SMMUSD HDQTRS — In the wake of Measure A’s defeat at the polls, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District on Thursday slashed $7.1 million from its budget, a step toward closing its $12 million funding shortfall.
Measure A, the proposed $198 per parcel tax dubbed an “emergency” school funding initiative, would have raised an estimated $5.7 million annually for the district for five years. A “semi-official” vote tally released on Friday by the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office showed the measure had failed to receive the required two-thirds support from voters, with 13,671 votes, or 64.25 percent, cast in favor of the measure, and 7,607, or 35.75 percent, cast against it. Ballots in the special mail-in election were due on May 25.
The cuts the school board approved on Thursday were less than the $8.9 million in reductions Superintendent Tim Cuneo had recommended.
The board opted to keep six of 10 elementary school music teachers, instead of eliminating elementary music altogether, and voted for smaller-than-recommended class size increases.
Still, the cuts will mean increased class sizes district-wide and fewer school counselors, nurses and library employees. The cuts also eliminated $440,000 from the district office’s operating budget.
“These reductions are difficult and painful, but necessary to balance the budget due to the loss of state funding,” Cuneo said in a news release on Friday. “Even with these significant reductions, the board will still have to make deeper cuts in future years as well as generate ways to increase revenue district-wide.”
With the cuts, secondary school classes will have 35 students per teacher, instead of 33 students per teacher, at most campuses. Elementary school classes will have 27 or 30 students per teacher, with smaller class-size increases approved for schools with a significant percentage of low-income students.
Kindergarten through third grade classes at all district schools currently are limited to a student teacher ratio of 23 to 1.
“With the conditions that the state has put us under, our district has never gone through these kind of cuts before,” said School Board President Barry Snell.
School board member Oscar de la Torre added: “There are no easy decisions when we’re faced with more than $8 million worth of cuts, but one thing that I’m proud of is that our school board recognizes the importance of music and the arts in our curriculum, and equity as a guiding principle in how we allocate scarce resources.”
The board is set to approve its final budget on June 18, ahead of the June 30 deadline to submit its spending plan to the Los Angeles County Office of Education for approval. The $7.1 million in cuts leaves the district with an estimate $4.9 million budget gap.
The board may opt to present evidence to the county that the district will raise additional revenue in the next year in order to avoid making additional cuts. Asking bargaining units for additional concessions is also on the table, Cuneo said.
On Thursday night, the school board also authorized school boosters to raise money to pay for elementary school teachers’ salaries.
Key Measure A supporters who helped raise more than $332,000 for the campaign to pass the initiative met this week and said they would soon announce a fundraising effort aimed at saving teachers’ jobs.
Shari Davis, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Parent Teachers Association Council, said this week the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation held a meeting where public education supporters discussed plans to launch a new fundraising drive.
“We’d like to raise the full $5.7 million that Measure A would have provided,” said Rebecca Kennerly, president of the group Community for Excellent Public Schools.
Cuneo also said he was planning to recommend that the school board reconvene its Parcel Tax Feasibility Committee to analyze the Measure A campaign and consider a possible future local funding measure.
He said he did not think there was enough time to place a local school funding measure on this November’s ballot.