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It's been five years since Ojai's public schools asked voters to approve a parcel tax; but the issue again came up during Tuesday's Ojai Unified School District (OUSD) board meeting. Since that unsuccessful bid in November 2008, state funding for OUSD has shrunk, forcing staff and the board to examine alternative sources of revenue to fill the gaps.
OUSD financial advisor John Isom, of Urban Futures, Inc., discussed the possibility of pursuing either another parcel tax or a geo bond with board members. "If you really want to take control of your own destiny, you have to do something locally," said Isom. The first step, he advised the board, would be to conduct a survey to gauge the public's support for either a parcel tax or bond. It's wise to "spend time up front to help assess the feasibility — to get a qualitative and quantitative assessment to see what the community would support," Isom added.
The board voted in favor of having Isom and his staff conduct a $6,500 survey, although the vote was not unanimous. Board member Pauline Mercado expressed that she would not be in support of the survey, parcel tax or bond. "I'm executor of a $1 million estate," she said. "I'm not going to support a bond or parcel, because of the additional (tax) money ... But I know we need money, there's no question."
"Then where would we get it?" asked fellow board member Rikki Horne.
"I don't think we're going to get it from voters," Mercado responded. "So I'm not even favoring the survey. I don't even want to go down that road ... I'm going to vote no."
After additional discussion, Horne said, "We don't have the exact numbers yet — we don't have the budget yet, but we're sure we're going to be in the hole (in future fiscal years), so I think it's our responsibility ... we're looking at selling district property, we're looking at all the options ... I think it behooves us to ask the community what they want to do."
"It's just a survey," added board member Linda Taylor. "It's a small amount of money to find out what two options are for our school district."
Board member Kathi Smith was more direct. "For someone with a $1 million estate, if they can't cough up $150 (extra) a year — not a month — in order to better our community and make life better for our youth ... it's frankly quite shocking for me ... I'm for it, I'm all for it. I won't criticize the administration for spending that money."
After the meeting, OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser said he and Isom hope to have the feasibility survey results before the Jan. 21 meeting. However, if the board is seriously considering moving forward with a parcel tax or bond measure in the June 2014 elections, they would need to notify the county of their intentions in February. The board could also opt to add either the tax or bond to the November 2014 or June 2016 elections, Bangser said.
Regardless of what the board ultimately decides, there is still uncertainty about the amount OUSD will end up getting from the state come June. That's due to several issues, Bangser explained. Although the passage of Proposition 30 in 2012 was supposed to provide some relief to school district budgets, the way the state is calculating the distribution of funds may result in Ojai getting half of what they were expecting.
Experts originally said the state's calculations would be based on the school's number of students from the 2011-2012 school year, which was good news for OUSD — to the tune of approximately $800,000 in additional revenue — because of higher enrollment numbers.
However, the state plans to use 2012-2013 numbers instead. Because Ojai's public schools had 75 fewer students in that year, Ojai may only get half of the $800,000 in additional funds that they had been anticipating.
The news sent assistant superintendent, Dannielle Pusatere, and director of fiscal services, Laura Meisch, scrambling to find ways to cut $400,000 from this year's budget. "Almost 2 percent of the budget will have to be cut — 5 months into the school year," said Bangser, adding that this had been accomplished. "And you have no choice but to do it."
In addition, Pusatere said, the district is currently looking at a budget deficit of about $1 million for the 2014-2015 school year.
However, because the state brought in about $3.1 billion more in revenue than it had anticipated, OUSD’s budget shortfall could be reduced. But school officials do not yet know how much of that $3.1 billion Gov. Jerry Brown will ultimately allocate to school districts.
"This is by far the most uncertain we've ever been in December," Bangser said. "In my opinion, however, there's every reason to be optimistic that the $1 million (deficit) will be less than that."
Bangser and the OUSD staff hope to bring a clearer view to the board and the public at the Jan. 21 meeting. So with so many unknowns, why even bring it up at this week's meeting? It's a state law, Bangser explained, to give school boards an interim report and budget projections for the next two fiscal years. "Otherwise we would've preferred to look at it in January, when we'll know more (from the state)," Bangser said.
The next OUSD board meeting is set for Jan. 21 in the OUSD board room, 414 E. Ojai Ave. Visit www.ojai.k12.ca.us for additional information.
Kimberly Rivers, OVN correspondent
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved a mandatory spay and neuter ordinance Tuesday for most dogs and cats whose owners live in the unincorporated areas of the county.
