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WVUSD Says Furlough Days or Layoffs Needed to Close Budget Gap

The district recently brought in a mediator after negotiations with the Walnut Valley Educators' Association related to furlough days stalled.

Whether Walnut Valley Unified eases its fiscal woes through negotiated furlough days with its employees or layoffs, the district must have a balanced budget by June.

That was the message Tuesday night at a budget presentation Superintendent Dean Conklin and several board members hosted at Diamond Bar High School.  A second community meeting is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Walnut High.

About 40 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, in which district administrators outlined how Walnut Unified is facing a $4.2 million deficit for the 2013-14 school year.  The shortfall is estimated at close to $11.5 million for 2014-15 if the district does not take action to close the gap.

“We have to do something,” Conklin said.  “And the challenge is do we reduce the number of days or do we reduce the number of employees?  There’s not a third option. We’ve already dimmed the lights as much as possible.”

On Dec. 5, the district submitted what is called a negative certification with the Los Angeles County Office of Education.  A negative certification means that a district will be unable to meet its financial obligations for the current year and the two subsequent fiscal years.

Conklin said Tuesday the district is in the black this year but in the red for the next two years.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education has provided an advisor for the district who audited the books and found no misuse of funds or hidden money that can be tapped, he said.

Walnut Valley Unified is grappling with a structural deficit problem.  Years of deficit spending, largely due to the district getting less money from the state each year while costs to operate increase, have caught up with Walnut Valley, officials said.

Jeanette Ullrich, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services, said the main reason for the deficit is that the district has been getting less money from the state each year than was promised.

The state owes the district money under its Proposition 98 funding formula, including $21 million for 2013-14 alone, but those funds have been deferred.

“The state because of the deficit factor is only funding us 78 cents on the dollar,” she said. “And the last time we as a district, or any other district in California, was fully funded was 2007-08.”

Conklin said health insurance costs go up every year, as does what the district pays employees due to salary step and column increases, adding that 90 percent of the budget is people.

The superintendent has proposed that employees take six furlough days this year and nine for the subsequent two years. However, the Walnut Valley Educators’ Association, which represents the teachers and other certificated employees, has called furlough days a temporary fix for a problem needing a long-term solution.

The disagreement related to furlough days, which must be negotiated with WVEA, prompted to district to bring in a mediator after talks stalled.

“What the district has done is asked to go through the impasse process because of its inability to solve the deficit (issue),” WVEA President Larry Taylor said last month.  “We’re willing to work with them, but we’re concerned with the impact of furlough days on the students.”

Conklin said that other districts have asked for and received as many as 20 furlough days. The district asked for furlough days last year and the teacher’s union said no, he added.

The district’s reserves have been shrinking since 2007-08, as a result of not being able to keep up with growing costs.  In 2010-11, the Walnut Valley got an influx of funds from the federal government in the form of $8.2 million in stimulus money, but expect to be out of reserves by the end of this year.  The district is required to have a 3 percent reserve.

This is a problem the district has been working on for years, said Board President Helen Hall. 

The state previously enabled the district to use land money to avoid layoffs and some program cuts, but that is no longer allowed, Hall said.

“We have been working with the unions to try to solve this problem,” she said. “And so when you run out of one time money and the state says you can’t do that anymore, then you’re going to you have to deal with reality. And the reality is we have to deal with the structured deficit that’s in the budget.”

Board Member Cindy Ruiz said the district has made cuts to athletic and music programs in the past few years and has made it public that the district is struggling financially.  She urged residents to push the state legislators to fund schools equally, adding that surrounding districts get more money because they have more students receiving free and reduced lunch or struggling academically.

“Probably the most frustrating part is we get less money in our district than our surrounding districts right out the back,” she said. “Is it fair? Absolutely not. Why should we get less money because we perform better, because we are an upper middle class district?”

WVUSD COMMUNITY BUDGET PRESENTATION

Walnut High School - Performing Arts Center/Theater, 400 N. Pierre Road

Date: Thursday, Jan. 24

Time: 6 p.m.

