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Governor’s mirage has real consequences

Chuck Sambar

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposes to give school districts a

revenue limit increase of 4.23% for 2005-06.

On its surface, this increase is rather healthy and substantial.

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On closer examination, however, one discovers that the largesse is

designed for a major shift in school finance and it is, in fact, more

of a mirage and smoke and mirrors rather than an actual increase for

the schools.

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The governor proposes two major shifts in financial responsibility

from the state to local school districts.

The first shift has to do with the state’s contribution to the

teachers’ retirement system.

Historically, contributions to the retirement system have been

shared by the state, local districts and teachers.

The governor proposes to shift the responsibility of the state

paying its share of the contribution to the local school districts.

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Teachers and local districts will have to pay the full share of the

retirement contribution.

This shift in responsibility will cost Glendale $1.7 million

annually.

If the governor’s proposal is approved, Glendale will have to pay

the increased cost out of its 4.23% proposed increase for next year

and for years thereafter!

The second shift that the governor proposes is to require school

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districts to assume responsibility for paying the full cost of mental

health services for students who are in need of such service.

Historically, the state paid its share for such services.

The cost of this financial shift to Glendale is around $1 million,

plus or minus, depending on the number of students served.

When the cost of the shift in the teacher retirement system and

mental health services are added up and assumed by school districts

such as Glendale, the governor’s generosity becomes a mirage and the

additional funds disappear.

Additionally, Glendale is experiencing a severe decline in

enrollment of nearly 700 students this year and another 700 students

next year.

Families tell us that they can’t afford to rent or buy affordable

homes in Glendale or California and they are moving to states such as

Nevada and Arizona.

The enrollment decline will cost the district over $6 million

dollars in income.

Additionally, Glendale will experience a decline in revenue

because it has fewer students from families who are at or below the

poverty level as well as students who are non-English speaking.

Federal and state funding will decline as we serve fewer such

students.

When all the above decreases in income to the Glendale district

are added up, one can understand why the governor’s proposals to

shift funds and responsibility from the state to local districts

leave us in shock.

Make no mistake about it, Glendale is suffering from the state

“borrowing” and financial shenanigans.

The Glendale Board of Education has made major cuts in staff and

services.

We have borrowed from every possible account such as the Retiree

Benefit Fund, the Health Benefit Fund and the Certificate of

Participation Repayment Fund.

We have reduced administrators, teachers, classified, maintenance

and operations staff.

We have instituted cost controls on purchases, travel and other

expenditures, and we have approved dipping into district reserves for

over $9 million dollars.

There is a point, however, when enough is enough and the state

needs to give sufficient real dollars and not take them away!

* CHUCK SAMBAR is a resident of La Canada Flintridge, trustee of

the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education and director

of the Los Angeles County Trustees Assn. He can be reached at

chucksambar@sbcglobal.net


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