School board outlines grim budget scenarios | May 15, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - May 15, 2009

School board outlines grim budget scenarios

Officials say Measure C only solves part of the problem

by Geoff Gillette

Proponents of the Measure C parcel tax initiative only got about 24 hours to celebrate before being told that even with the parcel tax the district is still in financial hot water.

At a special workshop session May 6, members of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District board laid out the monetary situation and how it will be affected if the statewide ballot questions May 19 are not passed.

Before the meeting began, more than two dozen parents and students demonstrated outside the district offices, calling for the district to honor its commitment to retaining the 20:1 class size ratio in K-3 and ninth-grade math. After the meeting started, many of the demonstrators filed into the board room to listen in to the budget situation.

School Superintendent Steve Enoch started the meeting by thanking all of the volunteers who worked so tirelessly in bringing Measure C to fruition and getting the extra funds into the district. Enoch was quick to point out, however, that the additional funding created by the measure is not the $7 million reported but, in reality, it replaces the $4 million generated by the soon-to-expire Measure A tax and places an extra $3 million on top of it.

Even so, the funding created will not allow the district to continue to function unless Californians work to pass Measures 1A-1B ballot initiatives being presented in a statewide special election May 19.

"As important as our election was yesterday," he explained "If these measures don't pass, the loss of revenue will offset the funds created by Measure C ... more than offset it."

District officials have been working to crunch the numbers and contemplate possible scenarios based on the pass/fail of the various ballot questions. With the passage of Measure C, Enoch said that narrows it down to two possibilities - either they both pass or Measure C passes but the state questions do not.

In the rosier scenario A, in which both initiatives pass, Enoch said there will be changes made but they will be mitigated by the additional revenues. The district would expect to see a funding decrease of $8 million.

The plan would cut $400,000 from District Office expenditures this year and $300,000 next year. Other changes would be that class sizes would remain at 20:1 this year but would be 24:1 next year. Other areas affected would be teacher prep times, which would be reduced, and the number of assistant principals in the district would be cut back.

While they did not give specifics as to how many of the teachers who have received layoff notices will be brought back into the fold, Enoch said they will do what they can to keep as many as possible.

Those teachers who stay, though, will be seeing one furlough day per year. Counselors and librarians will not be cut this year, but in the following year there would be cuts.

In the much grimmer scenario B, all of the cuts that were put off to next year or even the year after would be done during the next year. The expected state funding cut would double up to $16 million. District office cuts would go up to $700,000; Alternative Education would be cut $240,000; counselors would be eliminated by 2011; and even school crossing guards would be cut.

Prep periods for teachers would be reduced further, and furlough days would increase from one day next year to three days in the 2010-11 school year.

Enoch then laid out the bottom line, which said that if the statewide elections fail, the district will be upside down within the first few years of the plan.

"We have some healthy reserves and we are getting some stimulus funds. We can sustain in 2009-10, but starting in 2010-11 we start to go upside down even with this proposal," he stated.

District officials said they are working on creative solutions to the funding crisis. One of those is to meet with the district's bargaining groups and begin discussions to retool the retiree benefits, including capping them at age 65.

"That's a lot to contemplate and consider," Enoch told the audience. "Best case scenario, we stay alive financially but not without some cuts."

More than two dozen residents signed up to speak during the public comment session. Many addressed the issue of class sizes and the effect of larger classrooms on both students and teachers.

Vista Grande parent Heather Small expressed her frustration over the dire pronouncements only a day after Measure C was approved.

"It's sad that we get only 24 hours to be excited and then it's back to work," she said.

Small presented the board with a petition containing 700 signatures calling for the 20:1 ratio in classrooms.

Many of those speaking in favor of the 20:1 said the reason they voted for Measure C was the idea that by doing so and sparing teachers' jobs that class sizes would not be adversely affected.

San Ramon Valley Education Association President Darren Day agreed with Small that they had a very short time to celebrate before "the bloodletting begins."

"We're doing a great job of grinding education in California down into the dirt," he said. "I really wonder when we're going to hit that magic number when people no longer want to teach."

Day talked about the need for schools to be competitive with other states and he called on the board to think about their employees when it comes time to make decisions. "People will remember how they were treated during this difficult time," he warned.

Afterward Enoch addressed the parents demonstrating for the 20:1 class ratios.

"There's no one up here who doesn't want 20:1. The state just doesn't fund education adequately enough," he told them.

Enoch acknowledged the importance of the student/teacher ratio and suggested that if the board wanted to make that their focus they could put it on the agenda for their next meeting.

Board members agreed to wait until after May 19 to make any decisions regarding the budget and what programs may be cut. A workshop is scheduled at 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 20, to discuss the results of the Special Election. The location is to be announced.