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
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 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.
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.