WVUSD Faces its Own 'Fiscal Cliff' Officials Say

The district plans to file a negative certification with the Los Angeles County Office of Education, declaring it won't be able to meet its financial obligations this year or next.

Budget woes, program cuts, and a squabble over class size for kindergarten were the order of the night at the Walnut Valley Unified Board of Education meeting Wednesday.

In a meeting that lasted almost three and a half hours, the trustees picked new officers and voted 4-0 to approve a report citing that the district will not likely meet its financial obligations this fiscal year and in 2012-13, among other actions.

Outgoing Board President Larry Redinger was absent. 

Colleen Patterson, interim assistant superintendent of business services, did a presentation on the district’s first interim budget report, which is due to the Los Angeles County Office of Education by Dec. 15.  The district plans to file what is called a negative certification, citing that it will be unable to meet it financial obligations for this year and next.

“This is the first time ever for Walnut Valley and it’s sad,” she said.  “You’ve hit your own personal fiscal cliff.”

Patterson said the district is deficit spending at about $5 million for the current fiscal year and is projected to spend more than it gets in the two subsequent years.

She pointed to deferred money totaling $22.2 million this year alone that the state owes the district as one of the chief reasons the district is fiscally in the hole.  The state will owe the district $66 million in IOUs in the next three years, she said.

Also an issue was anticipated revenue from the potential sale of Site D that didn’t materialize, she said.

The passage of Proposition 30, a ballot measure to raise funds education,  means the district won't lose any more money, but it won't get any more either, officials said.

Superintendent Dean Conklin said that the $22 million in expected funds from the state is what has set the district back financially, and now is the time for action.

Because 90 percent of the budget is personnel costs, Conklin said his plan for savings would include six furlough days for all employees this year, and nine for the next two years.  That would save the district around $10 million, he said.

Also included in his proposed plan would be to not fill vacant positions, offer a retirement incentive again this year, increase revenue by leasing out property, and continue to try to attract students from outside the district.

“This is not a case of hidden money,” he said.  “We all have a financial challenge.”

Marlene Dunn, a representative with the County Office of Education, said that a key issue the district has is how it deals with its ongoing expenditures, not just employee costs.

She added that it would “likely be impossible” to reduce expenditures without touching teacher salaries and benefits because it is such a large portion of the Walnut Valley Unified's budget.

Larry Taylor, president of the Walnut Valley Educators' Association, said district administration needs to work more collaboratively with the teachers than it has in recent negotiations.

“We have not said we are not going to take any furlough days,” he said.  “We said ‘let’s sit down and see a plan.’ You have to involve the stakeholders in the plan.  We are all here to make this district fiscally responsible, to make sure that the check doesn’t bounce.”

Margarita Gutierrez, president of the California School Employees Association, Walnut Chapter 446, said her group has made suggestions for things that can be cut, but their ideas have been dismissed as “bake sale items.”

Gutierrez and others called for the district to form a budget committee.

“It is easy for the district to act like classified employees are disposable,” she said…"Classified employees have been there for the district.  It takes people, employees to make valuable programs successful.”

Several speakers voiced concerns about the district’s move last month to cut its We Care program, which provided daycare mainly for district employees. 

On Nov. 7, the board voted 5-0 to layoff child development aides, the child development center supervisor, and the child development assistant that run the program. 

The elimination of We Care, which mainly provides childcare to babies from six weeks to two-years-old for district employees, is expected to save Walnut Valley Unified around $200,000 annually, official said.

Others lamented the increase in the number of students in kindergarten classes from a maximum of 22 to 27 at the start of this school year.

The district, faced with a higher number of kindergarteners, added them to classes.  The association representing the teachers in the district objected to the increase in students when their contract capped the number at 22 and has filed a grievance.

Walnut Valley Unified plans to add four additional kindergarten classes after winter break to accommodate the influx of students, Conklin said.

Terri Applebaum, mother of a kindergartener at Maple Hill Elementary and a teacher, said she objects to students being moved in the middle of the school year after the new classes get added.  That should have been done before school started so they wouldn’t lose continuity, she said.

Conklin said the district and the board didn’t want to move students either but couldn’t negotiate with new teacher’s association leadership until after the school year began to get a plan in place.

