Local school district officials at the elementary and high school levels are preparing for the worst, as preliminary estimates report that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed mid-year budget cuts could reach as high as $600 per student.
The proposed cuts, totaling approximately $300 per student initially, would cost the Los Altos School District $1.4 million and the Mountain-View Los Altos Union High School District more than $1 million. The district won't know for sure until Schwarzenegger releases his official budget numbers Jan. 10.
If the governor's plan for a state sales-tax increase doesn't pass, local schools could see the impact double to nearly $600 per student, according to district officials.
"This is a significant hit to us and all districts in the state," said Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services in the Los Altos district. "As long as we are in this weakening economy, we are going to have significant shortfalls."
The district received approximately $1 million in special one-time funding from the Los Altos Educational Foundation this year to offset program cuts. But Kenyon warned the board that additional LAEF money would not be available to counter next year's budget deficit, which, combined with the projected $1.4 million cut in state funding, further compounds the district's money woes.
"We need to begin preparing for possible layoffs," Kenyon said at the Nov. 17 board meeting. "When we talk about making cuts, we will talk about programs – and programs mean people."
Kenyon added that in the past, the district has been able to avoid layoffs due to attrition, but it is too early in the school year to predict whether that could occur again this year.
The Los Altos School District plans to place an additional local parcel tax on next June's ballot. If the parcel tax fails to win approval, the district may have to cut the library program, the advanced math program, junior-high electives, teacher support and training and/or instructional supplies and materials, Kenyon said. Class sizes could increase as well.
Barry Groves, superintendent of the high school district, said his district might make it through this school year without cuts, but the future looks bleak. With the state proposing to continue its cuts to education, many districts will face multiyear decreases in funding.
At MVLA's Monday night board meeting, after press deadline, trustees were scheduled to discuss convening a budget advisory committee to counsel the district in handling the financial hardship.
Groves said the district had yet to make any revisions to its current budget and may be able to rely on general-fund reserves this year.
"We are just going with the status quo now," he said. "We are anticipating there is a high probability of mid-year cuts."
Groves said as soon as the district had hard data, officials would begin contingency planning. In the meantime, he said, there is not much the district can do but wait.