“There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a very, very long tunnel.” – Bob Bilek
There is an old tongue-in-cheek adage about an interview for a Budget Director. It starts with the first candidate coming to the Board with them
having only one question. “What is the sum of two and two?” the inquisitors inquired. “Four!” stated the unsuccessful candidate. “Thank you. We’ll let you know.” as the Board President showed him the door. The next candidate came to the hot seat. “How
much is two and two?” inquired the inquisitors. The second unsuccessful candidate unthinkingly proclaimed, “Four!” and was also shown the door. The winning candidate entered and was asked the same question. He replied by raising a quizzical eyebrow and asking with a conspiratorial grin, “What would you… like it to be?”
By Robert E. Jensen The Desert Independent
March 6, 2011
BLYTHE, Calif – There will have to be more and more inventive budgeting forthcoming with the next fiscal year for both the Palo Verde Unified School District (PVUSD) and Palo Verde College (PVC) unless certain tax extensions aren’t approved by the state legislature by June. The constant “Doom and Gloom” scenarios that have been hammered into the heads of the staffs of both establishments have become jaded. However, there is now the
prospect of true financial disasters happening that administrations are at ends as to how to deal with the constraints.
In an e-mail interview, PVC President Jim Hottois made the following statement:
The Governor proposed cuts for community colleges for next year which amount to $400 Million. Part of that is off-set by an increase in the enrollment fee from $26/school to $36/school, which statewide is predicted to generate $110 Million. Thus, community colleges end up with a net cut of $290 Million. For PVC it ends up being about $600,000 next year IF the tax continuation measures get on the ballot and IF they are approved by the
voters. If that doesn’t happen, community colleges are looking at cuts of about $500 Million/Year for the next five years or about $2.5 Billion in total cuts over five years. For next year PVC would then see cuts in the range of $1.2 Million and maybe a lot more. I briefed the trustees on this at their last meeting and I made a presentation at our all staff meeting yesterday with about the same message.
We are not planning any lay-offs at this time.
As you may know, we have an attractive Supplemental Employee Retirement Plan (SERP) being offered at the moment. I suspect that a number of our full-time employees will retire under that plan – we set a minimum number at 10 which over ten percent of our full time employees. If that works out we should be OK for now. I won’t know for sure until I see a list of people who have applied to participate. That is due in April.
At the past regular meeting of the PVUSD Board of Trustee meeting, Acting Superintendent Bob Bilek gave a lengthy PowerPoint presentation that portrayed three differing scenarios as to how the district may react to what may be forthcoming from the state. The best-case scenario may be that the ADA (Average Daily Attendance) may be shortened by $19.05 and can be handled quite readily. The worst-case scenario may be that the ADA may be cut by
$1,000 to $1,200 which will be horrific. Other school districts are already thinking of cutting the school year by five weeks. The entire state of Hawaii cut their school year by one month last year; ergo, the unthinkable is thinkable.
It is incredibly difficult to explain the labyrinthine and convoluted means by which the State of California determines how monies are collected and dispensed to the schools. It would take an immense amount of wordage to explain terms and jargon such as: Prop 98, ADA, Serrano vs. Priess, Board of Equalization, Williams Judgments, Entitlements, Title I-IX, NCLB, Lottery Funding, Special Education, ad nauseum. Suffice it to say, the amount of
knowledge necessary to survive as a Business Director is enough to make a strong man weep.
Acting Superintendent Bilek has shared two letters with The Desert Independent; one to the staff and another to be sent to the general public on the crisis facing the schools.
An edited memo to the staff is as following:
A meeting for all District Employees has been scheduled to occur on Wednesday, March 9, 2:30-2:45 in the High School Cafeteria. The purpose of the meeting is to share information about the District’s fiscal condition and budget projections for the next two school years.
This meeting is short and to-the-point. A follow-up meeting is planned for the public to suggest budget saving measures. All suggestions will be considered as the School Board prepares for budget approval in June. I will remain after the meeting should anyone want to bend my ear or share a thought.
An abbreviated letter to the public to be sent out on March 10 is as follows:
Dear Parents and Community Members,
Similar to what has happened to other school districts, California’s budget problems have impacted the Palo Verde Unified School District. For this school year, our staffing has been reduced and class sizes have increased. All of our employees have taken pay cuts in the form of salary reductions or furlough days. The school year was shortened by two days last year and by five days in each of the current year and
next year. Despite any news announcements, the economic turndown is not over. Though our school district is expected to be solvent this year, we are now anticipating a $2.7 million deficit. Next year, we are expected to spend an additional $1.0 million and a $1.3 million shortage is expected in 2012-13, assuming the passage of a tax extension measure. Should the current taxes not be extended, the District anticipates the loss of $2.3
million in 2011-2012 and $2.6 in 2012-13, not including additional, unforeseen expenses or the deferral of money owed to the district.
Why is Palo Verde Unified School District in this situation?
The state, which funds schools, expects a $6.5 billion budget deficit this year. It expects an additional $20 billion deficit next year. In fact, the state is expecting a $20+ billion deficit in each of the next five years.
Student enrollment in Palo Verde Unified has dropped about 130 students over the past two years. Because funds are distributed to school districts on a per-student basis, our revenue has declined.
Operating costs continue to rise.
One-time income, specifically Federal Stimulus Funds, has been exhausted.
Our district’s budget reserve has been spent down to an uncomfortably low level, about 3%.
We must immediately find new ways to advance student learning with a shrinking budget. That’s why we involved the County Office of Education, employees and parents in an education redesign process that began last school year.
A strong education program can be designed in many different ways. To save approximately $5 over three years, we must make major changes in our schools this year and next. The changes may impact school schedules, transportation, class sizes, sports and activities, student fees, staffing levels, class offerings, use of facilities and delivery of educational programs – to name only a few areas.
A community meeting about the school district will be held on Monday, March 21, beginning at 6:30 PM in the Palo Verde Valley High School Cafeteria. I invite you and all interested citizens to attend. Following a brief budget presentation, community members will be asked for questions and suggestions. Also, school principals will present information about the proposed changes at parent meetings. As always, you are
invited and welcome to attend any of our school board meetings including Board Budget meetings. All meetings will be announced in advance.
This is an unprecedented situation that calls for extraordinary solutions. By working together and considering all ideas, I believe that student performance will continue to improve and the district will be able to adequately support our employees. Please join us on March 21st as your schedule allows and feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions.
Right now the State is deferring 20% of the monies budgeted for education. To put things into context, think of your employer withholding 20% of your regular paycheck until “times get better” – which may be months or a year from now. Even then, it may not be given to you until a pay cut and furlough days have been imposed. No one ever went into teaching to get rich. That admonition is far truer now more than ever.