Trustees Extend Superintendent’s Contract; District Bids Farewell to Glenn Heath

The district’s director of human resources is retiring after 23 years of service.

Shouts of “four years more” filled the Community Center as Lemon Grove School District trustees extended Superintendent Ernie Anastos’ contract until 2016. With his current employment agreement expiring next June, a 5-0 vote added three years of service.

The contract comes with no salary increase this year. As with all employees for the past few years, the agreement includes furlough days—nine over the past two years. His total compensation for the past year was $191,016.

The district reviews contracts annually, and three- to five-year contracts are a common practice, Anastos said.

With the same vote of approval from the governing board, Dr. Gina Potter, assistant superintendent of business services, will remain for three more years. Her annual salary remains the same as it’s been for five and a half years—$129,492. She voluntarily gave 12 furlough days over the past two years to help the district get through the tough economic times.

Potter said she loves her work, and given the “tumultuous budget times” her focus is to keep the district fiscally solvent while still providing high-quality education.

“I find our school district to be a well-kept treasure and secret in that we are very much a family of students, parents, and staff members that strive each day to ensure that students come first,” she said.

With the new joint-used county library poised to open in early 2013 on the Lemon Grove Academy campus, Anastos said the intention is to build on the momentum with the many projects and programs on which the district is working.

“We will continue to develop our skills and focus on more deeply engaging students in their own learning,” he said. “We intend to maintain our record of continually improving student performance.”

With more than 40 years in the field of education, Anastos has been with the district for seven years in November. He came to Lemon Grove after 20 years in the Sweetwater Union High School District, where he served as an area superintendent. Prior to her current position, Potter was principal of Mount Vernon Elementary, and has been with the district for 10 years this month.

And in a fond farewell, the district honored Glenn Heath, the human resources director who is retiring after 23 years of service. Heath received a Shining Star Award in recognition of his dedication to children and exemplary leadership.

Anastos spoke of Heath’s integrity and professionalism, saying he had accomplished tremendous things for the district. Honoring his service to his hometown was “a long goodbye and a great celebration.”

“He is a true gentleman, and he has an amazing heart,” Anastos said.

Heath began his education as a student in Lemon Grove. During that time, he said he made the decision to devote his life to education, and called his time with the district “an honor and a privilege.”

Heath worked as a principle for 20 years, and ended his tenure as the district’s director of human resources.

“It’s a great community, it’s a small community,” he said. “The parents and the students are what made working for this district so special to me.”

The district is currently in the selection process for a new director of human resources.


City Council Approves Revised Budget

“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Finance Director Michael McGrane. The loss of redevelopment agency funds and escalating sheriff and retirement costs are expected to continue to play a major role in the city’s financial future.

The city’s budget has been “precariously balanced,” said City Manager Gary Brown, with a projected revised $33.5 million 2012-2013 fiscal year budget and five-year outlook unanimously approved by City Council Wednesday.

Finance Director Michael McGrane said the budget has been balanced in part thanks to a one-time transfer of redevelopment agency (RDA) funds and by dipping into general fund reserves.

He said the budget reflects the city’s attempt to reshape its administrative infrastructure and modified labor agreements approved since the adoption of the budget last year.

With $17.6 million in general fund operating costs, McGrane said the city made difficult choices in a financial scenario that is constantly changing.

Operating costs may appear to have increased in some city departments, he said, but this represents an increase in general fund spending to fill a hole left by the elimination of redevelopment funds.

“In the past, redevelopment paid part of the cost and wages of staff in these departments,” he said. “What you are seeing is the impact of RDA going away.”

About one in four city employees salaries were paid through redevelopment funds.

McGrane said last minute changes include the consolidation of the Tidelands maintenance supervision duties, retaining a maintenance worker for graffiti removal, but the city still needs to continue to look at ways to balance costs and expenses in the future.

In looking at the five-year projections, McGrane said that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department contract and retirement costs may result in an $857,500 general fund shortfall by the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

New revenue may come in the form of fee increases, hotel taxes and increased growth, but that money is expected to fill only a small portion of increased expenses, he said.

Mayor Jim Janney said the city could not keep up with the sheriff’s projected increase in costs. He said council “needs to come to grips with what the city does not have—revenue.”

“It is ludicrous,” he said. “This is not a very rosy picture. In fact, it is really ugly. Everything increases around us except for our revenues.”

Councilman Jim King said that with fewer officers he wondered what the driving force is for such drastic increases.

“This is so disproportional to any other thing I see on the budget,” he said. “It leads me to believe that we are not considering this amenity on what our specific needs and requirements are.”

McGrane said the sheriff negotiatates a multi-city contract and it is the largest expenditure in the city’s yearly budget. Sheriff costs increase annually for cost of living increase, he said.

King said he understands law enforcement and public safety is an absolute necessity, but that with the constant negotiating of contracts in this economy he does not understand the continuous rise in costs.

“It rubs me wrong,” he said. “I find this a little bit egregious. I am really not very happy about it.”

