Sylvan Union School District officials got the go-ahead to draft a budget plan eliminating 16 teacher, psychologist and counselor positions, cutting science camp for sixth-graders and draining $450,000 in reserves.
The school board Tuesday night directed staff to create a budget it will vote to approve at the June 24 regular meeting. The proposals for next year add up to $2.9 million in cuts from a $63 million budget.
Board member Cynthia Lindsey called the budget process "gut wrenching."
"We struggled down to the last nickel and penny," she said.
The district avoided handing out pink slips to teachers for next year but will not fill 16 vacant certificated positions, including music and art teachers, a librarian, a counselor and psychologists, a special education teacher and nine classroom teachers.
One counselor would remain to serve students at 10 elementary schools.
"The children now are having more difficulty socially," said Chris Aguilar, president of the Sylvan Educators Association. "They'll have to wait two weeks between visits from a counselor."
Over the next two years, Sylvan plans to use all its special reserves, or $450,000, to avoid deeper cuts.
It will save $440,000 by keeping four management positions open and $190,000 by laying off or not replacing five support staffers. Budgets for library books, maps and globes will take a 50 percent hit, to save about $50,000.
Superintendent John Halverson, who's now doing double-duty as the district's business manager, said Gov. Schwarzenegger's revision to the state budget last week was an improvement over his January proposal. Schwarzenegger retreated from his politically unpopular proposal to suspend Proposition 98, the state's minimum school funding guarantee. But schools still would lose about $4 billion in anticipated revenue because the plan does not include cost-of-living increases.
Halverson said the district also is struggling as a result of spending $1.8 million more in special education costs than the government pays for those programs.
"It's not good news for us," Halverson said.
Sylvan set up a community blog in March at the Web site http://sylvanconversations.blogspot.com, that elicited more than 100 suggestions on ways to cut the budget.
Board President Terriann Zeek gave a familiar refrain among educators these days.
"Let's hope the state can solve its financial situation for the long-term ... so we don't constantly have this feast and famine in education."
The district is anticipating another lean year in 2009-10, and has begun identifying possible cuts to the tune of $1.5 million. Among the proposals are eliminating small class sizes in the youngest grades, cutting out field trips and wiping out more than $190,000 in stipends for teachers who help with after-school sports and clubs.
For a complete list of potential budget cuts in the
Sylvan district for 2008-09 and 2009-10, click on the link with this story at www.modbee.com/local.
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337.