waste in the system.

Those budget cuts were obtained in a variety of ways including the closing of Valley Oak (something that I remain strongly opposed to), the non-replacement of retired teachers, the non-filling of vacant administration positions, and letting an assistant superintendent leave.

Some of these cuts have led to further questions and I will attempt to briefly address these questions. I strongly urge people who have further questions to talk to the district rather than jump to conclusions. While I would consider myself more knowledgeable than many on the issue of the district's budget simply because I have been covering this issue for frequently, I am hardly any sort of expert or authority on the matter.

One question that emerged this weekend was how Valley Oak's closure was able to save money if there are now programs that are located on the campus.

As people are aware, the closing of Valley Oak did not cause teachers to be laid off. However, there is still a large amount of operational expenses that are saved when a school closes. These include the principal and office staff, library support, teaching specialist support, custodial support, and some utility savings.

The programs that have been moved to the Valley Oak campus were relocated from Korematsu. There is no additional staff for these programs nor are any of these programs new.

The programs are only taking up about half of the campus. There are able to lease space out to other programs such as a Yolo County Office of Education program, Los Rios College, and STEAC.

An additional question came up about the crunch lunch and food improvements. These are intended to increase sales that will enhance the Student Nutrition Program.

As I mentioned in the comments yesterday, food services is a totally separate fund from the General Fund with the exceptions of the Measure Q enhancement. In other words, none of this money is coming from the general fund. The Measure Q funding as people know is required based on laws the bound parcel taxes. So none of this money is discretionary.

The district believes that in order to keep sales up that they need to serve quality food and if they don't, they will not break even and that money will come from the general fund.

Schools are required by law to offer food service as part of the National School Lunch Program. Most of the district's meals go to "free and reduced" qualified students. The district need cash paying students to help cover the cost of the program. If all cash paying students brought lunch, the district would lose money on this program and the General Fund would have to cover the loss.

The crunch lunch does not require additional staff. They were making pre-packaged salads and they were going unsold.

In addition Davis Farm to School is a non-profit partner in this program. No district funds flow through them.

Finally on the energy savings program--it began over a year ago. It was approved by the school board in the summer of 2006. Savings from this program were used in adopting the budget--it is part that $1.1 million they saved. Much of the savings however are mitigations from rate increases.

It is important to continue to ask questions about the district's budget process. It is a very complicated process and I keep learning more and more about it myself. However, there are a lot of assumptions and accusations being thrown out that that are simply untrue. We should try to education ourselves first before jumping to conclusions.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting