But the challenge won’t stop there, Superintendent Tony Smith said last night. Smith said he expected the district will have to cut $80 to $100 million in the next three or four years as the state budget crisis continues.
“This is not about holding our breath. This is not simply about doing business as usual, and feeling like we can get through this and hang on,” Smith said. He added, “In these conditions you can either turn away from each other, hold on tight to what you have and defend it, or we can figure out how to work together and be a community.”
Smith made those remarks at a special board meeting last night in which CFO Vernon Hal walked the school board members (and interested members of the public) through the district’s complex budget. I wasn’t able to make it in person, but I watched the video. Here are some highlights:
Downsizing downtown: Although schools receive about 70 percent of the general purpose dollars, the central office is slated to absorb 70 percent of the cut, Hal said. That would mean a 4.5 percent cut for schools, compared to a nearly 28 percent cut downtown (which, of course, includes some of the services provided to schools). Again, we’re talking about general purpose money — not all funds.
Adult education and other grant programs are in the mix: Included in the $250 million pot is $33 million in state funding streams that were once protected, or “restricted” — but which school districts can now use however they see fit. Among those programs are adult education ($11.5 million), GATE and class size reduction for high school students (but not kindergarten through third grade). You can see the whole list of these “Tier III” programs on Slide 6 of the budget presentation.
The scoop on consultants: The money Oakland Unified has spent on outside consultants, rather than on staff, has been a huge bone of contention with the teachers union, whose contract expired more than a year ago and who have been asked to take a 3 percent pay cut. Hal devoted a slide to the issue (# 25, if you’d like to see more detail). He reported that the district and its schools spent $58 million on consultants in 2008-09, of which about $12 million (including $1 million to Oakland police) came from general purpose funds.
If you have a couple hours to spare and want to sharpen your OUSD budgetary expertise (I’m sure many people fit this description), just go here, and click on the video button next to the Oct. 26 meeting.