Oakland Unified won't count on tax increase

May 14, 2012 7:29:20 PM PDT
According to Gov. Jerry Brown, there will be no cuts to education. In fact the governor said public schools will be an additional 16 percent in funding, but most districts say they're not counting on that money.

Over the past years, school districts like Oakland Unified have been forced to make drastic cuts to their budget, but in recent months and again on Monday, the governor said there will be no more cuts to the K-12 system and in fact, it could see a 16 percent increase in funding. Regardless, there is a big if attached to that promise.

"The schools are going to be looking a lot better in the coming years, if we get the taxes and I'm counting on the voters to say yes," said Brown.

If the measure passes, the education budget would increase from $29.3 billion to $34 billion by the end of 2013. For Oakland Unified it would mean $15 million of additional revenue -- something that district hasn't seen in years. But here's why most districts aren't jumping up and down with joy.

Arun Ramanathan is with Ed Trust-West, an education advocacy group.

"School districts can't budget based on the passage of a ballot initiative. So what they do is just cut, so it's almost like giving them a real cut," said Ramanathan.

So in Oakland, Monday's announcement doesn't change anything for the next school year, 2012-2013. They are operating as if the tax measure were to fail.

"This year if the tax measure fails, we'll be able to draw on our reserve fund, but we won't have that luxury in the following 2013-2014 school year, so that is really going to the perilous time for us financially," said Oakland Unified spokesman Troy Flint.

If voters reject Brown's tax initiative, he says he would automatically cut $5.5 billion to K-12 and $250 million each to the California State University and UC systems.

Education represents 40 percent of the state's general fund. It stands to gain or lose a lot depending on whether the tax hike proposal passes.

And if that ballot initiative does not pass, some districts will have to cut up to three weeks off their calendar year. As the governor put it, it is a difficult budget.


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