SMMUSD Cuts $2.5 Million In Spending

Friday, 6 Jul 2012, 2:05:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Governor Jerry Brown officially signed a new state budget on June 27. While that means there will not be a legislative standoff in Sacramento heading into California’s next fiscal year, the situation is a little more bleak in the accounting office of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), which announced it will cut about $2.5 million in spending for 2012-13.

The spending cuts were announced as part of the District’s new budget, which was also adopted on June 27.

Among the biggest losers in the new budget are classroom and teacher aides and potential new hires. On a larger scale, public schools across California stand to lose more than $5 billion should Brown’s proposed tax initiatives fail to garner support at the voting booth in November’s general election.

In all, $2,541,000 would be cut prior to the beginning of the school year. More than half of the cuts – $1.3 million – are for classroom teachers. Another $692,500 would be cut from special education, including the slashing of teachers, instructional assistants, and a coordinator.

The district will also cut $200,000 from funding dedicated to supplies, contracts, and other services. Remaining cuts were approved for administrative positions.

Though SMMUSD approved a budget nearing $121 million, more cuts may be in store come November. Under Brown’s budget, a reported 14 percent in additional funding would be made available to K through 12 education and community colleges statewide.

However, that funding is contingent upon Brown’s tax initiatives passing in November.

In the meantime, the impending cuts already announced would directly affect nearly 30 positions district wide, including nine non-teaching employees to be dismissed and another 20 full-time employees who are leaving the district but whose positions would not be re-filled.

Other cuts, if any, would take place during the 2012-13 school year, prior to the winter break. The just-approved budget has certain provisions that are contingent upon voters approving Brown’s tax proposal in November.

Should the tax ballot initiative fail, more cuts would be in store as SMMUSD would not be able to claim its portion of the pie that would deliver an additional 14 percent in K through 12 and community college funding statewide.

Brown hopes voters will approve in November a proposition to increase the statewide sales tax annually by one-quarter of one cent for the next four years. The ballot initiative also calls for as much as a three percent increase in income tax for California’s most wealthy residents during a seven-year period.

If voters defeat Brown’s tax proposal in four months, news reports have indicated that California’s schools would be bereaved of as much as $5.5 billion. Locally, SMMUSD would reportedly face a $10 million deficit should the proposed tax increases not be approved. Currently, the school board carries a deficit of more than $5 million.

“The fiscal crisis in California is causing a significant impact on the development in the current (2011-12) and budget (2012-13) fiscal years. School district revenues have been reduced by nearly 20 (percent) from the state over past years,” a SMMUSD staff report to board members stated. “At the time of preparation of the SMMUSD budget, State funding remains uncertain. The SMMUSD budget as presented reflects a revenue projection based on the Governor’s projection but reserves amounts in our fund balance for one year to cover a potential state cut if a trigger reduction is implemented.”

SMMUSD staff indicated another $4 million in costs might be in store for 2013-14.

“With State triggers looming, it may be necessary to consider negotiating an agreement with employees that reduces costs by $2.0M in 2012-13 and $4.0M in 2013-14. Additional reductions in the budget will still be necessary,” SMMUSD staff stated. “At least another $1.5M in district cuts for 2013-14 rising to $5.5M in 2014-15 will be required. If the state cuts the district’s revenue, ongoing reductions after 2014-15 will need to be $7.0M per year.”

After the November election passes, the school board will have a clearer picture of how best to move forward with the budget and funding issues.

“The Board is committed to begin the task of identifying and approving the necessary reductions as soon as the State budget is finalized,” SMMUSD staff stated.

The 2012-13 budget was approved as part of the school board’s final meeting of the 2011-12 school year. Meetings for new business of the next school year will commence on July 18 at 5:30 p.m. at district headquarters – 30 minutes earlier than normal.

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