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School Board Trustees Approve Budget Reductions
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A total of $2.1 million in potential cuts to the Oakdale Joint Unified School District budget was approved by the Board of Trustees at the Feb. 8 regular meeting. The district must cut between $1.5-$2.2 million from the budget, depending on the state’s final, approved budget. Adjustments to the budget will be brought before the board once the state budget is finalized and union negotiations are complete. The district knows that, at minimum, it must cut $1.5 million.

Some of the largest cuts on the list include a cut to salaries and stipends by four percent for every position (this must be negotiated), including the school board, equaling $1.1 million; a restructuring of custodial staffing, totaling nearly $204,000; class size reduction through attrition, at $120,000 — District Superintendent Fred Rich acknowledged that class sizes at the junior high and high school are too large, the elementary schools will see slight increases in class sizes; a reduction of one vice principal at Oakdale High School in 2011-12, at $117,000 — this will be attained through the retirement of a principal.

Rich stated that the district is in a good financial position compared to other districts because of sound planning, noting that state reductions and payment delays have created the need for cuts. He said that Modesto schools have approximately 28,000 students and need to cut around $28 million, Salida schools have 2,000 students and need to cut $3 million. Oakdale has 5,300 students.

Failure to reduce the budget in the next fiscal year and subsequent two years will put the district in qualified or negative status, which would then require the intervention of the county Office of Education and the state’s Department of Education.

Rich said a restoration process will take place at a future time according to the district’s strategic plan.

In other business, a change order for $4,600 for the Oakdale High School aquatic center project was approved. The change order was needed for an unforeseen condition related to bored conduit that needed to be retrenched. Board members and district staff spoke to public concerns regarding building a pool during these tough economic times. General fund dollars are not being used to fund this project. It is a combination of developer and other matching fees that can only be applied to construction. Rich said that the money cannot be put toward saving district jobs, but the project does create jobs in the community and supports the local economy. The money for the project is considered “use it, or lose it” dollars because if the funds are not used within a certain time period, they must be returned. The pool is the final project that was initially on the list of bond projects.

Of special note, board member Pam Antinetti died Feb. 5 after battling ovarian cancer (see story in this issue). Each of the board members, and some district staff made comments about her contributions to the district and the community and how she will be missed.

The next regular meeting of the OJSUD Board of Trustees will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 8 at Oakdale City Council chambers, 277 No. Second.