$6.3 million in GUSD budget cuts – difficult choices ahead

Gilroy Unified School District has allowed the financial storm
to brew, and it’s about to touch down with painful power. The
predicted $6.3 million in cuts which have to be made next year
could very well be, unfortunately, an optimistic number.
State is $20 billion in the hole and property tax revenues are down

Gilroy Unified School District has allowed the financial storm to brew, and it’s about to touch down with painful power. The predicted $6.3 million in cuts which have to be made next year could very well be, unfortunately, an optimistic number.

Things might be even worse.

It’s all a part of the Great Economic Reset going on nationally and, in particular, in California. The state is $20 billion in the hole, local property values are way down and thus so are property tax collections. Those are the two main sources of operating revenue for the schools, and the immediate future does not look pretty.

As it stands, there will be few choices. Class size reduction for early grades will have to go by the wayside, class sizes generally will have to be increased and significant layoffs will have to be made. The GUSD budget is extremely heavy with personnel costs – salaries and benefits gobble up 81 percent of the dollars. The cuts would represent 7.2 percent of GUSD’s $88 million annual budget.

Unlikely that the unions will endorse significant pay cuts

It’s unlikely the unions will seriously negotiate significant pay cuts for employees in order to save jobs. That sort of meritorious action would be greatly frowned upon by higher-up union leaders.

Furloughs aren’t a great option, either – there are already a number of teacher in-service days that disrupt the educational flow.

There may be some relief from the state if school boards can put upward pressure on state legislators and Gov. Schwarzenegger to suspend mandates that come without funding. But that’s not going to save the day.

Pogo-stick budget politics in Sacramento makes situation worse

The schools are going to have to find ways to be more efficient, and leadership is going to be crucial during the difficult times ahead. Gilroy cannot lose sight of the educational progress that is being made and has been made in the last few years.

It’s an unenviable task for Superintendent Deborah Flores, her staff and the elected school board members.

The state funding mechanism is an absolute, unmitigated disaster. School districts have little control over their budgets and the state makes that reality even worse by playing pogo-stick politics with a budget that’s never, ever finalized on time.

Could GUSD have begun cutting last year like San Jose Unified School District did? That would have been prudent, but it’s water under the bridge now. Certainly, trustees should make every attempt to base decisions on what’s best for the students. Certainly early teacher retirements that could save the district money and, just as importantly, preserve positions for bright, energetic young teachers should be carefully examined. Charging for bus transportation might become a reality, too.

Tough cuts are ahead, but delaying the inevitable decisions will do more harm than good.

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