Budget woes continue for Ramona school district

By Maureen Robertson

Ramona Unified School District trustees ended 2013 uncertain about the best way to deal with the $7.2 million deficit the district may face in two years.

In an effort to tackle the projected deficit, trustees authorized the formation of a Surplus Property Advisory Committee

Dawn Perfect, school board president, discusses budget report. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

and set a tentative date of March 1 for a long-term fiscal planning/bond community workshop.

“Let 2014 be the year we finally come together as an educational community to resolve these ongoing issues,” Superintendent Robert Graeff, Ed.D., wrote in an emailed report after the trustees’ December meeting.

While continued declining enrollment and increased costs contribute to the district’s budget picture, payments on a $25 million loan a previous board approved are a key part of the problem. Starting next year, payments on the loan will come from the district’s general fund: $1.7 million in 2014-15 and $1.77 million in 2015-16.

“Eliminating these payments will not solve all our fiscal issues, but projected COP (loan) payments will surely compromise the high quality of educational programs currently offered to our students,” Graeff said.

Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann responds to a budget question. At right is Theresa Grace, senior director of education services. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann said the district doesn’t yet know how much money it will receive from the state this year as a result of the state’s new funding formula. The district thus is basing budget projections on a School Services of California model, San Diego County Office of Education and calculations from counties that are working together.

The governor this week is presenting his budget proposal for next year.

“That’s where we’re going to find out how much that ‘gap’ funding is going to be,” said Ostermann, referring to additional money schools may receive as part of the state’s Local Control Funding Formula.

According to budget assumptions and projections in December, the district will have an ending balance of $4.4 million on June 30, the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year. Ostermann projects an ending balance of $20,433 at the end of the 2014-15 year and the $7.2 million deficit by June 30, 2016.

Ostermann’s complete budget report is on the district’s website, wwwramonausd.net, under Headlines/Yesterday—Volume VI.

The possibility exists that the community workshop on long-term fiscal planning/bond will be held before March 1.

School board member Bob Stoody, left, and Superintendent Robert Graeff, listen to the budget presentation. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

Board members indicated they prefer an earlier date, but they had difficulty setting it because of individual schedules and the district calendar. Bob Stoody, 2013 board president, and Dawn Perfect, 2014 board president, said their preference is to hold the workshop sooner.

Among other business, trustees:

•Approved a Common Core State Standards budget of $1.17 million, one-time money from the state to implement new academic standards and teaching methods. Districts throughout the state have two years to spend the money.

The money will be spent on professional development for teachers in reading, writing, math, science, and STEM ($415,100—35 percent); technology infrastructure ($225,000—19 percent); site specific allocation for professional development, instructional materials and technology ($171,000—15 percent); teachers on assignments, two teachers assigned to the district office this school year to focus primarily on the new standards ($171,000—15 percent); site specific technology, mobile devices ($117,500—10 percent); and indirect cost ($73,000—6 percent).

“It’s abundantly clear that what teachers are craving most is professional development,” said Theresa Grace, the district’s senior director of education services. “We need to invest in our teachers because what we’re teaching is changing a little bit, but how we’re teaching is changing tremendously.”

•Heard a presentation on what’s available about Common Core State Standards on the district’s website from teachers on assignment Pixie Sulser and Leslie Wilson. The information is at www.ramonausd.net, “New resources for teachers and parents on common core standards,” under District Headlines.

•Approved requesting bids for renovations on the baseball and softball fields at Ramona High School.

•Approved three new courses—Gateway to Technology at Olive Peirce Middle School and Introduction to Engineering Design and Principles of Engineering at Ramona High School.

•Learned that Sun Valley Council PTA President Kristina Krohne is “100 percent behind your current discussion of placing another school bond on the ballot in 2014.”

Put a school bond on an agenda soon, “and make it this board’s number one priority in 2014,” Krohne said.

•Acknowledged the retirements of four district employees: Peggy Quinones, Administrative Services administrative assistant in the district office for 13 years; Jeannene Diaz, Ramona High School registrar for 32 years; Connie Amick, food trades assistant at Montecito High School for 27 years; and Bonnie Keyser-Bickel, computer lab assistant at Ramona Elementary School for 20 years.

Related posts:

  1. School district OKs $49.6M budget
  2. Employee cuts erase red ink from school budget
  3. Ramona school district forecasts deficit next year
  4. School district calls back five teachers
  5. Ramona school board approves $45 million budget

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Posted by Maureen Robertson on Jan 8 2014. Filed under Featured Story, News, Ramona. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

4 Comments for “Budget woes continue for Ramona school district”

  1. Jane Tanaka MD

    Agree with Ms Perfect and Mr Stoody that the workshop on long term fiscal planning needs to occur sooner than March , which would be 7 months since the last community work shop. Suggest montly community workshops . Just one on fiscal planning will not accomplish much and will not build momentum in change.
    Hooray for Kristina Krohne for being bold and brave enough to declare her support for a school bond for RUSD.

  2. Guest

    Don't quite understand how coming out in support of a bond is brave, or even unexpected, on the part of the PTA president. In fact, I would have been shocked if she had come out as being opposed to a bond. She would have found it difficult to deal with a district that obviously has no intention of seriously addressing any of their operational inefficiencies.

    Is anybody so naive to believe that the district has any intention of 'fixing' their financial woes by any means other than taxing property owners? Does anybody at the district understand how finance and operations work, or are they all products of the ineffective, non-productive, and bloated bureaucratic educational establishment?

    I've worked for over thirty years in private and public finance and I am disgusted at the district's lack of effort in fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility to the public. Fortunately, there are a couple of board members who get it, including the Board President – it is time for the district administration to listen to them! If not, it's time for the board to clean house.

  3. JimC

    Why do some people seem to think that a community workshop is the answer to anything? Seems to me like everytime one of these articles comes out, Dr. Tanaka suggests a community workshop. Last I checked the previous workshops didn't solve the budget crisis. I guess it made some people feel good to pretend they were part of the solution, even if there wasn't a solution. How about we quit trying to fool ourselves, stop talking about squishy feel-good things like workshops, and get to the business of doing what needs to be done?

  4. Joseph Tramontana

    If the district actually begins making progress in the area of cost cutting and service consolidation, I could see the possibility of the public supporting a bond measure to address the remaining deficit.

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