March 22, 2022

By Shiloh Johnston, Staff Writer

During tonight’s Peralta Community College District governing board meeting, the trustees will vote on approving a district spending report that lists $4 million in payments, including over $224,000 for legal fees, $450,000 in security and over $10,000 in catering. 

Graph by Leticia Luna and Shiloh Johnston/The Citizen

The warrant report, an itemized list of district expenditures for the previous month, includes the costs for independent contractors, building construction, legal fees, and a variety of other expenses. The report is included in the “consent calendar” for the board meeting, a grouping of items set for approval at the same time. According to Board Policy 6100, the board “delegates authority to supervise the general business procedures of the District” to the Chancellor, who is responsible for making periodic reports to the Board.

Throughout the month of February, Peralta spent over $1.8 million on independent contractors and consultants. Over $450,000 of those expenses were paid out to Marina Security Services, Inc. – the company that the district contracts with for security and public safety. The report also includes $224,000 in legal fees, paid to various law firms.

Graph by Leticia Luna and Shiloh Johnston/The Citizen

The February report also showed that $81,000 was spent in the Instructional (Classroom) category, which covers software programs, chemicals, and other essential supplies and materials students need in the classroom. 

Catering expenditures have also risen for the district, as the February report includes $15,000 in expenses for the “Events/Programs-Outside Prod” category, which includes over $10,000 in food expenditures. The report does not cite who the catering was for, and it is unclear why there are multiple deli receipts listed in the report, some as low as $11.98.

In previous months, total district expenditures have varied. In December 2021, Peralta spent a total of $7,142,622.73. In January, the warrant report revealed that the district spent $6,928,898.39.

Graph by Leticia Luna and Shiloh Johnston/The Citizen

While district expenses for independent contractors, legal fees, and the Instructional (Classroom) category have also varied, they follow a similar trend. In the last three months, Peralta has spent more on legal fees and independent contractors than it has on the Instructional (Classroom) category, taking up a larger portion of the district’s total expenditures.

It is unclear how the partial  return to campus for employees and students has impacted District expenditures, since in-person events are happening again. Classrooms, libraries, and common spaces are being utilized more frequently, potentially adding to the total cost of operating and maintaining the District’s four colleges.

Graph by Leticia Luna and Shiloh Johnston/The Citizen

Due to past reports of a high risk of financial insolvency, district finances have been scrutinized by the Fiscal Crisis Assistant Management Team (FCMAT), the Accrediting Commision for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), as well as the State Chancellor’s Office. 

Moody’s Investors Service, a leading credit rating agency, downgraded Peralta’s bonds in January, while the ACCJC cited a need to address “operational overspending” in addition to “adopting a restructuring plan to improve efficiencies and accountability at the District Office and the Colleges” in January 27 letters to the presidents of the four Peralta Colleges.

Leticia Luna, Editor in Chief helped on the reporting of this story.