New DMUSD board president elected

Steven McDowell became the new president of the Del Mar Union School District board of trustees, replacing Comischell Rodriguez who resigned on April 26. Trustee Doug Perkins was also nominated to be president but declined, citing concerns about his availability.

Co-location of district office option eliminated

The trustees voted unanimously to take the idea of co-locating the district office at a school site off the table on May 5. Trustee Katherine White made the motion. She said the board heard a lot of valid safety concerns as well as concerns about zoning and the legality of co-locating.

Trustee Annette Easton said the option of co-locating is not feasible because of the amount of time and money needed for zoning changes and conditional use permits.

Comischell Rodriguez was hesitant to take co-location off the table without having identified a suitable office building alternative, given the fact that the district needs to be out of the Shores property, which the district sold to the city of Del Mar in 2008, by May 2011.

“I don’t want to back ourselves into a corner,” Rodriguez said.

She said even though co-location wasn’t the best option, it did allow them an emergency plan in case they could not find a new location or if the city of Del Mar did not extend the lease.

“I think it’s a good gesture on the board’s part to take co-location off the table as long as we are actively pursuing property,” Rodriguez said. “I’d like to see us actually begin to make offers soon.”

Financial Task Force presents report

The district’s financial task force presented their final report to the school board with the hope of holding public workshops to share their findings with a larger audience.

The Financial Task Force, made up of representatives from each school site, met nine times between January and April to study district finances and suggest strategies for the short and long term. Chair Jonathan Flam said the group came up with recommendations regarding the district’s reserve policy and a basic aid contingency plan.

Del Mar is a basic aid district, which differs from revenue limit districts in that revenue limit districts get funding from the state based on enrollment and average daily attendance. Basic aid districts get to keep their property taxes in excess of their revenue limit, allowing the district an extra $10 million a year.

If for any reason basic aid status is greatly decreased or eliminated, the task force recommends the reserve should be spent incrementally to preserve programs.

Currently, the district’s reserve sits at $11 million.

The task force recommended that the district keep their reserve balance between 22 and 30 percent of expenditures. Only if that reserve level falls below 22 percent should the district consider material cuts for the following year, Flam said.

“Don’t do budget cuts and then end up with a surplus,” said task force member Beth Westberg. “We don’t want to make cuts in anticipation of something that may or may not happen.”

The task force also recommended that the district look into the feasibility of an “opt-out” option for the DMUSD health insurance and a district pre-school to boost revenue. The task force recommended that if the pre-school option is explored, the district should perform a comprehensive business plan and market analysis.