November 29 -- In the aftermath of the abrupt resignation
of the District’s chief financial officer, school officials
announced Tuesday that they’ve called in the state’s
Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) to review
the district’s finances.
The move comes as District officials are under pressure to come
up with $7 million to cover a pay raise for teachers and keep
the public school system in the black.
While the district must devise a plan to pay the teachers’
raises, the FCMAT review is not part of that plan, said new Superintendent
“Although a crisis is not seen to exist, FCMAT was chosen
due to their availability and commitment to producing a comprehensive
review in a timely fashion,” according to a statement issued
by the superintendent’s office Tuesday.
“The independent review of our finances will include the
preparation of a multi-year financial projection of the district’s
Crisis or not, the FCMAT review is one of the steps Talarico
is taking to get a handle on the District’s increasingly
controversial financial scene.
Like a developing Polaroid -- a metaphor used by departed Chief
Financial Officer Winston Braham -- the picture of the top-level
shakeup is becoming clearer as, one by one, the details and their
chronology become known.
On October 30 -- two weeks after striking a pay raise with teachers
the district couldn’t pay for -- Talarico began talking
with FCMAT’s Executive Deputy Director Anthony Bridges to
set up an independent review of the District’s finances.
While the initial agreement was faxed to her on November 8, Talarico
said, she didn’t sign and return it until November 17.
The contract calls for a “multi-year financial projection,”
in which the state agency will analyze the general fund in light
of “enrollment projections,” “district assumptions”
and “revenue and expenditure forecasts,” according
to the superintendent.
FCMAT was established by state law in 1992 to “assist educational
agencies that request help in school business management and related
areas,” according to the agency’s Web site
The organization, which tackled a fiscal crisis in Oakland public
schools, first came to Talarico’s attention when she worked
in the nearby San Francisco school district office. FCMAT is now
organizing an “extraordinary audit” of the Compton
Community College District, according to the agency’s Web
While Talarico negotiated with FCMAT, the drama of the teachers’
raises and budget shortfall was unfolding.
In October, in highly unusual move, the district’s top
financial officer, Winston S. Braham, failed to certify a 5 percent
salary raise for teachers that would all but deplete the district’s
nearly $7.3 million in reserves over the next three years.
On October 18, two weeks before Talarico spoke to Bridges, she
submitted the budget to the County. Braham, however, put a check
mark nest to the words: “I am unable to certify.”
“The absence of one or both of the signatures should serve
as a ‘red flag’ to the district’s governing
board,” according to the certification form.
But the agreement with the teachers’ union wasn’t
made public until two days before the November 16 school board
meeting, forcing the Financial Oversight Committee to review the
contract without having seen it before its meeting on November
Braham submitted his letter of resignation last Wednesday, November
22, and cleared out his office at district headquarters, according
to the superintendent’s office. (see
While preliminary findings of the review might be made public
before the end of the year, it won’t be completed until
January, 2007, Talarico said.
In the meantime, the District is looking for an Interim Chief
Financial Officer to meet its deadline of filing the first interim
budget due December 15, Talarico said.
And the public will learn more at a joint meeting of the Financial
Oversight Committee and the School Board at 4 p.m. on December
4 in the District Board Room at 1651 16th Street.