In a separate action, the board voted 4-0 to approve 3.26 percent reduction in salary for classified and certificated management employees for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.







Steve December 06, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Thank you for informing the community of what has been occurring in our great district. It saddens me to hear that good people are not working together due to money. I guess that has always been the case throughout history of any organization.
Vito Spago December 06, 2012 at 03:36 PM
More Budget Woes: Everyone in LA County received a notice of a Public Hearing on a Clean Water, Clean Beaches Measure that will add to your property taxes. There is a form to protest the tax increase. This notice came in the mail around Dec 3. Do not throw it away and sign and mail in the protest form.
DB Clock December 07, 2012 at 05:47 PM
What we have here are two "adult" groups (Administrators and Teachers) at the negotiation table, tearing away the HUGE $100,000,000+ (that's 100 MILLION dollar) loaf of a budget. The adults, who should be putting our KIDS FIRST, are there, acting like CHILDREN. The Superintendent comes away with his $200,000+ salary and HUGE benefits. The employee's rip away 90% of the loaf in salary and benefits. And the Kids? Where are they? Not at the table... ...but thrown below, starving on just a few CRUMBS! The loaf is gone, but the Kids, who CAME LAST, remain. The "adults" now, step away from the table, put on a sad face and BEG THE PARENTS TO DONATE BREAD TO THEIR OWN CHILDREN WHO WERE THROWN UNDER THE TABLE. A slice here for student workbooks, a slice here for student materials, a slice here for student supplies, a slice here for program improvements, a slice here for extracurricular activities. I said it at the meeting and I'll repeat it now. SHAME ON YOU ALL! The law mandates that 100% of all curricular needs of students must be budgeted by the district. If it takes the law to do the right thing, then so be it. But it would be more adult like to do it because it's our MISSION, to put KIDS FIRST, EVERY STUDENT EVERY DAY, especially on budget day.
Mayumi Shen-Li December 08, 2012 at 11:12 PM
I am shocked to hear that the teachers are willing to have their students moved out of their classrooms. My daughter's teacher said she did not want to but was told that there was no choice. This is a case of teachers hiding behind a stupid contract that does not and never has put our children first. I am so disappointed with our teachers as I have in the past praised their work. Not anymore because it feels like our district is TEACHERS FIRST, EVERY TEACHER EVERY DAY!
jay December 08, 2012 at 11:21 PM
am getting sick and tired of all the posters who keep blaming our hard working public school teachers here. they are buying school supplies from their meager earnings just to help the kids out and we have experts on these pages calling them corrupt like michael w. and only interested in themselves like clock. other than volunteer workers i cannot name any group who does more for less. can you?
Michael December 09, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Most of you people voted for this Board- so you are getting what you deserve. None on the Board have financial management credentials or an MBA to MANAGE. This Board wasted a $1/2 MILLION on the DOC DEBACLE, wasted $300K, that I know of, on the Cindy Simms golden parachute- you put them all back in office AFTER knowing this, or by just being ignorant. Enjoy what you sanctioned; elections matter.
Just a Teacher December 10, 2012 at 04:41 AM
I don't say it often, but I agree with Michael. The board has mismanaged this district into the ground. Let's look at the facts. They renewed Dr. Simms' contract and within 6 months they fired her and we were stuck paying off 18 months of her contract. During that time, they hired an interim superintendent at the same cost of Dr. Simms. Keep in mind, during this time, we had TWO assistant superintendents as well as the interim. Then they hired Dr. Conklin at a salary higher than Dr. Simms. There was one month in which our district was paying for 3 superintendents and 2 assistants. Now at the last board meeting we heard that Dr. Conklin has taken another job, something he didn't confirm or deny and the districts official word is "No comment." And just a few months ago, Dr. Conklin worked into his contract 25 sick days at $1,000 per day. The best part is that he can cash them out before he leaves. How about the board getting new iPads for every board member and administrator across the district? Why? We have teachers that are still using Windows XP. Top it off with the fact hours of resources were spent trying to make the iPads compatible on our network. The Kindergarten mess. The district knew they were out of compliance with the contract and did nothing to fix it and forced the union to file a grievance. Now they are saying it is the unions fault.
Just a Teacher December 10, 2012 at 04:50 AM
