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District awaits county’s take on budget

By David Scharfenberg Daily Planet staff
Tuesday July 02, 2002

The Board of Education unanimously approved the 2002-2003 budget despite fears that the county will reject the district’s financial plan for a second straight year. 

“I find it very difficult to vote for this budget,” said board member Ted Schultz during the board’s meeting last week. 

Earlier this year, the board approved heavy layoffs and chopped millions of dollars from the system. But the final budget still includes a $2.8 million shortfall. 

Last week the board approved the broad outlines of a fiscal recovery plan for next year that it hopes will close the gap. The plan includes solvency for a troubled cafeteria fund, the possibility of further staff reductions and, as a last resort, the sale of district property. 

The county has 45 days to accept the budget and the fiscal recovery plan. 

Alameda County Superintendent Sheila Jordan, who will have final say, at the meeting last Wednesday praised the district for making difficult cuts earlier this year. She commended officials for working closely with the county and with the state-run Fiscal Crisis Management and Assistance Team [FCMAT], an agency the board appointed after last year’s budget was rejected.  

Jordan is optimistic that the county office of education will approve the 2002-2003 budget. 

“My hope is that we’ll be able to pass it with a list of what needs to happen,” she said. “If it’s not passed, it’s not necessarily a terrible thing either.” 

If Jordan rejects the budget, the district will have 45 days to address the county’s concerns. 

Jordan said that while the county has not yet reviewed the final budget, its two primary concerns are the $2.8 million deficit and a recovery plan that is too general. 

If the county rejects the budget, Jordan said, it will likely ask for a more detailed recovery plan and could require the district to make additional cuts within the 45-day window. 

Schultz praised the staff for producing a budget during difficult circumstances, but said he had trouble approving the document because it provided a poor estimate of state and federal funding for the district and was difficult to decipher. 

“It’s really lacking in the clarity area,” Schultz said. “I wish the county luck in figuring it out.” 

Joel Montero, FCMAT deputy executive director, acknowledged the shortcomings identified by Schultz, but said the staff had done an admirable job considering that FCMAT, which started working in the district in October, asked the district to change its entire budgeting process in a matter of months.