A few members of the public began to speak out Monday about possible budget cuts – including fewer teachers, campus supervisors and instructional days – the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees may make at its June 27 meeting.
While the last two meetings have gone virtually unattended, Monday's meeting drew maybe 80 people.
The district has to find , when by law, all school districts must have their 2012-13 budget in place. That worst-case scenario anticipates failing.
However, because the district has identified and implemented and expects the current year to end with $3 million to carry over into the next year, the district is now looking to cut $38.3 million, Clark Hampton, deputy superintendent of business services, said at Monday’s trustee meeting.
The board heard several items that dealt with the school district’s bottom line, including:
- A resolution that would allow the district flexibility to redirect millions of dollars pegged for specific programs to the general fund
- A budget update
- A resolution so that the district can borrow money from various funds into the general fund
Although the staff reports did not detail any proposed cuts, Trustee Lynn Hatton referenced the possibility of shortening the school year.
“Education cannot resemble what it used to resemble, based on what we’ve been given, not what we’ve created, but what we’ve been given,” Hatton said. “We have to have fewer days in class because we don’t have the funding to educate the kids in as many days as we used to.”
The school district and the various unions are in negotiations, and although “what happens in negotiations is relatively confidential and needs to stay at the negotiating table” – as Superintendent Joseph Farley put it – the teachers’ union has .
According to the latest information, the Capistrano Unified Education Association is proposing class sizes increase by 1.5 students across the board, freezing automatic salary advances for half a year and ending the school year end 15 days sooner, should Brown’s tax measure fail.
The school district is proposing two extra students per class, freezing the step-in-column increases for half a year, shortening the school year by 13 days and making up the rest in a salary reduction.
Parent Robert Reidel of Mission Viejo said if the district is not receiving enough money from the state Legislature, the trustees should be doing something about it, rather than just reacting.
“Why aren’t you going to Sacramento yourselves and say, ‘We demand our fair share?’ ” he asked.
But parent Julie Collier said no matter what hand the state deals the district, the trustees have a duty to the children.
“Students needs and best interests should be given your highest and utmost priority,” she said. “Whatever you’re given by the state, it’s your responsibility to make sure kids are given the highest priority. If that means tough negotiations, then we expect that.”
A student speaks
Before the meeting got started in earnest, middle school student Sophia Rea addressed the board on a number of budget issues, including the cutting of campus supervisors, a decision the board made .
“Do not short-change my education that way. We need staff on campus to stay safe,” she said, adding that she also doesn’t agree with furlough days.
“I believe in good education and cutting a lot of days of school isn’t going to help me. I’m asking the board to consider a pay cut instead of cutting my education,” she said.
The budget update was just a file-and-receive report. However, the board did need to take action on a move to allow the district the flexibility to “sweep” so-called Tier III funds, which are normally tied to specific programs, into the general fund so they can be spent elsewhere.
Julie Hatchel, assistant superintendent of education, said the district will maintain the programs traditionally funded by these monies at “minimal” levels.
But Trustee Addonizio said she wanted more information.
“We might just do away with these programs. Minimal support, I don’t’ know what that means,” she said, later adding to applause from the audience that the purpose of a public hearing is to communicate clearly with the public.
Trustee John Alpay noted, however, that the resolution wasn’t ending or curtailing any programs themselves. It only gives the district flexibility to do that, should officials desire.
“We will return when we adopt this budget with specific amounts that we believe we can safely transfer to the general fund,” he said.
The board approved the resolution 4-2, with trustees Addonizio and Sue Palazzo against and Trustee Anna Bryson absent to attend an Orange County Republican Party function.
There was no discussion on the district borrowing funds from itself. The motion passed, 5-1, with Addonizio opposed.