In a special meeting held last night at district headquarters, the San Bruno Park School District Board passed a resolution to move forward on funding classroom size reduction for the next four years. Passed by a majority vote of 3 to 2, the resolution initiates a plan to use money currently allocated for capital improvements for district facilities to the use of deficit spending activities such as staff salaries.
The board, facing a $3.3 million dollar budget shortfall due to California’s education funding cuts, has been looking at ways bridge the gap. The news comes as districts all over the state are cutting staff and programs to meet budget shortfalls.
The plan, conceived and submitted by junior board member Dr. Henry Sanchez, looks to use $10 million dollars of Fund 40 money over the next four years for deficit budget spending. The plan also looks to create a ’superfund’ account of $6 million to fund retirement benefits for district staff, generating $300,000 per year to the general fund. The remaining $12 million dollars of capital improvement money would still be available for it’s intended use.
The plan seeks approval from the State Allocation Board to make a one time transfer of $10 million from Fund 40 to Fund 17 and create an irrevocable trust for the remaining $6 million.
Despite the passage of the resolution the plan would still need approval from the State Allocation Board and possibly all bodies of California government up to and including the Governor. Planning to use the money over several years breaks the “one time use” requirement of the State Allocation Board. The State Allocation Board may approve some facets of the plan and deny other facets, leaving the board’s approval request back at square one.
Attorney Harold Freeman, speaking to the board in an advisory role, felt the plan may not fit within the educational code framework. “It’s a close call,” he said. If the plan does not fit within the education code framework it would require an exception from the ‘five fingers’ of California government including the state senate, the state assembly and even the governor. Board Superintendent Dr. Lionel Hutt also felt the plan violated the ‘one time use’ requirement for the funds. “Using $16 million out of a fund availability of $30 million, you have got some explaining to do” he said.
Several members of the community felt the plan mortgaged the future for the needs of today. Chris Kiely, San Bruno Education Foundation Board Member and former school district board member, asked “What do we tell the students in three years? Sorry, we needed to spend the funds on the kids before you.” Pat Flynn, President of the San Bruno Education Foundation, pointed out that there is no guarantee that the state will fund class size reduction in 2015, the year after the plan ends. “If your not going to save class size reduction, don’t do it,” said Flynn. Even San Bruno Park School District Board president Kevin Martinez expressed concern. Said Martinez, “The plan is budgeting to use reserves before you know about uncertainties.”
The resolution passed on a vote of 3 to 2, with board members Sanchez, Henderson and Martinez voting yes, board members Prescott and Blanco voting no.
The plan will be reworked in order to offer the best chance of approval by the State Allocation Board. It will then be submitted back to the board for approval in the April board meeting. The next San Bruno Park school district board meeting is scheduled for April 14th, 2010 at the district board office.
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