Supervisors Steve Bennett, Linda Parks, Kathy Long and John Zaragoza voted in favor of the ordinance, while Peter Foy cast the sole nay vote.
From one end of the valley to the other, the Ojai area is getting into the spirit of the holidays. Tuesday morning, Monica Ros School kids got a wintery surprise when they came to school. Snowmaker Daz Hawkins ( top photo, back left) and student Steven Garcia (front left) watch as Troy Winbury tries to make a snow angel.
During the weekend of Nov. 2, deputies from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Ojai sub-station responded to a report of several vehicle burglaries in the Matilija Canyon Trailhead parking lot. Vehicle windows were broken and property was taken from the vehicles, including purses and personal electronics.
Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent
Ojai residents Jennifer and Mike Buckland may have lived here for only about a year, but they have already discovered some things that need changing, and despite two young children and 60-hour work weeks, they intend to give it their best effort.
Ranger fans didn't let sub-freezing temperatures stop them from coming out to support their team. See a recap of Saturday's game and keep watching our sports page for more updates and photos from last game and to learn whether the Rangers will advance in the CIF finals. (photo by Tim Dewar)
Kimberly Rivers, OVN correspondent
The Ventura County Planning Division admitted Tuesday it allowed an oil company to drill a well in a forested area in Upper Ojai without the proper environmental review.
What sparked the admission were two complaints filed in October by Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas (CFROG) against Mirada Petroleum.
Ralph Williams (above) stands next to one of the many planes he repaired during WWII and a picture of Williams (below) circa 1941 in his uniform. (photos courtesy of Ralph Williams)
He walks in the door clutching a well-worn photo album. Inside are 70-year-old memories, ones he never expected he'd make when he graduated from Nordhoff High School in 1941.
Ojai resident Andrew MacCalla hands out much-needed medical supplies in the Philippines. (photo courtesy of Direct Relief International)
Andrew MacCalla is at it again.
After about a week at home, he ships out to the Philippines Sunday for another 10 days. As emergency response manager for the Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief International (DRI), he will continue to oversee DRI's medical supply distribution network in the country, hit by the category 5 Typhoon Haiyan in early November.
Ojai Rancho Inn owners Chris Sewell (left) and Kenny Osehan have had their share of disagreements with the city. (photo by Tim Dewar)
Tiobe Barron, OVN correspondent
An annual holiday event at the Ojai Rancho Inn and a flurry of action by the city of Ojai sparked an outpouring of community support.
Each December, Ojai Rancho Inn “transforms into a festive holiday pop-up shop,” using the rooms as makeshift shops for vendors. This year, the event scheduled for Saturday from 3 to 10 p.m., came under fire by city staff in part because of previous noise complaints by neighbors for weddings and concerts at the inn.
The new turtle is a much-needed piece of equipment for Nordhoff baseball, say golf tournament organizers.
The Nordhoff baseball program recently held a baseball-themed Golf Tournament to raise funding to improve their facility. Proceeds enabled the team to renovate its batting cage, as well as purchase a turtle for batting practice. The turtle will allow the players to take live batting practice on a regular basis, and will save baseballs from being lost. In addition, the program was also able to purchase a portable pitching mound. “We raised the money thanks to our golfers, tee sponsors and donors and wasted no time in getting the equipment to the field for player use. We hope to see all the players back next year for our second tournament,” said event organizer Bob Boyd.
The Double Duffers Golf Club played its December scramble-format tournament in the bitter cold at Soule Park Golf Course.
First-place honors for the day went to the team of Caroline Thacher, Evelyn and Tom Gibson and Dave Sparks. In second place was Sue and Ken Lakes, Susan Gruber and Rocky Rockefeller. In third place (by one stroke) was the team of Linda Nugent, Shirley Saxby, John McDougal and Len Block.
The next tournament is set for Jan. 2, with a shotgun starting time of 8 a.m. New members are always welcome, couples or singles. Call Lakes at 646-4243.
The Nordhoff High School girls’ basketball program will be hosting its 38th annual varsity girls’ basketball tournament today and tomorrow.
NHS, Fillmore and Oxnard will represent the Gold Division and play in a round-robin pool play schedule against Blue Division representatives Royal, Thousand Oaks and Calabasas.
The first game tips off at 3 p.m. today, and at noon tomorrow.
