While several Davis teachers turned their back on a meeting with the Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) to show their outrage at a proposal to cut their salaries by 5 percent, other community members voted in Measure C. Others still discussed the potential of the Davis Schools Foundation launching a campaign to raise $500,000.
These actions were the outcome of a special meeting the DJUSD held May 16 to discuss the impacts that the state’s slow economy are having on school districts and brainstorm possible solutions.
During the meeting Yolo County Associate Superintendent Bruce Colby said the financial state of the schools was weak and identified the monetary ways in which referrals from the state have diminished the district’s fiscal position. In 2008, during the early days of the state budget crisis, the district had $13 million in cash, but now its cash reserves are at $1.1 million, Colby said.
The district needs $6 million in cash each month to operate, with most of that going to cover payroll, he added.
“We are running dangerously low on cash,” Colby said. “The ‘add fuel’ light is on.”
Davis is in the weakest financial position of any school district in the county because its cash reserve is so low, said Linda Legnitto, deputy superintendent with the Yolo County Office of Education. Legnitto reviews the budgets of all Yolo County school districts and insisted that the most important thing in this time of fiscal crisis is keeping all information accurate and transparent.
“The good news is that staff has articulated revenues and budgets to you every time there has been an update,” she told the audience, which consisted of teachers, parents, staff, administration and other community members. “This meeting aims to maintain such a transparency.”
One of the results of the state budget cuts is augmented class sizes across the region and throughout the state, Colby said. DJUSD class sizes will increase in the 2012-2013 year because of reduced funding and reduced personnel, he added.
Another might be that programs supported by the Davis community through local parcel taxes must be examined for efficiency, the intent of the parcel tax and the needs of students, Colby said.
“Your parcel tax measures have allowed you to keep programs that other districts have reduced long ago. The parcel taxes have greatly benefited students — they have programs that other districts just don’t have anymore, a very rich program,” Legnitto added.
But because parcel tax funds are earmarked for specific programs, “it does not solve the overall problem” that the district faces, Legnitto said.
However, Davis residents voted to continue parcel taxes by passing Measure C, which funds classroom programs, key school-based personnel such as librarians, programs such as athletics and drama and class-size reduction. It has been continued for a period of five years and is not to exceed the Base Annual Tax of $150 per unit for multi-dwelling parcels and $320 per parcel for all other parcels.
“Measure C is just a way for the school board to hold teachers’ jobs hostage for one more year and then place them in a position where they must adhere to all things they are told to do,” said Roger Moyer, a 54-year-old Davis resident. “It is a scare tactic and we shouldn’t have let it pass, but instead find our own way out of this hole.”
Other residents disagreed, saying keeping the schools at a high functioning level was the priority and they weren’t going to risk that.
“This will work for now and we will figure out something else more long-term later,” said Sharon Homes, a 49-year-old Davis resident.
The need for additional financing was met by the Davis Schools Foundation (DSF) starting off a $500,000 fundraising drive with the goal of restoring funding for junior high vice principals and high school counselors, as well as providing funding for elementary school classroom aides to assist teachers as they deal with larger class sizes.
DSF aims to raise enough money to fund these positions for the 2012-2013 academic year.
SARA ISLAS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.