Meeting Notes - 12/18/17

Notes taken by FFST member Ethan Smith:
The meeting started with BHUSD Director of Fiscal Services Angeli Villaflor presenting to us the mid-year projections of the District budget as presented to the Board on December 12th. There were two budgets, one with the five million dollar cut and one without. Both of these budgets are included as attachments here. The numbers are complicated but, not surprisingly, things are better financially for the District with the five million dollar cut than without. It should be noted that the "Fund 17" dollars were not part of the numbers we were given. Fund 17 is the money the District must keep in reserves. 17% of the District's budget is necessary for a reserve and a 25% reserve is recommended for Basic Aid districts such as ours. The budgets showed that if we do nothing the District will be out of money by the 2019/2020 school year.

After this, one of the FFST team members, who is also a CPA and a parent, reported to the group that he went to the District Office today and did his own analysis of the numbers the District is giving us. His conclusion was the same as the District's and he told the team that we can make our decisions based upon the numbers. The reasons we are in this financial situation are many, but the loss of Prop. 13, becoming a Basic Aid District and giving the same services to fewer and fewer students are all contributing factors. He made the point that teacher salaries account for only a small amount of the cost increases to the District each year and that the increase in the costs of benefits actually accounts for more.

It was pointed out that three sets of budget numbers are generated each year to answer three different sets of questions. Not surprisingly, three different conclusions are drawn at these times. This was all said to make the point that the FFST needs a reliable and understandable way of making presentations and statements to concerned community members about the financial health of the District.

FFST members voiced their concerns and frustrations about the financial state of the District. Among the statements were that the same services for a dwindling population means more costs. Board agendas and politics have contributed to our situation. Lawsuits and 12.5 million spent to fight the subway have also contributed to our financial difficulties.

After this, the point was made that our mandate is not to fix the District's financial problems. The question was asked if we should be working towards reconfiguration or towards making the District a "lighthouse district" again. Dr. Bregy told us that change is coming and one of the members asked the group if we want to own the change or simply be victims of it.

At this point Dr. Bregy outlined two "town-hall" style meetings that will be held in January. At these meetings a general presentation will be made about the work that the FFST has done. This presentation will last 20-25 minutes. After this breakout sessions will be held where people can ask questions about what most concerns them from the people on the team best able to answer those questions. One session will be about financials, another will be about education issues etc. Dr. Bregy used this method in his last district and had good results. The two meetings will be on January 10th and 11th at the high school. The District will be sending postcards to everyone living in Beverly Hills to invite them to these meetings.

At this point the conversation turned toward the financial impact of implementing some of the plans the FFST has discussed thus far. This was done by the District using average salaries, no master schedule and using current trends, student totals and contractual obligations. The models assumed class sizes of 23 for TK-3 and 29 in 4-8. The models did not eliminate any of the services we currently offer.

Currently there are 324 FTE in TK-8 with a total cost of 26.4 million dollars for everyone involved in educating those students. The target budget the District is working towards is 21-22 million for those same students. We were shown three options different from our current configuration. In the first, there would be three, TK-5th schools and one 6-8 grade school. This configuration would cut 46.5 FTE and save $3,021,534 per year. The next assumes two TK-5 schools and one 6-8 middle school. This configuration would cut 66.8 FTE and save $4,389,946 per year. The last configuration assumes three TK-8 schools and no middle school (closing one of the four TK-8 schools). This would mean a reduction of 67 FTE and a savings of $4,148,062.00. None of these models took the high school into account, but the District will be looking into that over the break. Reductions at the High School will affect what was shown to us tonight.

None of these have been adopted by the FFST as the proposal at this time.

After these numbers were laid out a short discussion was had that we don't want to box people in the community into a corner when we make our recommendation. We also discussed that we should make a timeline to implement reconfiguration part of our recommendation.

Things took a bit of a turn at this point in the meeting. One of the FFST members took the floor and voiced his concerns about the School Board and his feelings towards past and present members. He felt that we should take more time to make our presentation so that people community will not feel rushed. Other members of the FFST pointed out that this might not be a good idea. A lengthy letter, written by Counilmember John Mirisch was given to each of the FFST members in which he expresses concerns about the committee's work, states that he will be voting against the JPA and believes that the FFST is biased towards a middle school.

Members asked questions. Are Board members working against us behind the scenes? Are we being used as political pawns? Will politicians point to our recommendation in the future and run against it for their own gains?

The evening began to wind down at this point, but, after we agreed to press on, we were reminded of pressing timeline we are under. Reduction in staffing will mean that the FFST will have to make a recommendation by January 16th. It is possible that if the FFST does not make our recommendation now the election of two new board members will mean that our work could all be for naught.

Tomorrow night's meeting will be about forming groups of people to speak to four basic issues about reconfiguration: Educational Value, Finances, Cultural and Social Issues and FAQs of the community. These are the groups that will speak to community members in January.