Budget May Day: The Chico Unified School District’s budget chief is pleased with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s May revise of the 2004-05 budget. “It’s good news,” Randy Meeker said. But that doesn’t mean he’s overlooking how the governator got there.

“He’s borrowing from a future year to solve a budget problem today,” Meeker said. Schwarzenegger is using one-time money, deferred dollars and borrowed cash similar to how his predecessor, Gray Davis, balanced the budget and hoping the economy will improve before he has to pay the piper.

For K-14 schools, the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) has been increased, more money is coming through to equalize per-pupil funding among school districts and more money has been released for special education, instructional materials and library materials.

“That’s huge,” Meeker said of the library funds, which have been virtually nil in recent years. “It could bring in $200,000.”

Even so, since most of the money is restricted and will only soften the $1.2 million blow for 2005-06 school year, CUSD administrators will recommend that the Board of Trustees go ahead and cut $1.6 million from the 2004-05 budget. They believe that can be done without layoffs.

Meeker will present a budget report to the board on June 16, the meeting before it must take final action.

Joint injunction: Ruling on a case that may have national implications for medical-marijuana users, U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits federal agents from going after a group of medpot users—one of them from Oroville—who sued the government over their right to use cannabis as medicine.

The case—Raich v. Ashcroft—deals partially with an incident at the Oroville foothills home of Diane Monson, a medpot user whose garden was ripped out by DEA agents over the objections of local authorities. Monson and Raich sued the government on the grounds that federal drug laws are unconstitutional when applied to those whose use of the drug is legal under state law and that such use has no effect on interstate commerce.

Pink slips fly, planes don’t: Due to the loss of its federal aerial-firefighting contract, Chico-based Aero Union was forced to lay off about 50 employees this week. The company insists it will be able to stay in business despite the loss of the contract and hopes to get at least a few planes re-certified.

The contract was abruptly cancelled last week when the U.S. Forest Service acted on a report put out by the National Transportation Safety Board saying that 33 air tankers currently employed by private contractors to douse wildland fires may be unsafe. But Aero Union disputes that claim, saying that most of the recent accidents involving air tankers can be attributed to one Wyoming company. What’s more, the NTSB report never actually called for the grounding of the planes, but rather suggested a more stringent inspection process. Aero Union claims to have installed technology on its tankers that would alert ground crews to any potential safety problems.

Aero Union President Terry Unsworth traveled to Washington, D.C., this week, hoping to get some kind of exemption for his company’s tankers. With what looks to be a potentially devastating fire season looming in California, Unsworth and others worry that the USFS’ decision could lead to greater wildfire damage statewide.