Without the funds generated by this temporary tax initiative, schools will lose $370 per student. For the Oakley Union School District, this would equate to a $1.67 million loss of revenue. This is on top of the 20-percent cut in our revenues since the recession began four years ago.
In short, his initiative would do the following:
• Millionaires and high-income earners will pay up to 2-percent higher income taxes for five years.
• No family making less than $500,000 a year will see their income taxes rise.
• There will be a temporary half-cent increase in sales tax, still lower than it was six months ago.
• The funds will be dedicated for only education and public safety.
If the tax initiative fails to pass, we will be faced with many tough decisions as we look ahead. However, the governor’s proposed budget has made one decision very easy. Should Almond Grove Elementary be opened in 2012-13? Let me answer that question with another question: “If you thought you might lose your job next November, would you buy a new house today?” Of course you wouldn’t!
As you may be aware, two of our neighboring districts have new schools that are also currently not open. The Knightsen School District actually opened its new school for a few years but has since had to close it. And the Brentwood Union School District has a new school ready to open but it too has postponed the opening.
On a positive note, we are the only district out of the three that has received and continues to receive revenue from its new school site. Currently, the Lynn Center – a center serving special-needs students – is essentially paying the district about $180,000 per year for the use of nine classrooms. In the past, these very special children had to be bused all the way into Pittsburg to an extremely sub-par facility; a facility that has since been demolished.
Opening a new school is a very costly proposition. In our case we estimate the cost to be well over $400,000 per year. It would be fiscally irresponsible to open Almond Grove at this time, particularly with our fortunes (or lack thereof) resting on a hoped-for ballot initiative next November.
If you are interested in more information on Almond Grove or the district, visit our website at www.ouesd.k12.ca.us.
Other key provisions of the governor’s proposed budget are the elimination of funds for transportation and the never-enacted Transitional Kindergarten Program. He is also proposing a change in the way K-3 class size reduction funds are allocated. In short, this will officially abolish the program as we once knew it.
While the state is eliminating transportation funding, the Oakley school district will not. Unfortunately, we will lose $28,000 annually in funding from the state. This loss will have to be absorbed by our general fund.
While the funding for the never-implemented Transitional Kindergarten Program has been cut, the age for enrollment has not been withdrawn. Therefore, to enroll in kindergarten for the next school year, students must be age 5 by Nov. 1. The following year by Oct. 1 and finally in 2014-15, they must be age 5 by Sept. 1. We estimated that this will impact our enrollment and therefore revenue by approximately 30 less students each of the next three years. This will be a loss of about $135,000 per year.
In the broader picture thus far we have managed the budget crisis well. This is in large part due to the understanding and cooperation we have enjoyed with our community and employees. Next November has the potential to test our patience one more time.
I continue to be disheartened by the lack of support for public education by some in Sacramento. Among the 50 states, we currently rank near the bottom in funding, yet we have the highest standards, the greatest expectations and the most diverse population of any state in the union.