Shocked Audience Learns-
School Board Must Make Drastic Changes to Avoid Receivership
$1 Million Annual Deficit Looms
Board to Close Elementary School,
A Possible Source of Increased Revenue
|Emery Unified School Board Meeting-April 22, 2015|
Ms Siu's budget projections showed that if the District changes nothing about its revenues and spending from how they are right now, then within two years the District would be operating at nearly a $1 million annual deficit and, by not having the state-mandated minimum 4% in reserves, would not be certified as solvent and would likely face a return to receivership. Ms Siu added that 4% would actually only cover one month's expenses for the District and 10% reserve would be advisable.
Emery crawled out of a state takeover in 2011 after ten grueling years of Sacramento control after the District was bilked by a former Superintendent.
The Board seemed to take this dire warning in stride and they indicated they will consider budget adjustments at future meetings. However, those in attendance later learned that one possible solution the Board could not see its way clear to consider was to keep Anna Yates Elementary School open in order to enroll more students than ECCL can accommodate and to, thereby, increase revenue sufficiently to cover the projected shortfall. Instead the Board dug in its heels and said they could not change course on a plan (allegedly) set in stone over ten years ago.
Not one parent or community member had a positive thing to say about closing Anna Yates Wednesday night, but the Board was unmoved. The Teachers Union also sent a representative to report that the teachers had met in an emergency meeting Tuesday to address this issue and that an overwhelming majority of the teachers did not want to see Anna Yates closed.
The School District is partners with the City of Emeryville in the ECCL project and two City Council members were witness to the spectacle; Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue.
Parents Erupt in Outrage
The testy crowd Wednesday night was rallying around a proposal by Board member Christian Patz, to keep Anna Yates open as an elementary school and use the yet to be constructed ECCL site on San Pablo Avenue for a middle school (as well as a high school). The idea is the middle school children would use the building originally meant for the new elementary school after Anna Yates is closed.
But newly elected Board Member Donn Merriam, an architect, indicated he was not capable of fathoming how one could use a 1200 square foot space intended for Kindergartners in any other way. He warned that this proposal would raise construction costs and postpone the ECCL for at least a full year. The crowd, not inclined to the normal decorum, erupted at Board member Merriam's intransigence and began shouting out alternative uses for the space from their chairs.
Board President John Affeldt announced his unwillingness to be persuaded about keeping Anna Yates open before even hearing public comment, a statement that especially riled up the crowd. His remarks so enraged some parents who had, by then waited for several hours to speak, that they stormed out of the room in disgust without speaking. Many others who had come to speak had given up by this time and had returned home to their waiting babysitters or had left to put their children to bed. Board President Affeldt had also refused a request to move the item up on the agenda so that these parents could be heard.
Many attendees expressed exasperation to the Tattler after the meeting. It seems to the parents among them the District's overall message is clear; they are closing Anna Yates, like it or not. One parent wishing to remain anonymous said of the Board, "They are driving this District straight into a financial ditch and they're not willing to consider the most logical way to avoid it [keeping Anna Yates open]. On the contrary, they'd like to press on the gas further. Parents should get ready now for either an incredible number of cuts to close a $1 million gap or two, the State or the County will be in charge of our District's finances again in a couple of years. They're telling us to move our children to another District as soon as we can".
School districts gain revenue from enrolled students and the looming financial disaster for Emery Unified offers no palatable choices if the number of students is not increased. Essentially, cuts and the selling off of assets are really the only options available. Keeping the elementary school as a way to increase enrollment for the District in the cramped ECCL site is the best option parents and teachers said. This plea was made in many ways by many speakers Wednesday night but the Board seemed unmoved, save Board member Patz.
The following budget projection reveals the disturbing slide Emery Unified School District is facing: