SMMUSD HDQTRS — If the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is to avoid an extra $6.8 million revenue shortfall on top of the money it’s already expected to lose, it will need a lot of help at the polls today.

That’s the harsh reality facing the school district which is already preparing to say goodbye to more than $10 million over the next 18 months due to state funding cuts, forcing administrators to get creative about ways to save money after already proposing to reorganize Santa Monica High School’s popular House System, layoff or reassign several staff members in the central office and reduce contracts.

Superintendent Tim Cuneo said last week that the district will need all six ballot measures on the special election to pass, but notes that the outlook is bleak considering recent polls that indicate voters will oppose the majority of the propositions.

The schools chief said he will present a set of recommendations on the first round of reductions at the Board of Education meeting on Thursday at City Hall, pointing out that the proposal will be based on the district’s situation prior to the election and additional cuts could follow suit if Propositions 1A-1F fail.

“We will have to play out a variety of scenarios,” he said.

Based on current projections, the district may also need to cut another $2 million for the 2010-11 budget.

District officials are exploring various options of saving money, including reconfiguring schools, evaluating the central office and its operations, and looking at agreements with all bargaining units for potential salary and benefits reductions. Furloughs have also been mentioned as another measure to explore.

The SMMUSD did get some good news on May 11 when state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced the preliminary allocations of approximately $2.56 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, which is part of the federal stimulus package.

The district could receive approximately $3.05 million in the first round.

The fund is specifically targeted for the schools and gives districts broad discretion on how to spend the money, whether its for preserving jobs or improving student achievement, according to Hilary McLean, the communications director for the California Department of Education.

The state received about $4.8 billion altogether, about $3.8 billion of which is available now for allocation. Approximately $537 million of the $3.8 billion will go to public institutions for higher education while the remainder will fund K-12 schools.

About $1.1 billion will be released in the fall.

Districts could also receive money for the categorical uses, which are targeted for specific programs, such as class-size reduction and English language learning.

The funds were allocated based on the amount of general purpose funding the school districts would have received from the state between the first budget in September and the revised version in February. State officials are working on another formula for the categorical money, which could be announced in the next several weeks, McLean said.

“This is a real hope that these funds will help preserve jobs in the educational field that we certainly need and will help keep students on track in learning,” she said.

But the extra $3 million might not be used toward saving employment in Santa Monica-Malibu because they are one-time funds, forcing the district to make up the money next year.

The funds have not been built into next year’s budget yet, Cuneo said.

Cuneo added that his recommendation will most likely be to use that money for one-time expenditures and invest in staff development programs.

“The reason we’re investing in staff development is to make sure we have people trained in key strategies that are focused on math and literacy, that we focus on kids that are falling through the cracks so we can really make sure they get adequate support,” he said.

melodyh@smdp.com

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