District sends final pink slips to 25 teachers

Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann presents his most recent budget report to Ramona Unified school trustees. Sentinel photo/Maureen Robertson

By Maureen Robertson

Facing another year of deficit spending and projected shortfalls of $1.4 million next year and $9.4 million in 2013-14, Ramona Unified School District trustees approved final layoff notices for 25 teachers, saying state law and labor agreements force them to vote now.

“It’s wrong, the way the state has it set up,” Trustee Bob Stoody said at the May 8 meeting, adding that he hopes “each person who gets a pink slip realizes that we’re going to do everything we can to withdraw that.”

All of the pink slips go to elementary teachers, said Assistant Superintendent Anne Staffieri.

Declining enrollment, less revenue, the state’s fiscal crisis, increased health benefit costs, and no projected “silver bullets” are among reasons for the district’s budget uncertainties, according to its third interim financial report.

This is the district’s third year of deficit spending, Assistant Superintendent David Ostermann said. While the district will end the 2011-12 year June 30 with an anticipated balance of $4.2 million, its expenses are $4.9 million more than its income, according to the report.

Layoffs, elimination of jobs when people retire or resign, spending cuts, three unpaid furlough days for support staff and administrative employees, and moving money from budget categories such as adult education and maintenance into the general fund are among techniques the district has used to bolster its ending balance. Despite that, unless something changes, it will have to borrow money to meet its 2012-13 fiscal obligations, states the report.

In 2013-14, it will not have enough cash to meet its obligations and it will be unable to borrow the money needed, said Ostermann.

“These agencies are only going to loan you so much cash,” he said. “Part of that is based on how much are you going to bring in, how much can you pay that back....If you can’t pay the loan back, we’re not going to lend you the money. So that’s the fear with the current situation.”

The assumptions are based on the governor’s proposed tax initiative on the November ballot not passing, said Ostermann.

“With current projections, RUSD is one step away from a negative certification, when a district is unable to meet its obligations,” he said.

Eleven of the 42 school districts in the county self-qualified that they are uncertain they will meet their fiscal requirements, Superintendent Robert Graeff said, but he is uncertain how many of those anticipate a negative certification.

Trustee Dawn Perfect, saying Poway school district isn’t laying off employees this year, asked why.

“Different strategies,” responded Trustee Rodger Dohm, who teaches in Poway.

Poway’s strategy was to “take cuts early on and continue to take cuts for about three years,” said Dohm. “That has deferred the major disaster that could have been in Poway. It is not occurring.”

Between 10 furlough days and pay cuts, Dohm’s salary is $10,000 less than it was three years ago. Add to that additional money he earned on other assignments and teaching night classes, his total cut has been $20,000, he said.

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