School Districts Brace for Mid-Year Cuts

The mid-year budget trigger may soon be pulled

By Rory Devine
|  Wednesday, Nov 16, 2011  |  Updated 8:30 PM PDT
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School Districts Brace for Mid-Year Cuts

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If you think creating and sticking to a budget in your own house can be challenging, consider what local schools are going through.
   
Districts are positioning themselves to make huge cuts because the state may not deliver the money that was hoped for.    

The so-called trigger may be pulled after the latest projections from the Legislative Analyst’s Office show that the state took in $3.7 billion less than hoped.
   
Now look at your own personal budget.
   
Let's say you know how much your pay check is going to be, and half way through the year, your boss says, “I'm going to have to take away a few hundred dollars a month.”
   
You will have to make adjustments.
   
School districts are in same situation.
   
“The last five months have been in a decline; the revenues have been in decline at the state level,” said Lora Duzyk, the assistant superintendent for business at the County Office of Education.

Duzyk said that decline in revenue could trigger mid-year cuts to education. However, it is only the first of two budgetary projections used to determine if that will happen and if so, how much will be cut.

A second projection is due in mid-December, with the better of the two considered.

“I’m hopeful they’ll be better,” said Duzyk. “I don’t know that I could say I expect them to be better.”

But Cindy Marten, the principal of Central Elementary, is staying optimistic.

“If both projections come in low, I’m going to stay with hope,” said Marten. Her school was able to hire back all of its teachers this year.

While some have said the district gambled with money it was not sure it would have, Marten still believes the gamble paid off.

“I’d rather take a gamble on children,” said Marten, “and what we got is a year’s worth of excellence for our children right now.”

“It’s like we’ve said all along: just plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said Duzyk.

Duzyk said if the trigger is pulled and whatever amount ends up being slashed, districts will be required to balance their budgets and make the necessary cuts accordingly.

“The trigger is in the law,” she said, “so the legislature and governor would have to do something to stop it, so barring that or something in the governor’s budget that might address it, it would be targeted to hit on February 1.”

A spokesman for the San Diego Unified School District says the board will meet in December to look at how to make up that already spent $30 million. The recommendations could include laying off people in non-teaching positions, using money from the sale of property, and dipping into the district’s reserves.

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