The Santa Monica-Malibu School District is facing a $10 million budget deficit this year and will continue to face a deficit in future years thanks largely to a trickle-down effect from California’s larger budget crisis.
At the November 19 School Board meeting, Cynthia Torres, the Chair of the District’s Financial Oversight Committee (FOC), discussed the strategies her committee developed to help the District balance its budget. She emphasized that “economic recovery will not remove the dire budget problems for this year or next year” because the state’s structural budget problems predate the current recession.
Torres also pointed out that the District is currently “burning through our financial reserves at an alarming rate.” Without further action, she said the District is projected to burn through its $22 million in reserve funds in only18 months.
The strategies the FOC is recommended include “adopting a process and timetable for making specific decisions concerning significant expenditure reductions,” pursuing cost saving strategies with the District’s bargaining units, and implementing revenue enhancements.
Torres also outlined eight options her committee has investigated to enhance District revenues. She explained that the Board should carefully consider each option’s characteristics before making a decision.
One option would be to have voters of Santa Monica and Malibu approve an additional emergency/temporary parcel tax that could potentially bring in enough revenue to solve the budget deficit.
Another option is for the District to engage in targeted fund-raising annually with the goal of preserving the District’s current operation. Contributions would be sought from alumni, businesses and families.
Funds could also be obtained from clothing and merchandising licensing fees by using brand names such as “Santa Monica High” and/or “Malibu High.”
The FOC also suggested a better utilization of assets to enhance revenues – such as Santa Monica High School’s Greek Amphitheater or Barnum Hall could be rented out for performances or other uses.
Also suggested was having an attendance campaign to improve student attendance in district schools. This would increase the amount of revenue the district receives from state Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funds. Another possibility would be to create a special education center which would lower district expenditures on non-public school therapy and counseling. The center could also be used for private school programs and to serve special education students from Beverly Hills and Culver City.
Additional presented revenue solution was to generate funds from approved advertising on district school buildings, buses, scoreboards, websites, school mailings, etc.
Lastly, the FOC recommended that the district increase the number of permit students in its schools. Permit students’ families live outside of the District’s boundaries.
The Board discussed the recommendations but made no decisions.