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SCVNews.com | Money Woes Continue for Saugus School District | 05-21-2012
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A Qualified Certification has been assigned to the Saugus Union School District (SUSD) indicating it may not meet its financial obligations for the current or two subsequent fiscal years.

The designation is being reported in the just released California Department of Education’s Second Interim Status Report, Fiscal Year 2011-12.

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Education SUSD will be running a budget deficit of $6.4 million in FY 2011 – 2012, $4.63 million in FY 2012 -2013, and $4.8 million in FY 2013-2014.

SUSD Superintendent Joan Lucid says that the financial numbers change daily and that those figures don’t reflect recently negotiated employee concessions. Both certificated and classified unions have agreed to take six furlough days next year which will save the district more than $1 million.

“We know that next year we’ll be pretty much okay. We’re a couple of $100,000 off at the moment, but again we’re taking a look very carefully are there some of the areas that we have not looked at as carefully as perhaps we could,” said Lucid.

SUSD will forge ahead on the backs, or wallets, of the employees. They are not only having to give back a portion of their salary through furlough days, teachers are also having to spend out of their own paychecks to provide students with supplies.

“All of those beautiful things up on the walls don’t go up there without somebody having to pay for them. The school is not paying for them. The teachers are pulling out of their own pocket to do it,” said Lucid.

Gov. Jerry Brown has one ballot measure on the November ballot that could a least partially/potentially fund schools. Civil rights attorney Molly Munger is gathering signatures for ballot initiative that will provide funding directly for schools. Both raises taxes, which many in the SCV community have been averse to supporting.

Lucid is encouraging residents to vote for the ballot measures to provide for schools.

“We’re going to need one or both. It’s going to be very difficult in year three to continue to meet our fiscal obligations,” said Lucid.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson when asked to choose between supporting the Brown measure which raises funds for the general fund (and incidentally schools) and the Munger initiative which is focused only on schools alone he says – vote for both.

“The way I look at it, they’re both on the ballot. We need to urge the public to vote yes on both of them. If you have some of the people who want to invest saying ‘I’ll just vote for one’, and another group that want to invest in our schools just says ‘I’ll vote for the other’, the yes vote could be split and neither could pass in that scenario,” said Torlakson.

Judy Umeck, SUSD Board Trustee, says they are looking at both initiatives, but they’re also exploring a local parcel tax or geo bond.

“We want to make sure we have all of our ducks in a row. We have staff that will be preparing reports. We’ll be reviewing over the next couple of months and see which ones will be the right fit for the Saugus school district,” said Umeck.

Torlakson says he supports parcel taxes and geo bonds, because it keeps the money and decision making local.

“The beauty of those kinds of elections and debates locally is that the money will all stay locally and the citizens of the community through the elected school board and the businesses that are involved, schools that are involved they’ll set the priorities. So the priorities in Santa Clarita may be different than the priorities in the Imperial Valley or San Diego, but that’s locally determined and people have the chance to vote to whether they want to invest in the money that stays local,” said Torlakson.

With property taxes and sales taxes already high, Umeck says the last thing wants to do is raise taxes.

“In my perfect world, if I say I wanted to tax my neighbors, my constituency I would want to see the criteria very tight and absolutely see a sundown period so that it would be a limited time and not in perpetuity.” Said Umeck.

SUSD is not alone in their search of fiduciary answers.

Torlakson warned that 2.6 million California children, including those in SUSD, now attend schools in districts that are in financial jeopardy—the highest number of financially troubled districts in state history.

“This is the kind of record no one wants to set. Across California, parents, teachers, and administrators are increasingly wondering how to keep their schools’ lights on, their bills paid, and their doors open,” Torlakson said. “The deep cuts this budget crisis has forced—and the uncertainties about what lies ahead—are taking an unprecedented and unacceptable toll on our schools.”

The state’s Second Interim Status Report for 2011-12 also shows a record-high 188 local educational agencies (LEAs) are either in negative or qualified financial status. That’s up 61 LEAs from the First Interim Status Report for 2011-12 issued in February, and up 45 from the Second Interim Report for 2010-11 issued a year ago.

The new report shows 12 LEAs received negative certifications and 176 received qualified certifications. Students in these 188 LEAs represent more than 2.6 million of California’s 6.2 million students attending schools in districts with serious financial challenges, up from nearly two million students in February.

Twice a year, the California Department of Education receives Notice of Interim Certifications on the financial status of the state’s 1,037 LEAs, comprised of school districts, county offices of education, and joint powers agencies. The certifications are classified as positive, qualified, or negative.

A positive certification is assigned when an LEA will meet its financial obligations for the current and two subsequent fiscal years.

A qualified certification is assigned when an LEA may not meet its financial obligations for the current or two subsequent fiscal years. This certification allows the LEA’s county office of education to provide assistance to the district.

A negative certification—the most serious of the classifications—is assigned when an LEA will be unable to meet its financial obligations for the remainder of the current year or for the subsequent fiscal year. This certification means the LEA’s county office of education may intervene in the district’s finances.

The assistance or intervention by the county office may include assigning external consultants, requiring a district fiscal recovery plan, or even disallowing certain district expenditures.

For a look at the Second Interim Status Report, click here.

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