With two weeks before the Nov. 6 General Election, the Bishop Unified School District approved a resolution in support of Proposition 30. The vote was a unanimous 5-0 at the district’s Oct. 18 board meeting.
Referred to as the Governor’s Initiative, Prop 30 will return $491 per average daily attendance to the district’s 2012-13 budget. BUSD is currently operating on an estimated $850,000 budget deficit that will be taken from reserves. All public schools in Inyo County will be impacted, proportionately, if either Prop 30 or Prop 38, known as the Munger Initiative, fails. If both pass, the initiative with the largest number of votes will prevail and the $491 per ADA will be returned to state schools.
If neither initiative passes, Owens Valley districts will have to live with the cuts that are anticipated to deepen.
Both Inyo and Mono counties’ superintendents of schools have come out in support of Prop 30.
Valleywide, school districts’ 2012-13 budgets were based on worse-case scenarios.
If Prop 30 seems like an easy “yes” vote, the income to fund education and public safety will come from tax increases, a tough sell in the current economic situation. Prop 30 would increase sales tax by a quarter of a cent on the dollar for the next four years. The initiative would also increase income taxes on single taxpayers making more than $250,000 by 1 percent; 2 percent in incomes between $250,000 and $300,000 and 3 percent on incomes of $500,000 and above for seven years.
Bishop Board Trustee Carl Lind was ready to go to war against the opposition to Prop 30, commenting that since his retirement he’s not worried about offending anybody. Board President Jim Tatum’s cooler head prevailed. “There’s a culture in this country that ‘we’re just done’ (with taxes),” he said. “We need to make the point that there is no correlation between support of these initiatives and how we feel. We do not support the conditions that got us here but we have to provide funding for our kids’ education.”
Tatum’s approach was simple: make the state’s education system, if not whole, at least less broken, then fix what’s wrong with government.
“Public education is going down the tubes,” said Lind. With community college budgets slashed (11 percent of Prop 30 funds will go into the state’s community college system), Lind maintained that college was out of reach for the middle class. “Our kids are being short-changed. There will be generations unable to get good jobs with a decent wage.”
The scope of the problem was laid out in a poorly attended Town Hall Meeting this summer. District Superintendent Barry Simpson explained that the impending cuts were part of a trend that started in the 2008-09 school year when ADA cuts rose to 7.8 percent and continued through last school year at 19.7 percent. Those cuts were absorbed over the past four years through efficiencies realized in the unification of the high school and elementary districts as well as other cuts. While no staff cuts were reflected in the 2012-13 budget, Midge Milici, the district’s financial officer, told those at the Town Hall Meeting that staff layoffs would be unavoidable in the future.
The meeting presentation outlined how the district could deal with additional cuts expected in the 2013-14 budget. Those cuts included reducing school days with corresponding reductions in salaries, major reductions in athletics, the arts and other academic programs, a devastated ROP program, increases in class sizes and the possibility of eliminating as many as 17 positions, including seven teachers, over the next two years. Simpson anticipated that the final solution would be a combination of the above.
“We were elected to be leaders,” said Board Trusree Trina Orrill. “We need to step up.”