Councilman Ed Spriggs said that despite disliking the current arrangement that this city has to move forward in finding sources of revenue to cover it.

“There’s just no other choice, it’s there,” he said. “It’s inevitable, just like the retirement cost. These are fixed costs that just keep going up.”

Spriggs said the city’s challenge is to look at mid and long-term ways to increase property value, the use of commercial space and the attraction of visitors.

“The elimination of redevelopment has wiped out our source and means of land and property tax base improvement, but also a major source of salary support for city and staff,” he said. “We have to revisit how we balance quality of life versus growth in Imperial Beach.”

In other line items questioned by Spriggs beginning in the 2014-2015 fiscal year (vacation rentals, further restructuring and a decrease in Sheriff positions), McGrane said these items are only examples of how much revenue and savings will be needed to cover the expediential rising costs.

“It is not that staff is recommending vacation rentals or sheriff reductions,” he said. “It is giving you a view of the seriousness of the city’s five-year outlook. We are not out of the woods yet. We are going to have to constantly revisit the budget.”

Brown said council has a workshop scheduled for July 11. A panel of people including, developers, economists, multi-housing and business people that know how to bring in growth and help council develop a stronger long-range plan.

Councilwoman Lorie Bragg asked McGrane about a San Diego UT article in April that said IB is among cities with the highest reserves in the county.

At the time IB was 7th on the list with $10.3 million, or 54 percent general fund reserve. Dipping into the reserves, staff projects for FY-2012/13 a beginning reserve balance of $9.5 million and ending balance of $9.1 million.

McGrane said there is no “one size fits all” answer to reserve accounts. He said with the city’s limited tax revenues and property taxes, past city councils were cautious in their spending and proactive in building reserves in case of emergency needs, such as filling in the current budget deficit.

He said the city needs the reserves because it has no way of having large amounts of revenue come back into the city within one year.

“With a net operating budget around $17 million, you have about half a year operational ability for emergency use,” he said.

Bragg asked if the city’s reserves were proportionally out of line in withholding too much, but said she believed that council was on the right track.

McGrane said with RDA funding going away, the city has taken major hits.

“You have enough reserves to fund things that may blow up or other significant changes that increase your level of costs,” he said.

Spriggs asked if the estimation of additional revenues saved were an accurate view of what the city will actually see.

McGrane said in the case of the Recreation and Park Maintenance funds, the city drastically cut expenses in half with reduction of hours, operation, staffing hours and increase of park recreational fees.

Projections of savings are $105,475 and an increase of $9,000 in recreational fees approved by council at their June 6 meeting.

Spriggs said he previously had concerns about the city’s profile with the elimination of fireworks and public relations contract equaling $45,000 in cuts.

“At this point I concede that we have get down to balancing the budget,” he said.

Fourth of July fireworks will proceed this year, but next year the decision is “up in the air” depending on the state of the city budget at that time. Other ways to finance an Independence Day fireworks show may be sought. The Port of San Diego currently covers half of Big Bay Boom costs.

2012 Pow Wow by the Sea

Native American Chief

With more than 50 Native American tribes represented the 2012 Pow Wow by the Sea was held this weekend on Kumeyaay land, i.e., Imperial Beach.

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Lemon Grove School District Passes Balanced Budget

The district closed the gap on an estimated $4.3 million shortfall.

Grappling with a state fiscal crisis that has forced repeated reductions, the Lemon Grove School District Trustees adopted a balanced budget for the coming year, trimming even more from its $28.7 million current budget to close the gap on an anticipated $4.3 million deficit.

The five-member governing board voted 4-0 to pass the $27.8 budget for 2012-2013. Board president Jay Bass was absent from Tuesday night’s meeting.

In May, Gov. Brown revised his 2012-13 budget proposal to estimate the state’s budget gap at nearly $16 billion—a $6.5 billion increase over the January estimate. Brown is counting on about $6 billion in revenue if his November tax initiative passes. But if voters reject the tax measure, $4.8 billion in school cuts will be triggered.

That would mean a midyear cut of $1.6 million for the district.

A declining enrollment pattern has cost the district about 861 students since 2000-01, which resulted in a loss of approximately $5.3 million in funds.

The projected enrollment in the K-8 district in the coming school year is 3,718 students across six schools. The new Lemon Grove Academy for the Sciences and Humanities, which combines the middle school and Golden Avenue Elementary School campuses, becomes the largest school in the district serving more than 1,000 students.

Dr. Gina Potter, assistant superintendent of business services, said estimated numbers are difficult to meet as the district continues to deal with budget crisis years.

The district was able to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind—something that has become difficult in the current economy—even without actual numbers being closed out for the current school year.

“Every year this is a challenge for most districts nowadays,” she said.

Potter said in order to reach the $4.3 million reduction, the budget shows a savings of $531,484 achieved through lay off notices approved by the board.

Monday, however, the district and the Lemon Grove Teachers Association reached a tentative agreement that would restore eight permanent and probationary certificated teachers who had received pink slips. The union has tentatively agreed to three furlough days that bring an estimated savings of $325,000. Members will vote on whether to ratify the agreement June 17.

