Monday, February 2, 2009

Here Comes The Ax

This is a big week in the hamlet of the cats. State of the Town is this evening and a discussion of the budget and proposed cuts to the school district tomorrow evening. With the Govenator still at an impasse on the budget for the state, we can be double dog sure that the writing on the wall can mean only one thing. Not that I have a crystal ball, but we have been spoon fed the economic indicators now for a long while. Knowing this, why the three day notice of a budget "workshop" from the local school board? Seems to me a longer run way would be required, heck think outta the box, set up a gmail or google group for the community to weigh in on these uber important issues and have a launch pad for the Tuesday meeting? It is no surprise to me that the current statistic lifted from the school board website states the following: The LGUSD Board considers the concerns of parents 79%. Ouch. I thought spanking was unfashionable, but it certainly feels like we are getting bent over somebodies' knee?? No?

I thought for those of you sans children at the moment and not privy to the school email list would enjoy the letter from our school Superintendent Richard Whitmore.
Sorry if it causes your blood pressure to rise, as it did mine... or maybe you live in the other camp, and your eyes will glaze over reading it- either way we are in for a rude awakening. Something that affects us all. I hope to see you at the meeting tomorrow. It's in our best interest to ask the critical questions because if we don't no one else will. Dave's Ave School, 6 p.m.

Dear Parents:
We’re entering into the budget development cycle for the 2009/10
school year, and as you may have heard at your school site or from
other parents, there are new constraints emerging on our district.
There are the continuing pressures on the budget from enrollment
growth – for which we receive no additional unrestricted funds to pay
for additional classrooms or teachers – and from the ongoing impact of
salary increases and “step and column” (career salary advancement)
movement. Salaries and benefits comprise 84 percent of the
district’s budget. Our reserves have been significantly reduced from
this tightening of the revenues and increased operating expenses of
the district.
On top of the natural pressures on the budget, we now also have to
consider the impact of the economy on our local schools. The Town of
Los Gatos and the City of Monte Sereno are taking a close look at
their revenue projections for property taxes, and those property taxes
are the dominant source of money for us as a “basic aid” district. If
the forecast for property tax revenue growth is reduced, we face a
further deficit of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition,
the state budget is in unprecedented territory; the amount of money we
receive from the state – albeit relatively small – is in jeopardy for
both the amount and the categories in which we receive the funding.
We’re also fearful that our local fundraising efforts to support our
schools will find a dampened reception in the face of the recession.
What does this mean for our district?
It does mean that the governing Board of Trustees and I will be
engaged in a discussion about possible reductions in force, or
“layoffs,” in addition to other budget savings we can find in any of
the categories of expenditure. I know from my short time here that
the Board values each employee and his or her service to the district,
and I know from my own observations and work to date that we have high
quality staff in every department and every school. We enter into
this discussion with the goal of protecting each and every job that
exists today, and would enact reductions only with the deepest regret.
As a practical matter, we need to provide preliminary notices by March
15 to certificated teaching employees; those notices are not final
until May according to education law. The March 15 deadline
necessarily drives the timing of our budget deliberations. Because of
the uncertainty around the state proposals, we do not know yet where
we will have flexibility to use existing sources of money, that are
now restricted, to support our general fund needs. For instance, K-3
class size reduction rules are likely to be changed but we don’t yet
know how. We are also waiting for more clarity on the revenue
forecasts for our local sources of funding, including the property
taxes and redevelopment fund. All of this uncertainty may require
notices to prepare for a worst-case scenario. Our general approach
to the budget at this time is to prepare for the worst and hope for
the best – and take action to help facilitate the best outcomes.
The Board will begin its discussion in earnest at its February
workshop, which takes place February 3rd at 6 p.m. at Daves Avenue
Elementary School, located at 17770 Daves Avenue – please note the
change in location. The sole item on the agenda will be a budget
discussion. At their regular meeting last week, the Board walked
through an exercise in prioritization to help the district office
staff develop budget proposals. One of the primary outcomes of that
discussion was that no budget reductions are “off the table” or
protected by Board direction. This upcoming workshop will not be a
decision-making forum, but a chance to deliberate, set direction, and
hear public comment.
I want to emphasize that there have been no decisions yet, and there
is ample time for many voices to be heard in this process. There is
also not an absolute expectation that notices will be required; it
depends on a host of factors that include the revenue forecasts, the
state actions, and even normally routine decisions such as
retirements. My best guess at this time is that a number of notices
will be required but we are all working to protect each and every
position in the district.
You will be hearing shortly from the Los Gatos Education Foundation
about its annual campaign, and your continued support of LGEF, Home
and School Clubs, Art Docents, and other booster groups helps us weather any storm.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. If you
are looking for more detail, take a look at the board packets on the web site; Maggi Reser and Matt Mullikin in our
technology office have built a great system to access our Board
presentation material and the past presentations on the budget are
available there.Best regards, Richard Whitmore Superintendent


Anonymous said...

The Google Group would have given the Community a forum to discuss and give the school board a bead on where the values and concerns lie. I guess being in Silicon Valley, aka the heart of technology was lost on these luddites.

CindyS said...

You are correct about the cuts coming. Too bad the problem can't be corrected without a big influx of cash. It would certainly be more than a few bake sales. The reason we moved to LG was schools.

Anonymous said...

Luddites it is. If we have a school district that can't seem to "find" 250K worth of computer gear, we have
a rude awakening a head of us.