The district gave a retirement package to encourage employees to retire. So what did they do? Hired more employees back, more than the number that retired. If we talk about retirees, we have to mention the number of retired administrators that are re-hired as "consultants" to the district. The "consultants" are re-hired by the district at a cost of anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000. Why do we have district level positions, if we also have consultants doing the same thing? The cost of benefits has not changed in two years. The district plans on an increase for benefits, yet they haven't been needed. This is not a union issue. This is a district spending problem. We received an email from the district telling us they knew they had a spending problem. The district wants the union to take anywhere from 24-29 furlough days over 3 years. That is needed to cover their deficit spending. So after those 3 years, then what? Do we take another 29 days? The district is also telling you the parents that your kids need to miss 8-10 days of school a year to pay for their deficit spending. I would like to direct you to our union website for information about the negotiations, http://wvea.info/negotiations.html Pay attention to the part where the district admits the budget could be solved without furlough days (Negotiations Update #5)
DB Clock December 10, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Thank you Mayumi for your comments! All the adults on the board and in the union are acting like children! They refuse to put Kids First. I hope you join me at the next board meeting to hear about the "Kids First Deficit". The district and union are far from funding 100% of all educational activities, materials and supplies. If Kids came First, they would fund 100% of their needs before we worried about the childish adults!
DB Clock December 10, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Jay, they have to buy school supplies because all of the cuts "have been kept in the classroom". You see, you can't have it both ways. If you want more pay, you have to take it from more lines. The only lines left are materials and supplies from the classroom. No new textbooks in 3 years? Evergreen Elementary parents had to pay $15,000 for workbooks? Why wasn't this budgeted for? Because during collective bargaining the district gave in and, as Conklin said, "we've kept all cuts in the classroom"! Meager earnings? The top district teacher makes $92,000 for 185 days of work. That's about 75 days of paid vacation to us folks who work the whole year. You don't want to pay for materials and supplies, then don't steal from our Kids supply line.
DB Clock December 10, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I can't agree with you and Michael more!! The whole Simms/Conklin debacle is shameful, and the district was obviously wrong to increase K sizes. At the same time, will it benefit the Kids to move them to, in some cases, another school for the remainder of the school year? Hiring full time teacher aids would have been the best solution here. I grew up in a district with 35 kinders/class, and all my brothers and sisters and I turned out just fine. I think both sides need to justify how their actions put Kids First BEFORE they make the decision, and then act like adults when they need to resolve issues. In my estimation, both sides can do more to put our KIDS FIRST!
Just a Teacher December 10, 2012 at 06:13 PM
FYI, the district's plan for the kindergarten situation was to give each kinder teacher an aide for one hour a day, not the whole day or even half...one hour. They also would have received extra PE time and some other things. As far as class size is concerned, remember when we were all in kindergarten there were no state standards. Kinder now is what usually took place in first grade.
alan haskvitz December 10, 2012 at 10:20 PM
I hope all the parents express their views to the school board and that the parents also take the time to look at the concessions that the teachers have given over the past six years. A school system works best with teachers and parents working together.
DB Clock December 10, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Yes, the district's response was very inadequate, but so too do I feel was the WVEA's response. Lot's of good info at the district site: http://www.wvusd.k12.ca.us/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=203240&type=d
DB Clock December 10, 2012 at 10:36 PM
I spoke as a parent at the last board meeting, and try to be there every month, though family obligations take priority. I regularly engage parents, teachers, staff, students and district personnel in the "goings on" in the schools. I have even served on a school site council. I find that most stakeholders really do want to do the right thing, but money or entitlement always seems to get in the way of student needs. There is no reward for giving concessions means reducing the support for my child's educational needs. Unfortunately, putting Kids First sometimes means teachers and admins are second or even last, especially in hard economic times. That's hard for childish adults to accept.
alan haskvitz December 11, 2012 at 02:30 AM
