Decrease in state’s budget cuts won’t save school jobs

GILROY
– Despite the possibility of the state restoring as much as
$400,000 of funding to Gilroy Unified School District next school
year, district officials say Gov. Gray Davis’ revised budget will
have little impact on theirs.
GILROY – Despite the possibility of the state restoring as much as $400,000 of funding to Gilroy Unified School District next school year, district officials say Gov. Gray Davis’ revised budget will have little impact on theirs.

Cutting more than 30 teaching and administrative positions and ending class-size reduction for ninth grade are two of the many cost-saving recommendations still alive for the GUSD budget next school year. The latest education budget coming out of the governor’s office cuts per-student spending by $58, provides no funding increase to offset inflation and does nothing to equalize the revenue disparity between districts in wealthy and impoverished areas.

“Some of the programs targeted for cuts may change (given the governor’s budget revision), but overall the amount of money we’ll have next year is the same for us now as it was in January (when the governor submitted his first budget proposal),” GUSD Superintendent Edwin Diaz said. “The budget decisions we made back then still stand.”

Because increases in teachers salaries and up to 20 percent hikes in employee health benefits had not yet been factored into GUSD forecasts, the lighter-weight version of state cuts quickly will be absorbed.

A brighter outlook

The governor’s May revise has made a significant, and positive, impact on Gavilan Community College’s cost-cutting plans. In January, the governor slated a $530 million reduction from last year’s budget for community colleges. The system now faces a $285 million cut.

President Steve Kinsella said the cuts Gavilan College made to offset 2002-03 revenue shortfalls should now carry the school through 2003-04. Kinsella said the school is roughly $580,000 short on its 2003-04 budget at this point, but much of the shortfall can be picked up if trustees approve an early retirement incentive package for teachers next month.

“We’re estimating we can save about $1.1 million over three years,” Kinsella said.

The plan is to back-fill the vacancies with mostly part-time staff and pay retired teachers $1,000 a year for each year of service at Gavilan. About 10 teachers have said they would take the offfer, according to Kinsella.

Sacramento

California requires school boards to adopt their budgets by June 30, regardless of where the state is regarding its own budget process. Both GUSD and Gavilan are on track for approving their budgets before the state deadline, officials from the schools said.

Complicating matters for school districts is that the state may not finalized its budget until the fall, months after schools hire teachers and staff for the 2003-04 school year.

“Everyone’s still going on assumptions at this point. When the state finalizes its budget, we’ll revise our budget once again,” Diaz said.

There has been grumbling in Sacramento that the budget could be finalized sooner than later, Diaz said. Since the governor’s proposal calls for borrowing money from Wall Street money lenders, the state may be required to have a budget finalized before loans are approved.

This would not only speed the budget process, it could hasten legislators to pass key laws granting school districts more flexibility to manage the fiscal crisis. Lawmakers could allow districts to increase kindergarten through third-grade class sizes, a move that could save GUSD up to $500,000 in teacher layoffs. The state may also grant districts the right to use “rainy day” funds to balance their budget for 2003-04.

Even if lawmakers do not approve the new laws, it will be easier for school districts to plan for next year once a decision is made.

“The best thing that could happen for us is that the legislature feels a sense of urgency to pass their budget,” Diaz said.

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