Budget woes continue for Ramona school district

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

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.

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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.

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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).

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