HANNAH HEINEMAN, Mirror Contributing Writer
California’s continuing budget crisis has been taking a deep toll on school districts throughout the state. Locally, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District had to cut $4.5 million from its budget for the current school year and the District is now facing as much as a $10 million shortfall for 2010-2011.
School District officials have been giving presentations on the budget shortfall at various locations throughout the District. The first presentation was on January 20 at Santa Monica High School. The District’s Chief Financial Officer, Janece Maez, noted, “71 percent of the District’s budget comes from Sacramento, and California cut $30 billion in 2009 to balance its budget.” Locally, this resulted in a reduction of District staff at all levels, an increase in class sizes, a loss of programs and support services, restricted conference and travel, reduced energy costs, and negotiations with employee groups.
California used to require 180 days of instruction for its students but has reduced that requirement due to the budget crisis to 175 days this year. Therefore, the District has to decide which five days to reduce between now and June and which five days should be reduced in the next academic year. They have talked about starting school before Labor Day, ending school earlier in June, and closing for the entire week of Thanksgiving.
The state’s projected $21.1 billion budget deficit for 2010 is causing the District to consider reducing as many as 90 certificated staff (teachers, counselors, nurses and administrators), as many as 30 classified staff (custodians, maintenance, library staff, security, etc.), increasing its class sizes even more, and more reductions in programs and other expenses. The District is also considering the possibility of furlough days for all employees.
School Board members have also developed criteria to help them consider which reductions to make. These criteria are retaining highly qualified staff, minimizing the impact to class size, continuing to provide quality programs, re-evaluating staffing configurations, comparing support staff ratios with similar districts, considering the elimination or the reduction of programs that have lost funding source, and using technology to increase efficiency.
Superintendent Tim Cuneo mentioned that if “District programs are decimated, it could take years to build them back.”
School officials also discussed the School Board’s January 14 decision to have a May 25 mail-in ballot vote by the voters of Santa Monica and Malibu on the emergency/temporary parcel tax funding measure. Assistant Superintendent Michael Mathews stated that the mail-in vote would “cost the District $300,000,” but if two-thirds of the voters approve it the measure would generate $6.6 million in revenue for the District for five years. Mathews also mentioned that the District does not have to pay for measure’s campaign expenses and that passing the parcel tax “will be an up­hill battle to fight.”
Contach Hannah Heineman