District CFO lobbies for education support

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

District CFO lobbies for education supportDuring a visit to Washington, D.C., Sierra Sands Unified School District Chief Financial Officer Elaine Janson met with members of Congress to advocate for federal support of education.

Janson was in D.C. as the president of one of the subgroups for federal impact aid, which the government pays to offset school district budgets — and which is threatened by sequestration.

When land is privately held, owners pay property taxes — a part of which funds local education. When China Lake bought up private land, those property taxes were no longer collected. “Now this is a pittance in comparison to what would be collected in property taxes, but it does help mitigate the impact to our district.”

Some of that money is tied to the amount of land held by the government (in this case the U.S. Navy at China Lake) and some is tied to the number of students.

“There are a lot of things in danger of being negatively impacted by sequestration — not just impact aid money, but support to education in general,” said Janson. “While we were in D.C., we asked our members of Congress — in both the House and the Senate — that whatever cuts are made, education should not take a disproportionately large one.”

She said that this has not historically been the case, and that both state and federal legislatures have made much deeper cuts to public education funding.

To make matters more complicated, those payments take so long to be calculated — and are often deferred — that it sometimes takes years for the district to collect them. “Especially for us here in California, that creates a tremendous cash-flow problem.”

Janson and the other 18 representatives of the impact aid delegation set a goal to meet with 100 members of Congress. “I think we achieved that. We sat down with people from both parties and a number of states. It was encouraging to know that many of those were very positive about our plight. Several even told us they were glad to see that education was becoming more visible from the local level.”

She expressed particular gratitude to Rep. Kevin McCarthy — who, in addition to serving as our local representative, functions as the Republican Whip — and his staff for their dedication to local issues.

“They are always helpful, easy to work with and responsive. We believe the congressman is an advocate for us and we are grateful for that as well. We always feel we are heard when we’re in McCarthy’s office — by both him and his staff.”

Janson said she wants to get the word out to the public about the vulnerability of education funding. “I have voiced this everywhere, but it is a concern even if sequestration does not happen. It is a concern. We want to make sure there is an awareness about the disproportionate cuts we have been taking for a long time.”

Story First Published: 2012-12-05