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Categorically speaking

Submitted by on 1, April 15, 2009 – 5:45 amNo Comment

11Just a few notes for you on the school board last night:

The board okayed a plan to use $1.59 million in funds from adult education, deferred maintenance funds and a targeted program for school improvements to help balance its general budget over the next two years.

The district will also use $109,000 for school and library improvement grants, gifted and talented education and professional development funds to help pay for special education and special education transportation.

The state made billions in cuts to schools for this year and next year, including $5.8 million in cuts to Alameda Unified. But it is allowing school districts to use money from “categorical” programs that are funded separately from general educational expenses in order to help balance their (smaller) budgets.

The district did not have plans in place to use the funds, and district officials are using a number of other strategies, including Measure H parcel tax funds, to dodge program cuts.

Meanwhile, the board voted to reinstate its own stipends of $300 a month but held off on taking back paid health care benefits, which could have cost the district upwards of $40,000 if all five board members took full advantage of the benefits.

The board nixed the stipend and benefits last year as it considered a long list of budget cuts pre-Measure H. A recent survey of school districts in the county showed that the majority offer stipends and health benefits to members.

Trustee Tracy Jensen said the money offers folks who aren’t wealthy and can’t afford to pay the costs of being a school board member, which include attending events, a chance to serve. And she said board members can return the money if they don’t want it.

But Trustee Trish Spencer said she didn’t think the district should pay the costs of health benefits. She put forward a motion to offer the benefit plan that teachers get, without a contribution from the district, that was accepted by the full board.

Trustee Ron Mooney voted against reinstating the stipends.

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