School budget: Better hold a bake sale
In schoolyard parlance, the budget sucks. And it will suck ever harder as the year wears on, reported Chico Unified School District officials—albeit in more professional terms—at a Jan. 15 Board of Trustees meeting.

The CUSD’s share of Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed budget cuts for this year is estimated at about $2.6 million, with another $1 million in cuts expected next year. The CUSD’s total budget is about $99 million.

“This is a very serious situation,” Superintendent Scott Brown told trustees, three of whom just took office this month. “You all don’t control our revenue.”

The district already slashed $1.8 million last spring after the governor ordered mid-year cuts. Trustees agreed with Brown’s idea of a hiring freeze and an end to all non-essential purchases. “It can’t be business as usual given the time that it appears we’re in,” Brown said. “This is the first time money was taken away in the middle of the year. This is tantamount to the check bouncing.”

If the district is going to lay people off, those employees would have to be notified of the possibility by March 5. By May, trustees, likely after many shouts, pleas and tears from those affected, must determine which programs to reduce funding for or cancel altogether.

“Everything has to be on the table,” Brown said.

Showers for homeless raise eyebrows
For the past seven months the Chico Community Shelter Partnership and the city of Chico have worked quietly together to provide showers for homeless folks in downtown Chico, using the old and vacant municipal building on the corner of Fifth and Main streets. The building, which the city hopes to lease to a nonprofit or governmental agency, includes a single shower, which was formerly available to city staff members who exercised at work. The program is offered twice a week, said Tony Baptiste, the city community development director, and will continue until the permanent homeless shelter near the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds is completed in the fall.

“The shelter program approached staff and asked if they could on an interim basis use the facility for two scheduled days a week until the shelter was completed,” said Baptiste. The program, Baptiste said, is well-supervised by the CCSP, and there have been few if any complaints in the first seven months, at least to his knowledge.

However, right across Fifth Street and just east of the Downtown Plaza Park sits Has Beans Coffee shop, where an employee says there have been some problems with homeless “They are just lining up here on shower days. It’s a little too much,” said Willem J. Vonk, Jr., son of the shop’s owner.

The program, some suspect, was carried out under the radar of public attention. City Councilmember Coleen Jarvis said downtown business owners should not be surprised by the program. "The Homeless Task Force is behind this, and the [Downtown Chico Business Association] has a member on that task force," she said.