Budget reductions include:

  • $1.3 million in operational and funding realignment
  • $212,079 in temp certificated layoffs
  • $78,603 in administrative restructuring
  • $325,000 in negotiated furlough days
  • $250,000 in school closure
  • $275,000 in leasing out Palm Middle School (2012-13 only)
  • $1.657 million in spending down the reserve monies approved by trustees this school year in anticipation of 2012/13 midyear cuts, pending the governor’s tax initiative

Potter said this allocation pending the governor’s tax initiative will rise to meet the $4.3 million target after union negations and actual numbers are complete. She said the district has planned for midyear budget cuts and will hit its target “spot on.”

During the June 5 budget workshop, Potter said the governor’s tax proposal is ambiguous and leads the public to believe its passage will add $6 billion to school funding. She said it only closes an educational funding gap that already exists.

If the tax initiative fails, midyear cuts are imminent and the district will have a cumulative total of $7.47 million in within-fiscal-year deferrals—nearly 60 percent of revenues received late in the year or the following school year.

Board member Katie Dexter requested that $22,000 found in savings costs of fingerprinting, district memberships and the elimination of the Family Literacy program be divided among the six schools, per enrollment size, for school supplies.

“It is only a little bit more money,” she said. “But it is one more pencil per kid.”

Little Work for Local Business in Proposition W Projects, Supporter Says

The $28 million school bond measure has resulted in one contract for a Lemon Grove company.

A supporter of Proposition W, the $28 million school bond measure passed by voters in 2008, is upset that little of the money has been used to benefit local business. He says the Lemon Grove School District assured residents that they would have opportunities for employment.

Robert Robinson, president of the Broadway Heights Community Council and an organizer for Proposition W, made the complaint to the school board at its May 22 meeting.

He told the five-member panel that he was disturbed a community benefits agreement for hiring locally had not been put in place.

“The bottom line is … only $126,688 has been awarded to the local community,” he said. “Somebody has been sleeping at the switch here.”

So far, three bond sales have raised $18 million to repair schools, modernize a middle school and build a new joint-use community library. The first bond sale raised $5 million, most of which was used to pay off debt for past construction and energy-saving projects.

The district had been using money from its general fund to pay that debt.

Later bond sales raised $8 million and $5 million, respectively, to fund construction on the long-awaited library and revamp Lemon Grove Middle School, which will open in the fall as the Lemon Grove Academy for the Sciences and Humanities.

The district awarded the $10.4 million project—the first new construction out of the 2008 measure—to San Diego-based Legacy Building Services Inc.

Robinson said the district is dealing with a large contractor that has a built-in audience when contracts are bid out through the San Diego chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America’s AGC San Diego Online Plan Room.

He called Legacy’s bid announcements in AGC and The Daily Transcript a “symbolic gesture.”

“Legacy has done the Lemon Grove School District an injustice,” he said. “I have dealt with Legacy and the AGC for more than 30 years, and this is just how they operate.”

Robinson said AGC’s more than 30,000 member firms “equal nothing less than construction clout.”

Joanne Branch, the district’s project manager, said all public advertising for the design/bid process had been done correctly. She said Legacy advertised for three weeks with seven separate advertisements in public newspapers of general circulation, with three multitrade bid projects advertised over a period of six months.

With 151 bids received, three subcontractors were from Lemon Grove.

“We were very pleased with the coverage that we got,” she said.

Branch said Legacy chose to do specific outreach in Lemon Grove, contacting local businesses twice during the bidding process.

“Each of the 48 Lemon Grove subcontractors listed was personally called by Legacy,” she said. “They knew their trade was available on the street and were provided an opportunity to bid.”

Potter said more than two-thirds of the companies declined due to the large scale of the projects, eight asked for bid documents and only three submitted bids.

Martin Roofing Co. of Lemon Grove was awarded a subcontract for $126,688.

Dr. Gina Potter, assistant superintendent of business services, said Robinson posed good questions, and that she and Superintendent Ernie Anastos have met with him.

Potter said the district is addressing Robinson’s concerns about bringing in money locally by expanding outreach to local contractors and day workers.

local work opportunity link was recently added to the district’s Proposition W website. She said the district is responding to Robinson’s request for day workers gaining employment by placing fliers in local churches and businesses.

“Along with Legacy, we are making an effort to do this as quickly as possible,” she said. “One major hurdle in getting day laborers with subcontractors is that most hired already have a set crew to do the work. I don’t know what the probability is in getting day laborers hired.”

Potter said the best thing for any person or business interested in working with the district on projects is to contact the district directly using the number provided on the website and flier.

“There are other projects that the district might have going on that some might qualify for,” she said. “And the district has the information on all opportunities, not only with this particular design/build project.”

But with two-thirds of the Proposition W bonds cashed out, that may not be for years to come.

Potter said that with the assessed evaluation, the district is unable to execute the full amount of the bond measure—and that it could take 10 to 20 years to move forward working with the remainder of the funds.

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