By Superintendent Bob Graeff
Ramona Unified School District
(This is the fifth of a series about fiscal issues related to the Ramona Unified School District.)
Under the law, every school district has to project a budget plan for three years which forecasts its fiscal condition. Due to our many local challenges, our governing board has wisely decided to create a longer view for our staff and local community. Accordingly, the board has scheduled a Community Workshop for 9 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25, in the Olive Peirce Middle School Performing Arts Center at 1521 Hanson Lane.
At this community gathering, staff will make a brief presentation of a proposed long-term fiscal plan before inviting community members to ask questions, make comments, or suggest alternative solutions.
Currently, staff is forecasting negative ending balances to reoccur locally in 2015-16. Conditions of declining enrollment, increasing healthcare costs, employee salary schedules, long-term debt, and less state funding have all contributed to our current fiscal challenge. Deficit spending — as with many public agencies the past several years — has been a necessity and has crippled our local budget. Recently, we publicly projected that we may have more than a $7 million shortfall two years from now which can only grow worse if something is not done.
But there is a way out.
We have worked hard to prepare a fiscal plan for the community which results in a school district that continues to support the educational needs of children, pays its bills, and remains a source of community pride.
While not showcasing all the details here, our plan is based on the sale of key district properties, reducing expenses to match declining enrollment, managing healthcare costs, utilizing the benefits of an improving state economy, and — yes — the passage of a local school bond. Together, these core pieces can work together to create a positive budget for the district and end our spiral toward fiscal failure.
The benefits of our plan include maintaining local control of our Ramona schools versus a state takeover (like in Compton, Oakland, Inglewood, Richmond, and more). We maintain a strong academic reputation and thriving co-curricular programs. We maintain a loyal and dedicated employee base. We serve the needs of our students and their families.
The requirements to make this plan work? Community participation in plan development and an eventual ballot measure, employee support of a responsible approach to resource allocation, and strong leadership by the governing board and our administrative team.
To hear more, attend this Saturday’s Community Workshop, follow us on RUSD Facebook, see our website, and continue to follow our articles printed in the Ramona Sentinel. Working together, our residents and our staff can keep Ramona schools strong!