Ventura Unified struggles in “unprecedented” budget crisis

Anaika Miller

California’s staggering debt has already forced Ventura Unified to cut $20 million from its budget and, if a measure to extend tax increases doesn’t pass in a June special election, the school district will face an additional $5.9 million loss next year.

“This is an unprecedented budget crisis,” Superintendent Trudy Tuttle Arriaga said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Governor Jerry Brown is proposing to cut $12.5 billion in state spending but hopes that voters will pass the measure that will generate roughly $10 billion in tax revenue. The measure would temporarily extend increased sales, income and automobile taxes.

While most Democrats have supported the proposed measure, it has met opposition from Republicans who argue that voters didn’t pass similar measures in 2009 and 2010. It will take both parties, however, to reach the necessary two-thirds vote to place the measure on the ballot. If the measure makes it to the ballot, voters will be able to approve it by a simple majority of 51 percent.

“I think our charge is to keep the pressure on our legislators,” said board member John B. Walker.

Because about half of the state budget is in fixed expenses, most of the cuts will come from California’s education and prison systems if the measure doesn’t pass.

“As a teacher, I would not only say this is catastrophic, I would say it’s horrific,” board vice president Velma Lomax said.

Even if the measure is placed on the ballot and passes, both the state and the school district will have to continue making cuts.

Arriaga urged the public to consider before they cast their vote the consequences for students if the measure doesn’t pass.

“The best-case scenario still has California last in per student spending,” Arriaga said. 

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