Yosemite Unified receives Madera County schools superintendent approval of budget

Madera County approved the Yosemite Unified School District’s adopted budget and Local Control and Accountability Plan in a letter to board president Tammy Loveland dated Sept. 13, 2018.
Madera County approved the Yosemite Unified School District’s adopted budget and Local Control and Accountability Plan in a letter to board president Tammy Loveland dated Sept. 13, 2018. Special to the Sierra Star

The Madera County schools superintendent approved the Yosemite Unified School District’s adopted budget and Local Control and Accountability Plan in a letter to board president Tammy Loveland dated Sept. 13, 2018. This follows on the heels of a conditionally approved budget and LCAP plan just one year ago.

“I am particularly pleased to note that YUSD is projecting to eliminate deficit spending in the Unrestricted General Fund in 2018-19 and the subsequent two years, resulting in reserves of 6.05% (June 30, 2019), 14.33% (June 30, 2020) and 19.07 [%] (June 30, 2021),” county schools superintendent Cecilia Massetti said.

In January 2018, the county exercised its statutory authority to impose interventions on the district due to projected insufficient budget reserves. On June 26, 2017, the board had approved a proposed budget reflecting $1.3 million in deficit spending during the July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018 fiscal year and about $240,000 and $44,000, respectively, over the next two years giving the district an ending balance in the third year (2019-20) of $533,000, $32,000 below the state-mandated 3 percent reserve.

“Due to the YUSD’s anticipated ability to meet its financial obligations and reserve standard in the current and subsequent two years and the resulting ‘approved’ budget status, there is no longer a need or statutory authority for the interventions described in EC section 42127.6(e),” Massetti said.

“Although the YUSD has an approved budget, please keep in mind Education Code Section 42133 which states that: ‘a school district that has a qualified or negative certification in any fiscal year may not issue, in that fiscal year or in the next succeeding fiscal year, certificates of participation, tax anticipation notes, revenue bonds, or any other debt instruments that do not require the approval of the voters of the district’,” Massetti explained in the letter. There are also limitations imposed on any collective bargaining agreements made by the district.

“I commend YUSD’s Governing Board, administration and staff for working together to identify and implement fiscal solutions to ensure the continuance of quality educational programs for the children in our community,” she wrote in the letter to the board.

The MCSOS has a fiscal oversight role for all county school districts including the Yosemite Unified School District which includes Yosemite High School, Coarsegold and Rivergold elementary schools, the Educational Options Programs, continuation schools and day schools.

Following the examination of a district’s budget, the county superintendent may approve, conditionally approve or disapprove that budget. AB1200 sets the guidelines for this process.

“The county was a true partner, providing assistance to us at every step,” Loveland said. “We are grateful to Fred [Cogan] and Mike [Berg]. Mike was instrumental with his knowledge to reorganize the entire business office and bring stability.”

“The cuts were not comfortable but necessary. I am excited for the future of our district and, most importantly, the education of our kids as we continue to move in a positive direction,” said Loveland. “We still have bugs to work out. We are still in the process of becoming great. In three months we were completely fine. That tells you we weren’t out of control. We needed a leader and people in key positions.”

The budgetary crisis was accentuated by a number of administrative changes at the district level. Following District Superintendent Jim Sargent leaving the district for a Madera County Office of Education position in September 2016 having served the district since July 1, 2012, the board appointed then-Assistant Superintendent Leonard Kahn as interim superintendent and a consulting firm was hired to begin the search process for Sargent’s replacement.

Cecilia Greenberg was hired by the district in June 2017 to serve in a combined role as superintendent and chief business officer. Her three-year contract specified an annual salary of $179,000. On Feb. 7, 2018, Loveland announced that Greenberg had been placed on administrative leave and on May 9, 2018, the board, in closed session, voted unanimously to accept Greenberg’s resignation, effective June 30, 2018, awarding her a lump sum payment equivalent to four month’s pay.

Greenberg told the Sierra Star that aside from the issues of dwindling enrollment and increased pension payments, there were also challenges with the state and federal budget, rising minimum wage, and debt for constructed facilities.

Following Greenberg’s placement on administrative leave, Fred Cogan, an administrator for the Madera County Superintendent of School’s Office, moved into Greenberg’s office on an interim basis as the district began looking for solutions to its looming fiscal crisis. He was placed in that position by the MCSOS as a temporary YUSD superintendent on special assignment at no cost to YUSD to assist and address the district’s ongoing operations and needs.

On March 12, 2018, the board named Berg, a retired veteran superintendent, as interim superintendent to help the district right itself fiscally. Now the search process has begun for a permanent superintendent as Berg prepares to hand over the reins of the district.

“The board has asked me to conduct the search for them, with them, and I'll be here until we identify a competent replacement,” said Berg. The tentative appointment of a new permanent superintendent is scheduled for December 2018.

During Berg’s tenure, the business office has been reorganized and Charlotte Kelsey was hired June 25, 2018 as the chief business officer for YUSD. She came to the position from the Mariposa County Office of Education/Mariposa County Unified School District.

Based on input from a number of community and staff meetings, a draft profile of the qualities deemed important for YUSD superintendent candidates will be presented at the Oct. 8 board meeting and the position will be advertised beginning Oct. 15, 2018, according to the website.

Public meeting Monday night

The next opportunity for input will be at 5:30 p.m., Monday, Sept. 24, in the YUSD office board room.