Despite the increasingly bleak news about the State budget, administrators at the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District can breathe a sigh of relief—at least for the moment.
“Our Board has been very conservative fiscally, which has positioned us very well even though the State will bring us less revenue,” says Livermore school superintendent Brenda Miller. “The money we’ve been reserving and stimulus funds should get us through the 2009/10 school year without further cuts. We’re in better shape than other districts because our Board has been very careful not to spend every dime.”
Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting between $3 to $5 billion from education funding, depending on how the propositions fare in the Special Election. Susan Kinder, executive director of fiscal services for the District, says she is working under the assumption that the propositions will fail. “We’re looking at $3 million in cuts in the current school year and another $2 million in 09/10,” she explains.
Kinder expects the District to receive about $3.4 million in stimulus money, which is supposed to arrive by the end of the month. The money would be come in two pots, one for Title 1 and special education programs and the other for stabilization. There is still uncertainty about restrictions on how the money can be spent.
Throughout the school year, the District has also taken steps to conserve cash, such as freezing spending and hiring. The Governor granted more flexibility in categorical funding, which is usually designated for very specific purposes. Put together, these funding sources should offset the state budget cuts through the 2009/10 school year.
All of these revenue sources are one-time, however, and heading into the 2010/11 school year, the Livermore Board of Education will need to cut another $5 million—about 5%—from the budget. “At least we have a little bit of time,” says Kinder. “But making cut after cut is incredibly difficult.”
In March, the District took $5 million from the budget for the 2009/10 school year by laying off or reducing the hours of more than 150 certificated and classified employees. The California Service Employees Association and Livermore Management Association also agreed to take three to five furlough days.
Miller says that in the fall the Board will begin looking at cuts for the 2010/11 school year. Everything will be on the table. She expects there will be more layoffs. “With 91% of our budget in people, there is really no way around it,” she adds. “The Board will have to consider raising K-3 class sizes, eliminating or reducing other programs with people attached, and closing an elementary school.”