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.







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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