By STEVEN TAVARES
The San Leandro Unified School District shed light on the city’s worst kept secret Monday evening. Details of a $1.6 million accounting error were announced that could mean further cuts to their budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which is slated to begin discussion in the next few months.
Interim Superintendent Cindy Cathey told the school board’s finance committee all figures were checked on a budget program the district utilizes but, “for whatever reasons, which are somewhat unexplainable, we skipped that cell,” said Cathey.
The budget for the upcoming 2010-11 fiscal year is unaffected, said Cathey, but excruciating budget cuts for the year after will begin shortly. The school board voted in February to make $2.7 million in cuts for next year.
Much of the school district’s funding comes from Sacramento, which in itself is struggling to make ends meet. San Leandro School Board Trustee President Mike Katz and fellow trustee Paulne Cutter have said in emails, widely circulated, that part of the budget problem arises from uncertainty in the state capitol. Cathey echoed that sentiment Monday saying, “I’m not making any excuses at all, but these are really different financial times for us and things are changing as they will still change.”
Cathey, who was appointed by the school board in January to replace the fired Christine Lim on an interim basis, said the school district will implement new guidelines to prevent another clerical error in the future, including an item-by-item review along with specific evidence backing each figure. “That should be a protection so an error of this nature won’t happen again,” said Cathey.
During the meeting, School Trustee Morgan Mack-Rose answered critics who have said the board has shown a pattern of obfuscation regarding the firing of Lim and the current budget snafu saying Monday was the first meeting convened since the county notified the school district of the error March 28. She also said the school board has also yet to meet since the the problem arose. “We can’t discuss things that are not agendized,” said Mack-Rose, “and we can’t talk amongst ourselves.” The school board held special meetings April 1 and 13. Board member are not allowed to discuss items up for consideration, but likely do not include approving whether a budget error occurred or not.
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