County School Board Certifies BUSD’s Budget: By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday September 07, 2004

County education administrators have indicated their intention to certify Berkeley Unified School District’s roughly $90 million budget, ending three years of strict supervision over the cash-strapped school district. 

Alameda Board of Education officials handed a draft certification letter to Superintendent Michele Lawrence at a Monday meeting, district spokesperson Mark Coplan said. An official letter of approval is expected to be delivered at an upcoming school board meeting, he said. 

The district succumbed to county oversight three years ago when its creaky financial systems and ballooning budget deficit nearly sent the district into receivership. During the course of a three-year plan approved by county regulators, the district slashed $12.5 million from its budget. 

The cuts have resulted in larger class sizes, and reduced music and library programs. The district is pushing an $8.3 million parcel tax this November to lower class size and restore funding to music and other programs. 

Coplan said county certification means Berkeley will no longer face oversight from the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). The controversial auditor, appointed to the district as part of a deal brokered by the state legislature, was to have made two additional progress reports. FCMAT was not available to confirm they would cease their work with Berkeley Unified. 

Also, Coplan said, the district would no longer be required to produce three time-consuming interim budget reports for county education officials. 

Superintendent Lawrence has previously warned the school board that although district finances appeared sound for the next two years, structural deficits were projected to return in fiscal year 2007.