Gov: It’s time to pay

Gov: It's time to pay

As superintendent Debbie Flores put it, Gov. Jerry Brown’s
highly anticipated May budget revisal

basically gives us our marching orders on how much more to
cut.

As superintendent Debbie Flores put it, Gov. Jerry Brown’s highly anticipated May budget revisal “basically gives us our marching orders on how much more to cut.”

Unveiled Monday, however, the governor’s revamped plan of action would avoid doling out education death sentences with a proposed $3 billion increase for public school funding.

“I’ve given you the blueprint, and now other architects will start to screw it up,” he said candidly during an 11 a.m. press conference in Sacramento.

Still, any sighs of relief are premature as Flores and Gilroy Unified School District administrators must digest the new information and gauge potential effects on Gilroy’s school system.

Brown’s revised budget attempts to increase funding for K-12 education and bolster Proposition 98, which was passed by voters and guarantees minimum state funding for public schools.

This voter-approved measure is a “real obligation” the state has to deal with, Brown reminded. It’s suspension, additionally, would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature.

“We say we owe (schools) money, but we pay them a year late,” he said. “We’ve been delaying, but we’ve got to pay them.”

Regardless of whether the budget is passed by the constitutional deadline of June 15, Flores said GUSD “has no choice but to go ahead and move forward on the May revise” since the district needs to have their final budget submitted by June 30.

“There was a time when school districts could have great confidence in May revise,” said the superintendent who has worked in education for almost 40 years. “Now you just don’t know.

Brown’s original plan presented in January called for a five-year extension of two temporary tax increases and a fee adopted in 2009. This includes a .25 percent personal income tax increase, 1 percent sales tax increase and .5 percent hike in California’s vehicle license fee.

The May revise essentially touts the same tax package but keeps the income tax off the table for one year. The income tax would commence in 2012 and last until 2015.

For any of this to happen, Brown explained the legislature would have to vote on the tax package, then put it before voters as soon as possible.

An official press statement issued from Brown’s office declares “for years, the state has shortchanged public education in order to balance the budget, forcing school districts to borrow in order to balance their budgets … even with this new infusion of funds, California schools are still owed billions by the state.”

With tax extensions still in the mix – something GUSD teachers, parents and students rallied for in full force Friday afternoon during a public protest – Kirsten Perez, director of Fiscal Services for GUSD, explained the district needs time to study the new proposal and apply it to their local budget.

“Unfortunately due to the many complexities and formulas that dictate how school districts are funded, analyzing the affect of the Governor’s May revision takes a considerable amount of time,” she explained in an email.

Flores echoed this process, confirming GUSD staff will be attending a workshop Thursday morning to hear from top fiscal experts on details of the May revise.

Brown announced state revenue has rocketed far beyond projections, providing a $6.6 billion windfall that he wants to use to boost education spending and help repair California’s battered finances.

Without the continuation of temporary tax extensions, GUSD was bracing for an additional $4 to $5 million loss in their operating budget – on top of the $6.7 million they’ve already been forced to cut.

This could see loss in funding per average daily attending student spike to roughly $850, according to GUSD’s Fiscal Services.

As it is, administrators are coping with layoffs, a $330 loss per average daily attending student, eight furlough days for staff, five less instructional days for students and swollen class sizes.

“We’re cutting to the bone of our educational program,” said Flores, who said administrators would be forced to study the district’s original list of extensive cuts should their budget be downsized again.

Possible cost-cutting measures were presented months ago and gradually whittled down through a series of public meetings, protests, negotiations and votes.

“Just about everything we’ve discussed so far would have to be revisited if we need to cut $4 or $5 million more,” said Flores, who confirmed unsavory options would have to be put back on the table including music, physical education, sports, adult education and across-the-board salary cuts, to name a few.

Studying the closure of an elementary school is not far from reality, either, although Flores clarified “the board has taken no action to close a school. We’ve talked about all the possible ways that we could balance our budget if the budget situation gets worse.”

The unrest unfolded locally during Friday’s rally when supporters congregated near the busy intersection of First Street and Wren Avenue. As cars honked and volunteers darted into the roads handing out fliers, Rod Kelley teacher Kim Lozano led chants through a bullhorn.

“I chose Gilroy Unified, even though it was the worst paying of the five,” she said, recalling her trip out from Louisiana to interview for five teaching jobs in one weekend. “I loved the statement I heard from every parent, every teacher and every administrator that ‘children come first.’ ”

Revised state budget

– Brown announced state revenue has rocketed far beyond projections, providing a $6.6 billion windfall he wants to use to boost education spending and help repair California’s finances

– Proposes a $3 billion increase for public school funding

– Still proposes the 1 percent sales tax increase and .5 percent hike in California vehicle license fee but would shelve the .25 percent income tax for one year. The income tax would commence in 2012 and end in 2015.

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