 

 

 

 

Vito Spago January 24, 2013 at 01:22 AM
Furlough days hurt the kids. Just fire some teachers.
Michael January 24, 2013 at 02:21 AM
Where is there a problem here? The teachers LOVE and SUPPORT their union management and they both ENDORSED this Board. They are getting what they asked for, and DESERVE. Walnut voters are so happy they are giddy with this too, that's why they re-elect the same people to the Board every time. The only people getting screwed here are the kids and taxpayers like me- but no one cares much about us. Like INGLEWOOD, Walnut has homeless people and school district financials on par with them. Elections have consequences, I hope you are all enjoying what you voted for.
Just a Teacher January 24, 2013 at 04:30 AM
I agree. They also might want to close a school down. Which is what Dr. Simms recommended 3 years ago to cut off this problem and instead of listening to her, she was fired. A couple of things that weren't mentioned, but were mentioned during the negotiations. First, even if the teachers took the 24 furlough days over the 3 years, it wouldn't save teachers' jobs. The district made it clear that the furlough days were to build up the reserves, not save jobs. Secondly, while Conklin might have said surrounding districts had as many as 20 furlough days, he failed to mention that with the passage of prop 30 almost all have officially rescinded them or are in the process of rescinding them. This is a spending problem. The teachers don't want to take furloughs so the district can continue to spend on consultants, more interim-assistant-director administrators. If we knew they fixed the spending, furloughs wouldn't be that far out of reach. But what the district is saying to us is, "fill our reserves and in 3 years it will be better so you won't have to do this again". No promise to cut spending.
John Zoeckler January 24, 2013 at 04:25 PM
Vito Spago: You think that wouldn't hurt the kids? The situation is completely out of control and there are no adequate solutions which wouldn't be damaging to the educational process. Until schools are funded realistically, this situation will be continuous. Proposition 30 may five some relief, but in the long run, there must be a modification of Prop 13 funding limits to avoid further degradation of our once-fine schools.
Walnut Watchdog January 24, 2013 at 07:00 PM
Get over it West...you are not going to get elected to the schoolboard or anything else. If you are so obsessed with the fact that a African American lady has taken up residence down the street then take her home with you. She has every right to sit there as long as your neighbors give her food and money. Walnut has the best schools in California. The teachers are at the top of the scale and we live in a City that has been recognized as the best town to raise a family and best small town in California. So go get a grip on reality.
Ron Ynz January 24, 2013 at 09:32 PM
It isn't that hard to figure out but everyone makes it more complicated than it needs to be. How much did we spend last year? Where did the money go? How much will we spend next year and where will the money go? And the year after that? How much are other states spending per student, per teacher? is it books? Rent? Salaries? Health Care benefits? Pension Payouts? Where is the lion share of increase in spending? Make a bar graph and illustrate. Then we will see the truth instead of platitudes and talking points from ALL sides.
Michael January 25, 2013 at 06:31 AM
WW, Oh I see, you mention that the homeless person is black implying that I'm racist. Nice cheap shot- you shouldn't try to be so slick, it's not working for you. Do you ever comment on these stories or do you just wait by your laptop for me to post so you can do your standard ad hominem attack on me? You never comment on people not doing their job, only something I did in 2008. Walnut has a homeless person and had to file the same school district financial crisis statement as Inglewood, you must be so proud to be on par with them.
Daniel Chen February 02, 2013 at 07:00 AM
I'm guessing it's a pension issue, since California is notorious for its generous (and unsustainable) government pensions. The problem is that voters are not sophisticated enough to understand the issues and prevent problems like these from happening until they've already happened. Try volunteering at a political campaign and you'll see what I mean -- most people I met are politically apathetic or don't understand the major issues of their party, much less something like this.
Michael February 16, 2013 at 05:10 AM
God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board. Mark Twain Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/marktwain125617.html#bWYguRL1Vf71ULD3.99

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