The Board of Trustees passed the budget for the 2012-2013 school year during June of 2012. Because the district might face “fair-share reductions” from the state this year, the budget lays out a course of action to deal with possible cuts of up to $4.1million in fair share reductions.
The budget states, “With fewer resources, we must find ways to provide the best program available within that framework.”
Over the past three years, education spending cuts throughout California have forced districts across the state to take “fair-share reductions” to the budget. The Los Altos School District was forced to cut a total of $3.3 million from the active 2009-2011 budget in order to deal with these state-level cuts. The total annual budget is $49.7 million.
Cuts that have been already made for the 2009 to 2011 school years include reducing one senior office assistant, reducing one computer support specialist, and reducing amount allocated to the current board budget.
Governor Jerry Brown has proposed a new tax initiative which would give schools across the state more funding. This measure recently received the top spot on the November ballot. Should this measure pass, the district will still take $2.5 million in fair share reductions; however, if it does not, the district will face an additional $1.6 million in budget cuts, for a total of $4.1 million in reductions.
“This year we face even greater cuts [than in past years] if the Governor’s Prop 30 does not pass in November,” Principal Wynne Satterwhite said.
In order to address these possible cuts, the board has planned a tier system of reductions. The 2012-2013 budget lays out four tiers of reductions, which will be implemented in ascending order as necessary. The first tier lists cuts that include one district office employee, one custodian, one instructional aid, and other potential cuts for a total of $732,000. Subsequent tiers include other spending cuts, for a total of $2,301,000 across all tiers.
This system has been devised to preserve as much funding to schools for as long as possible. Tiers of cuts will be implemented as necessary.
“Now the board has that document, which has already been approved, and they can take that document and look at it at a later date,” White said. “They have something to start with.”
The budget states its number one guideline as “[making] the educational program the prime consideration.” Groves said that the board made decisions on cuts based on how much of an effect these cuts will have on students.
“Most of the reductions have been in areas that do not provide direct service to students,” Groves said. “However, there will be some effect as our organization is kid focused.”
“We’ve tried to avoid… the direct impact that is on the student,” Joseph White said. “For example, we’ve cut a custodian, we’ve cut a person in my office, we’ve cut maintenance dollars, as opposed to cutting out an elective, so that students don’t have their art choices and their science courses (cut).”
The district does have an emergency savings account to safeguard against uncertain economic times. Normally, five percent of the total annual budget is allocated to this savings account. This year, as in the past three years, only four percent will be placed in this account because of budget reductions.
“I would say that if proposition 30 does not pass in November, then the board will have to determine where to get the $1.6 million additional dollars owed to the state,” Groves said. “We would recommend using reserves to soften the blow temporarily.”
Every year, the board convenes during the early summer to pass the budget for the upcoming school year. Although the funding that the district receives might be altered this year, the process for passing the budget was largely the same.
“We approached this year’s budget cuts like we have in the past,” Satterwhite said. “Dr. Groves has asked that a Budget Advisory Council convene and propose and then prioritize a list of cuts. He then works with this information to make a recommendation to the Board and the Board then makes a decision.”