March 17, 2015
Members of the Ojai Unified School District Community:
You are undoubtedly aware of the “perfect storm” of elements that contributed to the exceptionally challenging financial conditions our District has faced in the past six years: 1) the depressed national and state economy from 2009-13 resulting in significant restrictions on the per pupil allocations from Sacramento; 2) our ongoing declining enrollment which began in 1998, resulting in a 15% decline from 2009-14; and 3) increasing demographic, academic and socioeconomic diversity among our students. Truly, the only way we have been able to maintain our quality of programs has been through the extraordinary efforts of our teachers, support staff and administrators who have absorbed 100% more furlough (i.e., unpaid) days since 2009 than any other district staff in Ventura County. Remarkably, they have accepted this reduction in compensation through an average, annual positive vote of 94% of their membership, thus limiting or eliminating any further reduction of their colleagues’ positions.
To accomplish this result, our administrative representatives and I have met tens of times with the leaders of our two unions: Ojai Federation of Teachers (OFT) and Ojai Valley Chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA). We have forged a solid relationship based on mutual trust and respect. To this end, I wanted to share with you the joint e-mail we sent to all District staff on March 13 (see below). This collegial approach impacts so positively the lives of our students and their parents. I truly hope you are as proud of our staff members’ commitment as I am.
Superintendent of Schools
We are sending today’s e-mail following the Board of Education meeting this past Wednesday evening where Danni Pusatere presented projections for the 2015-16 District budget. We learned together that there is reason to be somewhat optimistic about our finances for next year. Unfortunately, we are not talking about a return to the pre-2008 days but we are confident that the following conditions are quite certain.
1) After the implementation of the principles in the Governor’s January 2015 Budget proposal for the 2015-16 school year, our District is projected to have a positive fund balance of about $300K on June 30, 2016. This amount does not include the cost of returning the two furlough days (about $150K) still in the 2015-16 school year calendar. However, unfortunately we are projected to be” back in the red” on June 30, 2017 (i.e., need to reduce expenditures in the 2016-17 school year) due to continuing declining enrollment in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
2) There is every reason to believe that our financial condition will improve when the Governor’s May 2015 Budget Revision becomes public by June 1. Before and after we receive that information and other data (e.g., rates for medical premiums and other insurances), also this spring, we will sit down and discuss the three major sources of employee-related costs; specifically, the return of one or both of the last two furlough days, an increase of the salary schedules for all employees, and the hiring of additional faculty and classified staff to reduce class sizes and improve working conditions in certain areas of the District.
3) To continue the collegial work we have accomplished together over the past six years, we will convene the 2015 edition of the seven-member Union Leadership - Administration Budget Committee, comprised of the President and lead negotiator for the OFT and CSEA, Laura Meisch, Danni Pusatere and Hank Bangser. The revenues and expenditures projected for the District in the 2015-16 school year will be placed on the table for all to analyze.
Hank, Martha Ditchfield (OFT President), Doug Roberts (OFT Vice President for Negotiations) and Chuck Crawford (CSEA Vice President)