The host Nordhoff Rangers, who most recently won the tournament in 2011, play at 6 p.m. today. Tomorrow, they will tip off at 3 p.m.
For local fans looking to take in some preseason tournament hoops, tickets can be purchased at the door. Call 640-4343 for more information.
Montessori School of Ojai kids recently teamed up to practice their ball handling skills in the “club sandwich” relay race during an Ojai QuickStart Tennis session. Pictured are Lilly Baker (left) and Jadyn and Dylan Winbury. (Photo by Holly Roberts)
The free Ojai QuickStart Tennis Program offered through the Ojai Recreation Department and taught by community tennis enthusiasts and volunteers recently finished a two-week session at the Montessori School.
Philippe Gache, program manager and teaching professional, explained that the program has already reached out to about 400 students between third and sixth grades this year so far. The program started in September with Sunset School, then visited Meiners Oaks Elementary, Montessori School of Ojai and will finish out the year at Mira Monte Elementary. The program will start out in January 2014 with Topa Topa Elementary, then Ojai Valley School, Summit School and finally go to San Antonio School.
QuickStart Tennis introduces the game of tennis to children using a smaller court, smaller-sized rackets, lower nets, and low-density balls. The program encourages early success by teaching the basics and engaging students with fun games and rewarding challenges.
"We asked Suzanne Lugotoff, director of Nutrition Services for the Ojai School District, to come once per school to talk to the kids about nutrition and healthy life," Gache added.
The fifth Ojai QuickStart Tennis Challenge will take place tomorrow at the lower Libbey courts from 1 to 3 p.m. Between 40 and 50 players from each participating school will be invited to join the challenge. All participants will receive a gift and winners earn trophies donated by the Ojai Valley Tennis Club. For more information about the Ojai QuickStart Tennis Program or the 5th annual QuickStart Challenge, contact Gache at ojaiquick
The Nordhoff defense will rely on players including Shane Hersh (No. 21) and Brandon Wadsworth (No. 1) to stop Corona del Mar’s high-powered offense. (photo by Ken Brown)
The Nordhoff Rangers continue to make history on the gridiron in 2013. After winning back-to-back CIF-SS Northwest Division titles, the Rangers have been selected to play in the 2013 CIF State Regional Football Championship Bowl game.
By winning the CIF-SS Northwest Division championship and by being rated one of California’s strongest teams in Division 3, the Nordhoff Rangers were selected to take part in the 2013 CIF State Regional Football Championship Bowl.Register to Read More
After saturday's win, Coach Tony Henney hoists the team's championship plaque. (photo by Ken Brown)
In front of a sold-out crowd of 3,000 at Ojai Valley Community Stadium, the Nordhoff Rangers defeated the El Segundo Eagles to claim the 2013 CIF-SS Northwest Division football title Saturday.Register to Read More
Nordhoff running back Tayler Livingston, No. 9, sets the tone for the night by breaking this big run in the opening series of the game. (photo by Tim Dewar)
Despite frigid cold temperatures at Ojai Community Stadium, the Nordhoff Rangers continued thier red-hot streak by winning back-to-back CIF-SS Northwest Division titles by defeating the El Segundo Eagles, 49-21 in front of thousands of cheering fans.Register to Read More
Connor Floyd spends hours every day honing his craft. He hopes to play Division I college baseball. (photo by Kai Lin)
Kenton Shiffman, OVN correspondent
Ojai Valley School junior Connor Floyd has just received some of the most exciting news of his life: he was named an Under Armour Pre-Season All-American in baseball.Register to Read More
The Thacher Toads sent both their boys’ and girls’ cross-country squads to the 2013 CIF state finals last Saturday in Fresno. Both teams placed in the top 10 and both will be back in the hunt next season. Representing the Toads were: Bea Land (front row, from left), Sarah Voss, Isobel Hayne, Reade Rossman, Sophie McMillan, Arianna Finger and Georgie Becker; assistant coach Sarah DelVecchio (back row, from left), Kevin Griffee, Simon Novich, Jack Richardson, Spencer McCune, Ryan Jackson, Peter Callan, Jack Pierrepont and head coach Fred Coleman.
The Thacher School’s cross country teams both earned top ten finishes at the 2013 CIF State Cross Country Championships held at Woodward Park in Fresno. The girls’ team, paced by senior Sophie McMillan, raced to a ninth place finish in girls’ Division 5 while the boys’ team, led by senior Simon Novich, placed eighth in boys’ Division 5.Register to Read More