Distrust of Board


Q:  Why should we give money to a board that has not shown fiscal responsibility?  Didn't they create this mess?
A:  First, every board member has been newly seated in the last four years.  One member, Norm Saude,  has been on the board before, but was absent for several years before returning as a newly-elected member.  None of the sitting board was on the board when the initial decisions were made regarding construction or financing of the Foothill campus.  This board, since 2008, has cut 29% of the district's annual operating budget to adjust to funding shortages from the state.  We have every indication that they will continue to do what is necessary to maintain the required reserves and continue the mission.  They have already cut their own benefits to a small, monthly stipend of $240. 
Q:  I heard Big Creek and Pine Ridge were only included to lower the cost to all voters.  They don't have many kids and they only attend 9-12 anyway.  Is this really fair?
A:  Of all the possible solutions, it is the most fair choice to included Big Creek and Pine Ridge in the vote.  Their K-8 schools do a wonderful job, but those students all flow into Sierra High School.  The outcome of this vote will significantly impact what happens at Sierra High in the next 10 years.  Those district representatives have expressed concern from their communities on the availability of transportation and programs for their high schoolers.  The most reasonable option is to include these communities in the vote, as well as the outcome.

High Teacher Pay


Q:  I heard our teachers earn some of the highest pay in the valley.  Why don't we start by cutting their pay?
A:  Years ago, Sierra teachers were on the top end of the pay scale, but no longer.  Now, according to our local CTA rep, Sierra falls in the middle of the pack, at 15th in the valley.  Also, Sierra ranks last in the valley in contributions to health benefits.  Sierra teachers have not received a raise since 2007, and have taken 3 unpaid furlough days for the past 3 years, which is essentially a 2% pay cut. 
Q:  I hear that money from the bond will go to fund pension plans, instead of actually benefiting children.  Is this true?
A:  Pension costs do come out of the general fund, but this is a fixed obligation, and payments will not change with passage or failure of Measure O.  What will vary is how many personnel are on staff, which in turn affects the services the students receive.  A portion of personnel costs are pensions, but the real issue should be whether it is an unreasonable amount.  According to the district, pension costs are 8.7% of overall personnel costs. 

Clovis Takeover


Q:  I keep hearing that Clovis will take over our schools.  Is this true?
A:  No, this is not a likely scenario.  Neither Clovis, nor any other neigboring district,  has any incentive to take on Sierra Unified's large geographical area (especially in an era of transportation cuts), unfunded facility debt, and aging infrastructure.  The projected scenario is that the local board will make whatever cuts are needed to balance the budget.  Without relief of the facility debt, these cuts will increase class size, and eliminate programs which causes people to take their children to other districts, if they can.  This then feeds the cycle of declining enrollment, which further decreases our own economy of scale.  The logical end of this path is a bare-bones school system populated by a small remainder of students. 

Closing schools


Q:  I'm hearing that the schools will CLOSE if the bond doesn't pass.  Is this true?
A:  No, given everything we know, there are no more school closures planned for our district.  Proposed cuts for three scenarios (continuing with current COP, re-financing, and passing a bond) are shown under the "files you want " tab.  
Q:  All California schools are having the same funding problems.  What makes you so different?
A:  Two things make Sierra Unified different from most other districts: 
   1)  Sierra is a small, rural district covering a large geographical area--translates to large transportation costs
   2)  Sierra has been paying on a large facility debt from its general fund.  Normally, construction is funded through a bond.  When you look at the total cost, including interest on the loan, eighty percent of the construction costs have been made "out of hide".  This bond would cover the remaining 20%.