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Hart district budget may be in red

Posted: March 20, 2008 10:12 p.m.
Updated: May 22, 2008 5:02 a.m.
The Hart district may have to file a qualified budget after all if an agreement cannot be reached with the Hart District Teachers Association by April 2 regarding the retroactive payment of a 2 percent raise.

Filing a qualified budget would mean the district may be unable to meet its financial responsibilities for the upcoming school years.

At a March 5 budget workshop, William S. Hart Union High School District governing board members were able to make over $10 million in budget adjustments, meeting state budget requirements and allowing them to file an unqualified report, after Teachers Association President Leslie Littman told the board that teachers would be willing to wait for retroactive raise payments.

Littman made the concession with the understanding that, if funds become available, all of the money that employees have sacrificed to meet the budget requirements be restored first, however the board did not formally agree to those terms at that time.

Now the district and the Association have to agree on whether the first $1.2 million of any new unrestricted dollars coming to the district from revenue sources is committed to the retroactive payment of the 2007-08 2 percent salary increase negotiated and ratified by both parties.

"The status of our filing will be changed to a qualified report without this agreement," said Sue Guthrie, chief financial officer for the district, at Wednesday's meeting of the governing board.

Littman came to the meeting expecting the agreement to be approved, but board members wanted some clarification as to the exact terms to which they were agreeing.

"You essentially preclude us from adding even a $1,000 item to our budget, and I don't think that's the spirit of what was said last week," said board member Dennis King. "I can't agree to that - it gives us not one inch of wiggle room."

Littman asked the board to make employees a priority, and to approve the agreement.

"We want to be the first priority when the May revise comes out," Littman said. "When we made the offer, that's what we wanted."

Some board members were concerned that the agreement might tie up their budgetary discretion for several years, until the retroactive raise payments were made.

"Why is there even a board then? It doesn't allow us to do anything," said Board Member Patricia Hanrion, adding that she felt an agreement could be reached. "I do believe that we agree in spirit.

"We just need to take a little time to look at this."

Guthrie said whether the district files a qualified or unqualified budget depends on how long it takes to reach an agreement between the district and the Teachers Association.

"We need an agreement by the April second board meeting," Guthrie said. "Then I can probably ward off the qualified report."


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