Deficit Spending and Overworked Teachers as 2019-2020 Budget is Presented

Fiona Murphy, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Photos by Will Oviatt, Photography Director

September 30, 2019

Teachers and students from across Humboldt County school districts filed into Monday’s special board meeting addressing the 2019-2020 budget for the Northern Humboldt Union High School District. While classified staff have reached a tentative agreement with the board, including full Oak-level or second tier health insurance but no cost of living salary adjustment, certificated staff are still in negotiations. 

After a presentation regarding the financial standing by fiscal director Cindy Vickers, community members lined up to voice their opinions to the board. 

The presentation by Vickers outlined a decrease in district funding over the last year even though there is an increase in the Local Control Funding Formula of $495,117.

“We have actually lost funding in other areas like federal and other local and other state [funding],” Vickers said. 

Part of the loss in funding stems from Governor Gavin Newsom’s change in budget allocation for high schools. 

“Gavin Newsom, the new governor is very focused on early interventions, which means funding for kindergarten or pre-kindergarten students and trying to capture them early and trying to assist them so that when they get to highschool level they don’t need all the services that they need now,” Vickers explained, “So unfortunately, that means the highschool is not getting extra funding.” 

Not only has the revenue for the Northern Humboldt District decreased, the costs have increased. The pension and health insurance rates have been steadily growing and revenue has not been able to match the new cost. 

These inequalities between revenue and expenditures have created a growing financial deficit within the district. 

“The issues we have regarding negotiations right now is that we are deficit spending,” Vickers said, “If you can imagine having your home budget, and you are spending more money every month than you are bringing in, eventually, if you have a savings, you would wipe those savings out.” 

The possibility of a “savings wipeout” is relatively close. Based on the 2019/20 budget, there are two months within the year where the Northern Humboldt District will have negative cash. This possibility, if continuous, may lead to drastic changes. 

“If you continue to deficit spend, and you show that you may have to dip into you reserves in particular if you have to go beyond the minimum, which is 3% [of the general budget], you have a negative budget and the state will take over your school.” Vickers said. 

The information surrounding the budget, while educational to board meeting attendees did not dissuade community members from voicing their opinions regarding the current financial situation. 

“We have not once talked about in any meeting about reducing the budget by looking at administration and district office reductions and I feel like you are asking our staff to take so many reductions.” Shannon Kresge, Arcata High science teacher, said. 

This sentiment towards administration proved to be a common theme in many of the speeches. 

“It seems clear to us what you guys value and that is, when you look at admin pay, the numbers for admin pay that don’t include benefits, outrageous, so maybe admin should take a cut,” JoAnn Moore, English teacher and negotiations chair, said.  

Students joined the teachers in the comments to the board, giving voice to the importance of teachers in their lives and the community surrounding the school. 

“With the current conflict over contracts, as I’m sure you are aware, teachers are working only to their six hour schedules,” Naz Dickerson, Arcata High senior, said. “This means that classrooms are not open at lunch or before or after school. The main problem with this is not that clubs are cancelled nor is it that it is inconvenient for those who must make up assignments, the crucial issue here is that students who are in need of adult support cannot receive it.” 

Northern Humboldt students have been reminded of this fact as they spent the last week with closed doors at lunches and after school. 

With no date set for continuing monetary negotiations, the students, parents, administrators, and teachers of the Northern Humboldt district are unsure when closed doors will reopen and fraught board meetings will end.