Tue07292014

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LASD mulls over how to spend 'extra' funds

The Los Altos School District is looking at an extra $254,000 and hoping it isn't a mirage. An additional $54,000 from the state has been added to $200,000 left at the close of the district's 2004-2005 books, but it could all evaporate if enrollment remains 40 students below the 4,070 that were expected on the first day of school.

State funding of about $5,000 per student is based on average daily attendance. If 40 students stay away from the classrooms that expected them, the district will lose $200,000 of that aid.

The unexpected $54,000 is the child of the conservative budget the district adopted in June before the state approved a higher than anticipated cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). The district budgeted for a 4 percent COLA, but the state approved a 4.25 percent COLA.

At the end of August, the county gave the district a new property-tax projection of $20.26 million, a 7 percent increase over last year. The district will transfer about $1.1 million of that to Bullis Charter School. The district still projects that property tax revenues will not take it over the revenue limit into basic aid status this year.

District business manager Randy Kenyon is estimating no supplemental tax revenue for the school year.

"We may get some. We don't know how much," he told trustees at their Sept. 7 meeting.

For a couple of years now, district enrollment has found its level for the year in October. Although enrollment on Aug. 24 fell short of projections, 81 more students were present than on the first day of school last year, Superintendent Tim Justus told his board of trustees last week.

The extended-day kindergarten at Bullis-Purissima has nine fewer students than expected, and Justus said children whose names had been on the waiting list over the summer were now enrolled elsewhere.

Other facilities are becoming crowded, particularly Santa Rita, Almond and Loyola elementary schools. During the summer, trustees began to express interest in Phase 2 construction projects. Justus echoed that interest last week.

Meanwhile, trustees are eyeing the extra $254,000 hopefully. Forced in June to reduce the dwindling district budget by approximately $1.5 million for the current fiscal year, trustees now hope to bolster one or more of the following budget items:

• Custodial services: Despite the greater demand for maintenance services caused by reopening five more classrooms at Bullis, the district in June dropped another worker from the crew. Two more custodians are scheduled to leave in December.

• Library aides: In June, trustees regretfully slashed by 75 percent the funding for the aides who keep the libraries open and promised to restore full funding as soon as possible.

• A gardener: The district now has 45 percent more grass than it did when the gardener's position was cut three years ago.

• School supplies: No money at all was allocated for school supplies this year.

At last week's board meeting, trustees had different opinions of which need should be funded first, but they agreed that all merited funding as soon as possible.

Board President Jay Thomas said, "It's hard to have a priority list when they're all critical to the operation."

Bill Cooper and Margot Harrigan reminded their fellow board members of their commitment to restore funding to the libraries.

Trustee Duane Roberts said, "I'm hearing quite a bit of consternation over the custodial workload. This is something that affects every student and teacher in the district. My first priority is cleanliness in the classroom, then libraries."

Board Vice President Victor Reid III said, "Every time we've made a cut, there've been custodians. It's getting miserable. … I'm getting concerned about health issues."

Justus said he and Kenyon will bring a long-term plan to reorganize maintenance operations and a summary of associated costs to the Sept. 19 board meeting.

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