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School District May Consider Parcel Tax

"People need to know we are going to be looking at all options," said Murrieta Valley Unified School District Superintendent Stan Scheer.

A Murrieta Valley Unified School District budget that has been dealt a loss of $139 million in revenue since the beginning of the state budget crisis in 2007 has forced officials to consider other options to keep the district running.

One such option could be a parcel tax, said District Superintendent Stan Scheer following a special board meeting held Thursday, during which Scheer along with school board members were presented a historical and future look at the state of the budget.

The meeting Thursday was the beginning of a series of discussions concerning the 2013-2014 budget, according to Scheer.

"People need to know we are going to be looking at all options," Scheer told Patch. 

"What we are trying to do is talk about how we got here; we still are not done talking about how we got here," he said.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Stacy Coleman used a PowerPoint to shed light on the progression that has led to this point--starting with state voter approval of Proposition 98 more than two decades ago.

"Prop 98 was enacted in 1988 to provide a source of adequate and stable resources for education," Coleman said. "...It was supposed to reduce class sizes and put California in the top 10 among states. It was very significant and was really meant to move education forward."

Since then, however, he said there has been "extensive manipulation" of Prop 98 funding that has "distorted" its original purpose.

"The one thing we have struggled with in this economy is stability. We get one number one day, another the next, and another on the third day."

It was in November 2007, he said, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger first announced there was an expected $10 billion shortfall.

Now Gov. Jerry Brown is supporting Proposition 30, an initiative that would increase state sales tax by 25 cents and require high-income earners to pay more in taxes.

If the initiative, which is supported by the California Teachers Association, passes on Nov. 6, it would bring in $6.7 billion a year.

However, Coleman said that in the first year, the governor is proposing to use the money in part to pay off (education) deferrals from 2011-2012. 

"Our funding would remain flat this year," Coleman said.

Additionally, Coleman said the district will receive less revenue this year until the new state funds are released in June 2013. The district in the meantime needs to borrow $55 million to "normalize its cash flow," he said.

"It is costing us $200,000 a year to borrow this money," Coleman said.

To play it safe, he added that the district adopted its budget as if the taxes were not going to pass. The district's 2012-2013 operating budget includes $142.45 million in revenue and $150.34 million in expenditures. 

The gap will be closed by the use of reserve funds, taking the ending fund balance down to $4.1 million, Coleman said—not enough to meet the district's required 3 percent reserve funding.

"This can not be mitigated simply due to further reductions and cuts to expenditures," Coleman said.

District employees, which make up 88 percent of the budget, agreed to an across-the-board 9.66 percent pay cut for this latest fiscal year taken in the way of furlough days.

The last time employees took a raise was in 2007. It was a negotiated 1 percent, according to Coleman.

Though there have been no layoffs since the budget crisis began, Scheer said 30 temporary employees whom are typically brought back each year remained "laid off" for the first time. And when employees have retired, most posts have not been filled.

"Those cubicles we have empty got us until now, that has helped us," Scheer said.

One-time funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 were also what helped carry the district as far as it has been able to survive, officials said.

"The community doesn't know what we have done to tighten our belts," said Board Member Margi Wray. "I think it is really important that we are telling people the one-time money is not there...we don't have any more tricks up our sleeves."

Board Member Robin Crist said there needed to be awareness in the community.

"We can't sugarcoat this any more...let's be honest about it," Crist said.

"The urgency now is that the community is going to start feeling the pain..." she said, alluding to more chairs in classrooms this year due to class size increases.

If the district were to propose a parcel tax on residents, Scheer said that decision would not be made until sometime in the spring.

"We don't want to do anything right now until we know what is going to happen in November," Scheer said. "If the tax initiatives pass, we are going to have a $12.5 million haul; if they don't we are looking at (a shortfall of) $22 to $23 million next year."

