School district revs up for the budget crunch | December 26, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - December 26, 2008

School district revs up for the budget crunch

Staff expects deficit to be $2.1 million

by Harry Stoll

Those involved in education are on edge about forthcoming funding shortages, judging by reactions to several apparently disparate matters at the Dec. 9 school board meeting.

"We're shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic," said Board President Bill Clarkson, after Assistant Superintendent, Business, Gary Black gave the board a columns-and-rows report.

"All funds are expected to have positive balances at year's end," Black concluded, but added that that conclusion would be wrong as he expects the state to withdraw considerable funding at the end of the year, given the sorry state of the state budget.

"The real changes are yet to come," said Black; he told the board he expects this year's deficit to be $2.1 million.

To save $12,000 this year, Superintendent Steven Enoch asked and received board approval to terminate the contract of lobbyist School Services of California, even though it does a good job. "This is the first of many cuts," said Enoch.

Unexpected district costs could come from parents moving their children from private to public schools during tough times, said Marvel, after a presentation of planning for an increase of students by Assistant Superintendent, Educational Services, Christine Williams.

Teacher Jenyth Utchen advocated delaying new homework guidelines until the start of the new academic year and said teachers should concentrate on passing the parcel tax.

Board Member Rachel Hurd said such actions to campaign for the parcel tax must be done outside of school hours.

The budget of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District is not affected by the board's approval of spending $17.3 million for a new gym for San Ramon Valley High School and a multi-purpose building for Twin Creeks Elementary School, Trustee Greg Marvel pointed out. Funds are from the sale of bonds, as approved by Measure A, that are repaid from a special levy on property tax bills, he explained. The bond money can be used only for new construction and modernization.

Underscoring funding concerns, three board members - Paul Gardner, Marvel and Hurd - wanted to be on the board's finance committee. Hurd and Marvel were selected by a blind drawing. Afterward both emphasized that this committee is especially important in view of the funding crisis.

In other business, the board established a process to appoint a new member to fill a term expiring in December 2010, formerly held by newly elected Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan. The process includes an optional question-and-answer session with the superintendent and cabinet, an application screening by a two-member board committee, and a board meeting for public interviews of candidates. Applications are due by Jan. 5 and are available at the district office and at To avoid a costly special election, the appointment must be made in January.

Also, at Clarkson's suggestion, board meetings will soon start at 7 p.m. rather than 7:30 p.m. and cannot go beyond 10 p.m. except by a unanimous vote of the board. A policy establishing the new hours must be voted on, probably at the next meeting.