(File photo)
(File photo)

SMMUSD HDQTRS — Every school and department in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will have to cut 2 percent from their budgets in order to reduce a persistent deficit, school officials announced last week.

If that happens, the district will cut $2 million in spending from its budget, just as it gains an additional $2 million from the state. That still leaves a deficit of between $1 and $2 million to fight down through the 2016-17 school year, said Jan Maez, chief financial officer for the district.

That remaining balance will be tackled in upcoming years, although school officials are hopeful that the California economy will recover before any more major cuts must be made, Maez said.

Departments throughout the school system have already identified just under the required 2 percent in cuts or revenue increases. All will have to find the full amount, however, because it’s already been budgeted into projections beginning in the upcoming school year.

One department that has not yet finished its analysis is the Special Education Department, which would need to find $493,516 in reductions to meet its required 2 percent.

That comes at a time when the department has seen increased expenses because the state was no longer picking up the full bill for some mental health services, said Sara Woolverton, director of Special Education with the district.

The situation also presents a special challenge to schools, where almost 90 percent of the money spent goes to employee costs, Maez said.

“We are talking to the sites, but because we are not changing staffing ratios, it becomes difficult,” she said.

The term “staffing ratio” refers to the number of children in a class per teacher.

Those ratios had been raised, increasing the number of students in class without a commensurate rise in the number of teaching staff, in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years in an attempt to cut costs, according to a handout released at the meeting.

Those increases were one of a series of actions taken by the Board of Education since the 2008-09 school year to reduce spending as funding from the state began to drop.

That year signaled the last raise in teacher salaries, a 3 percent increase.

The following year, the board approved $4.6 million in reductions, including five furlough days and the removal of one of the “houses” at Santa Monica High School, subdivisions of the 3,041-student school that made it easier for students to access administration.

In 2010-11, the board approved another $7.2 million in reductions, although $3 million was restored in one-time funds, a mixture of money raised through the local Save Our Schools campaign and federal dollars.

Finally, in 2012-13, the district axed another $2.2 million from the budget by increasing class sizes and reducing the number of assistant principals and other staff.

The existing projections do not include recent changes to two pension funds — the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and California Public Employee’s Retirement System — that will force the district to pay more for both teachers’ and other workers’ pensions.

Those impacts will not be felt until the 2014-15 fiscal year, and potentially later, Maez said, but they have not been factored into the existing projections.




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