Schools scrape by – Region
Hundreds of tri-county teachers may get pink slips by the end of the month, as districts prepare to make millions of dollars in budget cuts.
In an attempt to eliminate a $42 billion state deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released a budget proposal last month that includes $8.6 billion in cuts to public schools and a mandate to withhold school districts’ April apportionment payments until July.
Districts have started their own budget planning, and local officials must send out initial layoff notices to teachers by the deadline of March 13. That state deadline has resulted in a long list of possible teacher, counselor and administrator cuts.
The state deadline for finalizing layoffs is May 15; most districts will not have their cuts finalized until then.
The school board of the Lucia Mar Unified School District is reportedly expected to lay off as many as 120 teachers to help offset a projected $9 million in cuts for the next school year.
Lucia Mar, which serves the communities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Shell Beach, Nipomo and Oceano, will likely approve a resolution that will eliminate positions for the 2009-10 school year. Affected educators were expected to received pink slips March 4.
Julian Crocker, San Luis Obispo County superintendent of schools, knows the district is in bad shape.
“Lucia Mar is probably under the greatest strain – they and Atascadero … are looking at $8 million to $9 million in cuts over the next year and a half, and it certainly will affect the teaching staff as well as the classified [non-teaching] staff,” Crocker said March 2. “This is certainly the largest reduction that they have had to make in their school district history so it’s very, very severe.”
The district is reportedly considering cutting 15 percent of administrative, 7 percent of teaching and 11 percent of classified positions.
In addition to cuts, Lucia Mar is also considering salary rollbacks and freezes, which could save as much as $3 million.
The Atascadero Unified School District has already taken significant steps toward making up for projected funding gaps.
The AUSD board of trustees approved a resolution terminating the contracts of 27 temporary certificated employees at the end of the 2008-09 school year and reducing the total number of certificated staff for the 2009-10 school year by more than 39 full-time positions.
The district implemented a voluntary retirement incentive plan to encourage senior certificated, non-management employees to retire early – a plan that one teacher said worked out for the Paso Robles School District last year.
“The goal of the program was to generate savings for the district,” said Roger Zachary, an Atascadero High School science teacher who took the district up on the early retirement offer. “Everyone took a look at their own situations and for some of us, it worked out. But here I spent all these 33 years developing a program, and now that the money’s not there, it’s gone because I’m pretty sure they’re not going to hire anyone to replace me.”
The 15 instructors who took advantage of the incentive program retired from the district on Jan. 31, but will continue to teach until June 12 as emeritus employees at $150 a day.
The district’s operating budget was reduced by 16.5 percent over the last 18 months. The district cut $1 million at the start of the 2008-09 school year and is dealing with $1.5 million in mid-year cuts as well as a projected $3 million cut for the 2009-10 school year.
Santa Barbara School Districts Superintendent J. Brian Sarvis said on Feb. 26 that the state budget would have “serious repercussions,” resulting in at least $2.8 million in reduced revenue to his districts.
As part of its cost-saving efforts, the school board voted to stop out-of-district students from transferring into the district’s elementary schools.
Sarvis said last month’s resolution will save money and make it possible to maintain smaller class, but will affect 181 interdistrict transfer students currently enrolled in the district’s 10 elementary schools.
“The board of education took action to transition the elementary district into basic aid status,” he said. “In doing so there will be increased revenue and decreased expenses in the amount of approximately $600,000 for the elementary district.”
On Feb. 27, Deputy Superintendent Eric Smith said the district has instituted a spending freeze on all general fund expenditures and has placed a freeze on overtime in response to the budget.
CONEJO VALLEY UNIFIED
In the Conejo Valley Unified School District, officials may hand out more than 200 layoff notices.
Superintendent Mario Contini said the district must “face these brutal facts and make the tough choices necessary to continue giving our children the best education possible within these new budget constraints.”
Contini said low birth rates and high home prices have caused declining enrollment and a loss of millions of dollars in revenue.
“Have no doubt: we are going to have to make sacrifices at all levels,” he said. “Many of the decisions will not be popular, but they may be necessary for us to survive.”
On Feb. 23, Ventura County’s Hueneme School District board of trustees reportedly made the decision to send notices to more than 65 employees.
A total of 44 teachers and counselors may be laid off in addition to about 20 custodians, groundskeepers and other employees.
Hueneme district representatives said declining student enrollment is adding to the reduction figures, which currently stand at $2 million next year.
Ojai Unified School District Superintendent Tim Baird said the district still needs to find ways to cover the losses from the state budget, and it may eliminate some of the district’s class-size reduction programs in two grades.
The district is looking at cutting programs, raising class sizes and laying off employees to balance the budget, but “cuts alone can’t fix this mess,” said Baird, who encouraged people to work with the Ojai Educational Foundation to help generate funding for the district.
The Guadalupe Union School District may also hand out notices and raise class sizes as part of a plan to cut a reported $965,000 from its budget.
The district’s board of trustees also discussed reducing staff development days and delaying the purchase of new textbooks.
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