An Open Letter to the Community

By Robert W. Graeff, Ed.D., Superintendent

Ramona Unified School District

In this third letter in a series of open communication to the Ramona community written on behalf of the Ramona Unified School District, it had been my hope to provide a sense of clarity and direction for our local citizenry as we prepare to staff our schools and offices for the coming school year.  Although staff is working diligently with the governing board to make final budget and staffing decisions for 2009-10, we are faced with monumental levels of uncertainty as we enter this challenging time of year.

With the passage of the State Budget Act in mid-February, we were able to enhance the district’s financial position by slightly more than $1 million, reducing our budget shortfall for the next 14 months from $7.2 million to $6.1 million.  In order to navigate through this still-massive reduction, we have implemented a significant number of freezes, cuts, and transfers to balance our budget.  Separately, the state has also provided a certain amount of flexibility in a large number of our ongoing categorical programs (including Summer School and Supplemental Hourly programs, Ninth Grade CSR, School Safety, Arts grants, GATE, and other support programs), allowing us to capture as much as $700,000 more through utilizing the new flexibility and scaling back some or all of these specific programs.  

In recent weeks, the public has heard a great deal about the coming of federal stimulus money being allocated for local school districts. If all goes smoothly, we hope to receive three significant sources of federal support later this spring — an increase to Title I funding, an increase to Special Education funding, and a broader funding support being referred to as State Fiscal Stabilization Funds.  Though we have received very few specifics about dollar values and release dates for funding, all reliable estimates indicate that these new one-time-only federal dollars will still fall well short of closing the gap between state funding and our local budget needs.

On May 19, all registered voters will be invited to cast their votes to decide the fate of five budget initiatives (Propositions 1A through 1E) designed by the State Legislature to support the state budget through June 2010 and beyond. If unsuccessful (as recent polls appear to indicate), the state will be facing an additional shortfall of more than $6 billion — sparking another round of legislative cuts to our local schools and public services.  Coupled with another projected shortfall in tax receipts from April approaching $8 billion, the cuts to public education will likely grow even worse.

Because of this mountain of uncertainty and our own local trend of declining student enrollment, district staff and the governing board continue to believe the wisest course of action to protect both the short-term and long-term fiscal health of our school district is to continue down our current fiscal course of responsible decision-making. As we approach critical decisions in mid-May related to staffing for next year, we continue to maintain a high priority on saving as many jobs as possible.

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