Orland Unified: Budget questions remain
The Orland Unified School District board of trustees has implemented a spending and hiring freeze, but the schools are not out of the woods when it comes to the budget.
Many questions still remain as to why the district did not take action sooner to avoid a financial crisis when the business manager and school officials knew the district was in declining enrollment, that health insurance and other expenses were going up and the state had been steadily reducing funding since 2008.
"Out budget can't have surprises," said Connie Carter, who said there should have been more warning from district administrators to the school board that Orland Unified was in trouble.
The school board last week voted 4-0 to impose a freeze on all hires and purchases that had not already been approved in the current 2013-14 budget.
The decision falls on the heels of $1.2 million in cuts to current year programs. Trustee Jack Martin was absent.
District officials did meet the Oct. 8 deadline for the Glenn County Office of Education to send an approved budget to the state, with about $40 left in the budget to spend, said county Superintendent Tracey Quarne.
The trustees took one-time money to pay a portion of immediate expenses, although it doesn't fix the ongoing deficit, Carter said.
Carter also questioned recent spending decisions, like $44,000 from developer fees used to purchased cafeteria furniture.
Carter said expenditures like that should have come before the school board for approval instead of the board finding out about it after the fact.
"We need to have a budget report on every agenda," Carter said.
Despite a balanced budget this year, Randy Jones, Glenn County Office of Education director of business, warned Orland Unified to keep an eye on the expenses as they turn their attention to 2014-2015.
"The district continues to experience and is projecting deficit spending," Jones said in a letter. "Available reserve levels of the district are projected to be below the state recommended reserve level by June 30, 2015. While this is a year out, we caution the district to not postpone the necessary reductions. The elimination of reserve will cause the district to experience cash flow issues."