Accounting Error Will Cause Additional Cuts for Schools

2011-12 BUDGET AFFECTED; SCHOOL BOARD NOTIFIED IN MARCH, DID NOT INFORM PUBLIC

By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

SAN LEANDROAfter approving $2.7 million in cuts to San Leandro Unified School District’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the city’s School Board of Trustees learned March 29, an accounting error will cause further cuts for the 2011-12 budget.

According to San Leandro School Board Trustee Pauline Cutter the error could run as high as $1.2 million. Others say the shortfall may be nearly double. The board’s finance committtee will discuss the matter at a meeting tonight.

The clerical mistake will not affect the upcoming fiscal budget which forced the school board to trim $2.7 million by increasing class sizes, cutting 25 percent of the athletics budget, along with various staff cuts. The new shortfall, though, will affect the 2011-12 budget, which the board will begin to grapple this June.

The school district was notified on the accounting error March 28 by the county when it was discovered faulty figures regarding the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) mistakenly treated as a one-time reduction, according to Cutter. ADA is primarily used by the state to calculate how much revenue a school district will garner per student. According to a March 23 report, the district projected receiving $6,493 per student at 94.88 percent ADA for the 2011-12 budget. The shortfall arose when the information given to the county accounted for full ADA, leaving 5.12 percent unaccounted.

The school board learned of the problem March 29, one day after the county notified the school district. The lack of transparency regarding such a large accounting error has caused some consternation around City Hall. San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos told The Citizen he questioned School Board President Mike Katz on why the information had still not been made public while the city has conducted numerous finance and council meetings to reveal the extent of their own budget woes to the public.

This is not the first time, the school board has engaged in slowly reporting unfavorable news to its constituents. In December of last year, the board voted in closed session to fire Superintendent Christine Lim. The dismissal had been rumored for months and ultimately caused a cascading effect of detractors including parents and a minority of teachers and staff. The school board did not announce the Lim firing until Jan. 5 and did not report the outcome of the vote until a week later. Critics of the firing say the board violated the Brown Act by not announcing the decision after the closed session in mid-December, an assertion board members deny and, instead, pin the delay on employee privacy associated with a personnel issue. The superintendent is technically the school board’s lone employee.

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