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School District to Hire Interim CFO Next Week

By Jorge Casuso

January 26 -- The Glendale School District’s former chief financial officer has been tapped to steer the Santa Monica - Malibu public school system through delicate fiscal times, The Lookout has learned.

The School Board is expected to hire Dr. Steve Hodgson, a highly sought management expert, as the district’s interim CFO at its meeting next Thursday, said School Superintendent Dianne Talarico.

“Everybody I talked to said, ‘You need to talk to Steve Hodgson,’” said Talarico, who was attending a superintendent’s conference in Monterey this week. “It came from such a variety of sources. We were lucky to get him.”

Hodgson -- who has been in high demand as a consultant since retiring as Glendale schools’ CFO last year -- will hold the post while the district conducts a “comprehensive national search” for a permanent CFO to take over July 1, Talarico said.

Hodgson will temporarily replace former CFO Winston Braham, who resigned last month after a public dispute with the superintendent and other top district officials over a tentative teachers’ contract.

The superintendent signed the agreement despite Braham's warnings that there was no plan to pay for the 5 percent pay hike and that it would put the local public school system in the red.

Under a settlement agreement approved last month, the district will pay Braham the lump sum of $189,653.94, the equivalent of his salary through June 30, 2008, according to a copy of the document obtained by The Lookout. (see story)

Hodgson will help the district hammer out a plan to pay for teachers’ raises and help prepare a budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year, Talarico said.

He also will “help with negotiations for the issuance of bond money from Prop BB,” she said, referring to the $268 million bond handidly approved by voters in November to renovate and repair the district’s aging schools.

Hodgson is credited with establishing the solid financial position that helped boost the Glendale district’s credit rating, bringing down the interest rate on a $20 million bond sold last October, according to Glendale school officials.

Analysts for Moody's and Standard and Poors noted "the district's strong financial flexibility established through the buildup of significant reserves outside of the general fund," according to Glendale School Board member Chuck Sambar.

The analysts “were impressed with the District's management stability and structure, its low debt rate, the various reserve funds, the sound financial practices, strong tax base, positive debt structure, and the increase in assessed valuation,” according to Sambar.

If approved by the board next week, Hodgson’s hiring would come two weeks after the board delayed a report from the district’s consultant on a plan to pay for a 5 percent pay hike for teachers and finalize the tentative contract signed with the union in October. (see story)

The plan will lay out the cuts and cost savings needed to pay for the pay raise, which would all but deplete the district’s nearly $7.3 million in reserves over the next three years. The State requires that the district maintain 3 percent of its approximately $100 million budget in reserve.






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