If there was ever an example of how much of a difference an election can make, head over to the Eastern Sierra Unified School District and talk to Mollie Nugent, the district’s chief financial officer.
“It’s allowed us to keep $191,000 that we would otherwise be deficit spending,” she said. “It means we don’t have to take things way from the students, the teachers at mid-year. It means we have options.”
“It’s a windfall,” said Superintendent Don Clark.
“We had budgeted as if it were not going to happen, so this is a windfall. It could bring our reserve to 30 percent and allow us to bring back staff, programs, depending upon what the district needs most.”
ESUSD is a small district, with schools scattered from Coleville to Benton to Lee Vining.
It has a student population of about 450 students this year and a budget of about $7.9 million, meaning $191,000 is no small hit.
When the state of California voted 53.9 percent to 46.1 percent to approve Prop. 30 Tuesday, it put into place a law that means everyone in the state will pay an extra quarter of a cent in sales tax for the next four years.
It will also increase income taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year for seven years.
On Wednesday, Nugent and everyone in education breathed a huge sigh of relief. All of that money will be funneled to education—not to increase funding to schools overall, but to offset billions of dollars in cuts already made in the past to education.
Even with Prop. 30 passing, however, it doesn’t mean the district is flush.
The district chopped classes, teachers, extracurricular activities and transportation two years ago and has been operating on an austerity budget since.
This year, like its sister district in Mammoth, Mammoth Unified, which was poised to be hit with a $500,000 cut in January if Prop. 30 failed, ESUSD cut the school year down to 175 days—adding five mandatory furlough days.
Although things have been slowly turning around—with property taxes finally increasing last year instead of decreasing and delayed tax revenues from the sale of Mammoth Mountain finally coming in last year—the district, like all school districts, is always braced for incoming budget cut missiles from the state.
Prop. 30’s passage was the first good news from the state in years, and Nugent said he is looking forward to some of the advantages the windfall will bring.
“We are heading out into the communities in the coming weeks, to each site, to see what their priorities are, and to begin making decisions about how to operate,” she said.
If the election had been held in the North County district the proposition will help, it would not have passed.
Almost every North County precinct, including Bridgeport, Antelope, June Lake, Chalfant, and Benton, did not support the proposition, denying it with a 3-1 average.
Only Lee Vining bucked the trend, joining Mammoth Lakes and all of the South County precincts to pass the proposition.
In fact, Mono County and Alpine County were the only counties besides West Coast counties and a few Southern California counties that passed the proposition, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We are glad it passed in Mammoth,” Nugent said. “I just wish it would have had more county-wide support.”