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7:53 AM Wed, Sept. 19th

HUSD committees look at cuts to maintenance and operations budget

The Humboldt Unified School District Certified and Classified Meet and Confer committees Monday afternoon decided to wait until after the May 18 state one-cent sales tax election before making any final decisions about employee wages.

The results of the sales tax election will decide the fate of the district's maintenance and operations budget for the 2010-11 school year.

The district is facing between $1.8 million and $2 million in budget shortfalls, no matter what happens with the statewide sales tax. The shortfalls are the result of increased contributions to the state retirement system and increased health insurance costs, the loss of student population and the elimination of full-day kindergarten. These cuts total about $1.8 million.

If employee health insurance costs increase more than the anticipated 5 percent and the district loses Group B average daily membership money for special education students and English Language Learners, the shortfall could increase to $2 million.

If voters do not approve the sales tax increase, the district is looking at an additional $2 million shortfall to its M&O budget through the loss of soft capital money, unrestricted capital money and a 2 percent reduction in the base amount the state pays for each student. The district would have to cut its $32 million budget by 9 percent.

The biggest hit to the district budget is the elimination of state money for all-day kindergarten. Human Resources Director Phil Young said the district would lose $1.2 million, "a devastating cut." The district can charge tuition for all-day kindergarten.

Young said the district would offer free half-day kindergarten and charge $10 per day for parents interested in enrolling their children in all-day kindergarten.

Young indicated there would be no offset for free and reduced lunches. He said the district needs about $8 a day per student to cover teacher salaries for the additional half-day. The other $2 would pay for supplies and additional transportation costs.

Young said that hypothetically, taking savings efforts into consideration, the district might have to cut "only $200,000 from its M&O budget, which is two furlough days."

As the district considers budget cuts, the members of the meet and confer committees had concerns.

Bradshaw Mountain High School teacher Victoria (Tori) Kendall said teachers have voiced concerns about maintenance costs for the new aquatic center the Governing Board approved for BMHS.

"The teachers are upset that the district would be paying to maintain the aquatic center while cutting salaries," Kendall said.

Young said that because of design and construction, the aquatic center would "have no impact on the 2010-11 M&O budget. The Governing Board approved the aquatic center and any decision regarding it is purely a board decision. In regards to long-term costs, there are a number of unknowns regrettably."

According to Young, the district has not fleshed out the details of staffing, fees, costs, rental fees and community usage.

Bradshaw Mountain Middle School teacher Marty Boles would "like to see the board be more proactive and back-up" its decision about the aquatic center.

Coyote Springs Elementary School teacher Carrie Barros said district officials need to consider how to restore 80 minutes of teacher preparation time lost by the school board's decision to reduce the music program and restructure the library program.

Barros suggested the district reduce student contact time by 30 minutes, not require teachers to serve on district committees and not require teachers to perform morning, lunch and afternoon playground duty.

Lake Valley Principal Danny Brown suggested the district allow teachers to leave their students in the library, thus gaining 40 minutes of prep time.

According to Young, there is no requirement that teachers stay in the library when their students are there. Additionally, he said teachers do not have to accompany their students to the computer lab.