Every teacher I know in Walnut Valley puts kids first. They spend their own money on classroom supplies and spend countless hours without pay tutoring. They go to conferences to update their skills and acquire new ones and pay for their own transportation, housing, and meals and even registration. They show up evenings and stay after school to support music and sports events even though it isn't in the contract. Without pay they organize clubs and are constantly looking for teaching materials that could help the students whether that be at yard sales or reading the latest in educational research. They take great pride in Walnut Valley Unified School District's very high State test scores that help to keep property values high even though most teachers don't reside in the area. They frequently answer electronic communications from parents after school. In fact, there isn't a teacher in the district who has not taken time from their own family to help the students in the Walnut District. We do our best to put kids, first even at the expense of our own family at times. And you should know that we have not had a raise in six years and have given many concessions to the district in other areas such as health benefits. Why? To help put kids first.
Michael December 11, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Won't do any good to complain at a Board meeting. Helen Hall has made it clear teachers need to make the sacrifices to fix the problem created by "Dr." Conklin, and the SPECTACULAR lack of oversight from the Board. You won't see them giving up their iPads for "official business" anytime soon. The Board won't care about 100 screaming parents, they KNOW they will all be re-elected by those very same people. I must say the teachers share a lot of the blame for their own fate- I don't remember the Teacher's Union endorsing reformers running for the Board. They endorsed every member on this Board. They are getting what they deserve- elections matter my friends. As a taxpayer, I'm livid that my school district management is on par with 'freakin INGLEWOOD now. Does anyone feel any shame down there? Or are they just rockin out to Gangnam Style on those iPads.
Sapphire December 14, 2012 at 05:52 AM
The district defaulted on the contract. It clearly states that kindergarten classrooms are not to exceed 22 students in a class. The district knows the contract and still placed more students then they were suppose to. They now turn around and blame the teachers for having to abide by the contract when they knew that the classes were out of compliances. The district just thought the teachers would suck it up and take it (just like always) but in reality the teachers are putting students first. If this had been allowed then class sizes in kinder could have been negotiated to be larger because "look they did just fine with 27 in a class, lets raise class size" this then would have placed more students in a kinder class and lower numbers in the primary class are crucial for development. It is the districts fault these students are being displaced and the blame should fall on their shoulders not the teachers.
DB Clock December 18, 2012 at 03:56 PM
I agree with you, teachers are good people who work hard, just like the rest of us. But thinking that teachers are any better than others means you have a very limited exposure to the general population of hardworking, generous, volunteering people everywhere. For me the problem is not an individual one, but rather a budgetary one. When you say teachers "spend their own money on classroom supplies", what you really mean, is that they spend a very small portion of public funds that they received as salary and benefits on materials and supplies, which were initially underfunded. Oddly, the law requires that materials and supplies lines be fully funded BEFORE the salary/benefits lines are paid out. So the problem is one of reallocation to insure that we do not have to have hard working employees give back a small amount of what wasn't funded in the first place. If someone argues and wins to have 90% of the limited budget allocated to salary and benefits (teachers, principals, admins, superintendent), then they are also the ones to deprive the children of sufficient materials and supplies. Do the math, the pie is getting smaller every year, but the adults at the table, cutting it up, are taking as large, or larger bites...and kids? Do you see them under the table looking for the crumbs? Parents watching the table dwellers spit out a few chewed bites don't view their actions as caring for those little ones below. Who's first in all of this?
alan haskvitz January 19, 2013 at 04:26 AM
DB, (Sure wish you would have the courage to use your real name.) You wrote that teachers spending their own money on school supplies really means that they were really spending money they earned from taxpayers. You also realize that teachers are also taxpayers. So, in effect, they are spending their own tax money once the government has laundered it, Regardless, in a few years most of the higher paid Walnut teachers will have left, either because of retirement or better paying jobs, and you will get your wish as less experienced and expensive educators replace them and reduce district costs. Be careful what you wish for. Real Estate values in this area rest on school test scores and have for years. Teachers are the bedrock of real estate values. As your accusation that I have a limited exposure to the general public...I don't think you would pass my class as my students have to prove their statements. Are you saying my decade of work in the financial world does not count? My work as a city commissioner? As a reference librarian? As a coach? As a construction worker? As a volunteer helping the handicapped? As a judge at numerous events? A community organizer? Author? Webmaster? Where do you see my lack if experience with the general public?


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