Staff, program cutbacks projected if state cuts funding in 2008 budget.
UPDATED 3/6/08 12:53 p.m.
After an extended meeting Wednesday night that went from frustration to compromise with a dash of hostage negotiation, the governing board of the William S. Hart High School District voted to accept a $10.3 million slate of cutbacks that would put them within a margin of safety should the state make good on its threat of a 10 percent across-the-board budget cut.
The five-member board approved a long list of adjustments, including increasing class size by one student, removing drug dogs from campuses and reducing the district reserve to 3 percent. Also slashed was a planned expansion of the ROTC program to Golden Valley High School and a series of staff reductions at several district levels.
Superintendent Jaime Castellanos initially proposed two measures to the board, both the result of exhaustive research and discussion, in anticipation of budget cuts proposed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The first option was making a series of staff and program cuts that amounted to more than $10.2 million, but preserved a negotiated 2 percent salary increase for members of the Hart District Teachers Association. The second was to defer the salary increases, which would decrease the amount of needed cutbacks by $5 million. Union members were vehement in their protest as the second measure was discussed, but as the evening progressed, helped the board craft a compromise plan.
The third option, directing staff to issue a report outlining budget adjustments the district is prepared to make that included a deferral of retroactive teachers’ pay, was unanimously approved after more than three hours of input from district employees as well as discussion among administrative staff and board members.
The state requires local districts to file their adjustment plans before legislators actually vote on the cutbacks that will be done, putting school districts in a position of planning layoffs or the elimination of programs without really knowing how severe the budget cuts will be. If the plan voted on Wednesday night must take effect, changes would be seen at the end of the school year.
Castellanos said that the plan formulated by the Hart district was a “worst case scenario” and would save the district if the cuts were actually 10 percent. He told the board that he anticipates a more realistic cutback of 6 to 8 percent. Finalization of the budget may come as soon as May or as late as August.