Thursday, March 11, 2010

Note from the Board Member: MONEY IN, MONEY OUT

from Galatzan Gazette -the weekly e-newsletter of School Board Member Tamar Galatzan (West Valley)

11 March 2010 -- To the figure $640 million, which is seemingly implanted into the minds of everyone connected to LAUSD in 2010, let me add two more -- $30 million and $34 million.

  • Six hundred and forty million is the minimum budget hole for the 2010-11 fiscal year.
  • Thirty million represents the amount of money that the District has spent on professional services involving BTS since the payroll system first malfunctioned in early 2007. This year, LAUSD has so far shelled out $2.3 million on consultants to run the system, which is more than the entire 2007 allocation. As always, the contracts come with a claim that District staff is being trained to do the work of the consultants, but we are just not quite there yet. I long ago grew tired of these explanations (or excuses), and I know the public has, as well. It is time for the District to either hire an outside firm to perform the work or employees who are capable of doing so. Especially in these perilous times, LAUSD can no longer be held hostage to BTS consultants.
  • The $34 million figure, by contrast, represents the amount of bond money saved because recent projects are coming in under original projections.(This number includes $6.3 million from the K-8 school in Porter Ranch). The slumping economy, and particularly the slowdown in the commercial real estate market, has made companies eager to land projects. And, the $34 million represents only the first four of 17 new schools that will be put out to bid this year. By December, the District could be looking at hundreds of millions of dollars in projects that have come in below estimates.

The Facilities Division has the responsibility to come up with a fair and equitable way of distributing these funds, including, perhaps, beginning to address hundreds of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance. While most of the attention of the Board and District staff is focused on the looming deficit, we cannot neglect the other money issues-- good and bad --that LAUSD faces each day. –Tamar

●●smf’s 2c:  Oh, my – where to begin?   Ms. Galatzan, in addition to being a school board member is also an attorney in the office of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. She needs to go have a conversation with her colleagues in city hall about the difference between capital funds (the bond money) and operating funds (the district budget).  To spend bond funded capital money on operations is a criminal act, punishable by all kinds of mean and awful stuff she doesn’t want to contemplate.

She also needs to understand that there are members of the school board who would rather see the money savings Facilities has realized spent on pet capital projects of their own. They have a little list.

There is a way to do what she proposes: She needs the state legislature to allow more than the bare minimum of bond money to be invested in deferred maintenance. That will require some lobbying and advocacy and hard work in Sacramento. There is not one member of the Bond Oversight Committee who wouldn’t support this because we know that money spent now on maintenance saves much more money on repairs later. There are many school board members up and down California who would support this.

We want to be her partners …but we don’t want to be her cellmates.

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