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GUSD Passes Balanced Budget with Phantom Funds

It has been five years running since the state has given the school district Cost-of-Living Adjustment monies, despite requiring all districts to build their budgets using the figures.

The ’s Board of Education recently passed a balanced budget for next year, albeit one that barely qualifies as such.

Superintendent Debbie Flores explained that the district was able to balance its books for the 2012-2013 school year thanks to concessions made by the Gilroy Teachers Association and management and confidential group. Negotiations are ongoing with several other employee groups.

The victory of passing a balanced budget, approved June 14, is bittersweet for the district since it was built on the assumption that they’ll have to cut $8 million this year alone.

“We have to plan for the worst case because we won’t know until the first week of November whether we’ll have to make those cuts or not,” Flores said, referring to .

The employee group concessions that got the district to its $8 million mark include seven less school days, knocking the school year from 180 days to 173, three less staff instructional days and increased class sizes.

If the tax initiative passes, Flores said the district could maintain a 180-day school year, though class sizes would still need to grow.

The budget also factored in a Cost-of-Living Adjustment, funds customarily provided by the state to local districts so staffers can maintain their standards of living.

The inclusion of COLA funds in annual budgets is required by the state and county, however Flores said that it has been five years since the state gave the GUSD any COLA monies.

“Every year we have to build a budget based on getting our COLA, yet we know we’re not going to get it,” she explained. “We have a five-year track record of no COLA.”

No COLA is problematic for the GUSD, she said, because it creates an inflated picture that the district has more money than it actually does. To date, Flores said the state owes the district over $60 million in unpaid COLA.

To show their frustration with the ongoing requirement that districts create budgets based on phantom funds, members of the board inserted a statement of protest into the budget resolution, something they’ve never done before.

“They took the unique position to modify a pretty standard resolution to say they were passing this resolution under protest,” she said. “The jist of it is that it is unfair the state and county offices force the district to include COLA when the reality is we won’t have COLA for a number of years.”

Other Budget Highlights

The district intends to , Flores said, despite the fact that funding for the program, which extends kindergarten over two years, wasn’t included into Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget.

“The legislature is going to support funding for TK,” Flores said. “It’s in the law, so the governor can’t just create a budget action that violates the law. We believe the funding for TK will be in the final budget.”

Funds for district-sponsored transportation remain even more tentative.

Flores said so far all signs point to the district getting about $1 million in transportation funding from the state this year, however it's unclear yet whether the money will be specific to transportation or if the some flexibility will be granted to districts.

If there is flexibility, Flores said the funds might go towards balancing the district’s budget and not to paying for home-to-school bus services.

Over 540 students utilize district transportation, she said. Already the district has cut the figure from over 2,000 students.

Notification letters have been sent out to families who would be impacted by the cut, Flores said, and the board expects to know by their July 19 meeting what the state funding will look like.

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Michelle Fitzsimmons June 25, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Would anyone out there be impacted by a discontinuation of bus service? Have you received a letter from the GUSD about the possible disruption?

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