Sam Bradstreet August 30, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Here's the deal Dana....during Bush's eight years of destroying the economy...where were your Mom and best friend? Silent. If Romney were elected, where would they be....silent. If a black man, who was destined to paint the White House black, hire black panthers to collect people's guns.....so on and so on.....your Mom and best friend think he is the devil. So, the country elected Tea Party house reps......where are the jobs?? where is the economic growth......their plan, the only one they have is to destroy medicare and social security..... Kevin.....I don't give a flying f how many degrees you have...I also have a degree, but also 25 years in the business world. The public sector jobs are not destroying the world..........there is NO DEMAND, for products and services. No ones buying homes......cars.....so all the services that go along with that have what people??? No demand! Two things killed the economy. The Bush tax cuts and two wars. Not teachers, policemen and firemen. Grow up everyone and stop blaming your neighbors for having jobs that have modest salaries and benefits. They aren't breaking the bank. But lets look at the jobs you have and see the benefit to the economy. We should be rebuilding our roads and bridges....our water system and electrical grid.....not complaining without having a clue. Stop watching Fox News....realize they have an agenda and its not to inform you of the truth.
Murrieta Teacher August 30, 2012 at 03:08 AM
My teeth hurt from clenching my jaw reading all the misinformation being passed on as facts by the teacher and union bashers on this comment section. Mr. Clark erroneously states that teachers pay nothing for their retirement. Please fact check before you post inflammatory information. Teachers pay 8% directly out of their paychecks and the district matches that. Teachers do not pay Into social security. By contrast, people making social security deductions pay 7.65% and employers match. So Mr. Clark, you pay less into your retirement than teachers. You can just make a check out to the Social Security Administration to catch you up to what teachers pay.
Proud Murrieta Teacher August 30, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Kevin, you are incorrect in many of your statements. I am currently a teacher in MVUSD, but also worked for 20 years in the private sector before I became a teacher. I understand both the differences and similarities between the private and public sectors. I have my pay stub in front of me as I type this. First, teachers do pay their fair share of their own retirement. Teachers in Murrieta pay 8% of their gross pay into STRS. This is quite similar to what you pay into Social Security. MVUSD also pays approximately 8% into my retirement, very similar to what your employer pays for you into Social Security. We also pay 1.4% into Medicaid which I believe is probably the same exact amount you pay. The main difference between us is that I will be "dinged" $345 a month from my Social Security retirement benefits when I retire because I became a teacher. I believe that your 401K is a vountary contribution you make into a private plan but please correct me if I am wrong. Teachers have a similar plan (403b plan). Again, the contribution is up to the individual, not the school district or the public. The comical part is that people blame the teachers for receiving 100% fully paid retirements when teachers are about the only MVUSD employees contributing to their retirement plans. In fact, almost everybody except teachers and principals in MVUSD receive the 100% fully paid retirement that you refer to in your comments. Lay off the teachers and go after the real offenders.
Kevin Clark August 30, 2012 at 04:22 PM
So in your mind "Fair share" of retirement is 8%!!? I'll have to diagree again, not that you pay 8% but, unlike you when I recieve SSI it will be approximately 2,100.00 a month or 25,200 a year. Teachers on the other hand will be paid percentage of your final salary for rest of your life with paid or partially paid health benefits for contributing 8%.?! Well, your total contribution for over the 20 years as a employee will be approximately 136,000. So using that amount for your retirement, all of that money will be consumed by you in less than 3 years. Where is the rest going to come from?? TAXES TAXES TAXES. As for the other other 8% contributed by "the school district" that was our TAX money to start with anyway and even if you count that additional 8% you would be broke in 6 years or less. California is broke and the public unions are not willing to talk to you about changing anything. They would rather leave the staus quo and TAX the rest of us your benefit. Which I find to be obscene The article in the Californian on Wednesday page A3 by the associated press says it all, "the proposal fails to address the long term costs of the state pension liabilities for 200,000 employees" . How do you address paying retiement to 200,00 people when they all only contributed 8%. Lets start on health benifits my plan cost me 1,200.00 a month, how much do you pay for your health benfits 5% ,10% ,20% ??
MeMeMe September 28, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Why not an audit at the local level?? Will a local audit show what the Superintendent makes? A recent post shows that the Deputy makes $140-$150K. That's a ton for semi-rural Murrieta; especially in these times. Word is the district is getting ready to blow more millions on some new CNG buses with around $1 million going towards a new CNG fueling station. Why not cancel that plan and put the funds toward what we are needing in our existing budget?? In fact, I bet we could contract out or, team up with another school district our entire busing program as it appears to be wasting millions all by itself. Bring on the audit and let's see what we are wasting on fat salaries and waste (running buses for the few just so the "machine" can keep running is not any sign of efficiency). I'm sure we can cut millions in unnecessary salaries (let the Deputy Super move up and keep his pay at the same level and don't back fill, that will save over $200K alone). Also, what will a local audit show regarding pensions including the Super who only worked for Murrieta 6 years. What kind of California tax payer paid pension is he taking to Colorado?? I can tell you if it was a private 401K plan, you would be lucky to be getting a minority match on only up to 3% of what you contributed. So, if you contributed 4%, you would only get a match of .12% (that's .0012) of what you paid, and if you had left a little over a year ago you would have got zip.

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