The School Board declined to swing the ax at its March 10
regular meeting on $1.7 million in budget reductions recommended by
the district’s performance-based budget committee.
The School Board declined to swing the ax at its March 10 regular meeting on $1.7 million in budget reductions recommended by the district’s performance-based budget committee.

“I would like to honor the process, the decisions the committee made and the consensus they came to,” said Board President Tom Kinoshita. “This is the easy part.”

But three other board members, Trustees Del Foster, Shellé Thomas and George Panos, went item-by-item through the recommendations, stating their need for more information or more discussion on specific items and asking for the items to be pulled off the consensus list.

The proposed cuts included: $209,352 from the transportation department; closing Encinal Elementary for a savings of $144,075; closing Machado Elementary for a savings of $29,078; a $38,790 cut to high school extra curricular activities; a $12,000 cut to middle school extra curricular activities; cutting one of two district nurses for a savings of $54,615; cutting one librarian at a savings of $43,014; reducing special education costs by $169,000; increasing ninth grade English class size to contract ratio of 20:1 for a savings of $20,893; cutting one academic counselor for a savings of $38,202; cutting one music position for a savings of $46,500; a 10-15 percent reduction in District Office services for a savings of $357,442; and the elimination of four custodial positions for a savings of $193,303.

The board agreed to pull the transportation cuts, the two school closures, the cuts to extracurricular activities, the nurse, the librarian and the music layoffs from the list for more discussion at future board meetings.

Extracurricular activities under consideration include freshmen sports, two girls high school sports, two boys high school sports, one high school co-ed sport, cheerleading at Britton, middle school yearbook, school newspaper and some ASB and band activities.

Decisions on the sports cuts are awaiting discussions with the Tri-County Athletic League.

The rest of the consensus list will show up on the March 24 board agenda as an action item.

A priority list of remaining possible budget cuts was also created by the performance-based budget committee. The items that came up in discussion but were not agreed upon by all participants were put on that list and ranked, 1 – 39, with the top items being the most likely cuts to be made.

The number one item on the list was a 20 percent cut to the superintendent’s budget, not a 20 percent cut to her salary as reported last week.

“This was the easiest cut, because it is a cut that has already been made,” Superintendent Carolyn McKennan said Thursday. “We no longer have a half-time position in this office. We have also cut back on publications.”

“Our Schools” was published quarterly by the district and will be eliminated after the next issue; Board Highlights was published after every School Board meeting and has been eliminated.

In other budget news, teachers throughout the district, 111.5 of them, received layoff notices, or pink slips, at the end of last week. Seven notices were issued to administrators. If all of these notices were acted upon, there would be a total savings of $4.7 million.

However, the district Business Office recommends the board cut $3.4 million, the $3.2 million anticipated shortfall plus “padding,” so not all the teachers that received notices will lose their jobs.

The district deficit is roughly $1.5 million, due, according to district officials, to declining enrollment. The district also stands to lose an estimated $1.7 million in state funds.

Local governments across the state are making cuts in anticipation of cuts from the state. Gov. Gray Davis has proposed a $5.2 billion budget cut in education funding to take a sizable bite out of the estimated $34.6 billion state budget deficit.

A district budget must be approved by June; the state’s budget, although required to be approved also by June 30, will not be approved until at least September, so the district will have to make it’s own budget without knowing for sure the amount of state funds it will lose.

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