SMMUSD HDQTRS — On top of hiring more teachers, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District plans to bring in new custodians, computer technicians and textbooks.

District officials went over predictions for revenues and expenditures with the Board of Education Wednesday afternoon.

The district will bring in $92.5 million and could spend about $96.4 million next year, said Jan Maez, chief financial officer for the district. The projected $3.9 million deficit would leave the district with about $12.1 million in its coffers at the end of the 2014-15 school year.

If the economy holds, Maez said, the district could be deficit-free in three years.

Last week, district officials announced that they will likely hire the equivalent of 15 new teachers this year in an effort to lower class sizes. The estimated cost of that growth is $1.16 million.

Additionally, the district and the Santa Monica Malibu Teachers Association reached an agreement that gives teachers a 4 percent raise and protects their health benefits, said union President Harry Keiley.

Keiley called the raise “well deserved” and said that, thanks to the recession, he couldn’t remember the last time teachers received a bump in pay.

The district will spend significantly more on textbooks in the coming years, dropping a million dollars next year rather than this year’s total of $214,000. In 2015-16, the budget for books will jump to $1.3 million, Maez said.

Five years ago the district cut spending on textbooks and now, officials said, they have about $7.5 million worth in need of replacement. The replacement will take place over the next few years.

Board member Oscar de la Torre asked if providing e-textbooks would be cheaper in the long run, to which Terry Deloria, assistant superintendent of Educational Services, responded that it would not.

“It’s worth noting that there’s virtually no difference between a paper copy and an electronic copy,” she said. “That’s because textbook companies have to be able to pay for all the research and efforts that go into creating a quality textbook.”

The state is introducing a new funding formula that allots cash for every pupil and gives bonuses for low-income students and students for whom English is a second language. About 28 percent of all SMMUSD students fall under one or both of those categories.

With the boost in funding, districts also get more freedom in the way it’s spent. Previously, the state tied its funding to particular categories. The state gave a certain amount to the district every year that had to be spent on, for example, textbooks. Now, the district gets to decide exactly how much it wants to spend on textbooks.

The district will also have to set its own goals to be approved by the state. The state’s priorities for these goals include parental involvement, pupil achievement on tests and high-quality teachers.

As the importance of technology continues to rise along with the amount of computers in the district, the board plans to add four computer technicians to its current total of 10.

Currently, SMMUSD has the equivalent of 53 full-time custodians but next year they’ll jump to 65 and add a night crew.

“I think we’re a little ahead of the game because as we’ve worked through some of the questions that we’ve had around the environmental issues, one of the things that’s a big component of that is going to be the best management practices of our custodial staff and cleaning,” Maez said.

Last year, samples taken from some rooms at Malibu High School were found to have high enough levels of PCBs to trigger involvement from the Environmental Protection Agency. The district will be responsible for cleaning those rooms.

As the district’s finances find more stable footing, Maez pointed to some of the areas that have been neglected in recent years. The library collections haven’t received significant funding in a few years, she said. Utility expenses, like gas, electricity, and water, will need to be addressed soon as well.

As the district receives more funding in coming years some of it will likely go toward retirement benefits, Maez said. State retirement benefits are not fully funded and contributions from employees as well as the district are expected to rise.

The board will discuss a preliminary budget in May and adopt it at the end of June.

 

dave@smdp.com

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