NORWALK – Jude Cazares was sworn in as a board member for the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District on Monday just in time to vote on several key district issues and a more than $200 million school district budget.
In front of a packed school board room, Board Member Darryl Adams swore in Cazares as the seventh member of the board.
The seat was previously occupied by Margarita Rios who resigned after winning a seat on the Norwalk City Council in March.
Cazares will serve out the remainder of the term, which is up for reelection in November of 2018.
After thanking his wife of 18 years, Veronica, family and other supporters gathered in the audience, Cazares took his seat on the board right next to Board President Sean Reagan.
Cazares didn’t have much time to get comfortable as a final presentation on the proposed district budget was presented by Estuardo Santilian, assistant superintendant of business services.
While referencing information on an overhead PowerPoint presentation, he reviewed the financial numbers as they appeared as line items and again as pie charts.
The overall budget for next year’s school year (2017–2018), came in at approximately $217,454,223.
The slides showed incoming revenues at $207,578,041. The math as it is explained on the spreadsheets showed revenue declining from lower enrollment and other shortcomings. The district’s reserve fund is set to accommodate a final estimated $5,852,281.
With a vote of 7-0, the board unanimously accepted the presentation and with the saying of five “ayes,” nearly a quarter billion dollars was allocated for the next year.
With the adoption of the school district budget, the board again voted 7-0 to accept the findings of a feasibility report of the John Glenn athletic upgrades and potential lighted football stadium. While the vote does not guarantee a new stadium, it does accept the findings of the research and report.
If all items go as presented, the new stadium could be available for spring 2020 and lit games could be played in the 2020 season.
In between all of the discussion, Reagan reintroduced the idea of “Adopting the CSBA guidelines,” regarding public comment.
This had been discussed at a previous board meeting and its reintroduction had been expected.
Presently, the NLMUSD allows for three minutes for anyone wishing to utilize this format.
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Reagan referenced the recent meetings where parents and others expressed their concerns regarding the ROP, salary negotiations and the renaming of Excelsior High School’s Auditorium honoring 30 year-plus school employee Lee Mitchell.
At Monday’s meeting, four requests to address the board were submitted with total time not exceeding approximately 15 minutes.
Adams was adamantly opposed to any limitations on public addressing of the board along with new member Cazares and fellow board member Urquidi.
All cited the need for the public’s ability to say whatever they wanted no matter how long it took.
In an email received from District Counsel Robert Jacobsen regarding how many public speakers have address the board, the data provided showed that on four occasion dating to May 2015, the public comment section saw more than 12 speakers with a maximum of 32.
In the same time period, there were 32 instances where 4 or less or no speakers were scheduled to address the publicly elected board members.
The board agreed to address this during its first August meeting. -- By Raul Samaniego, contributor