Mountain View Voice

News - April 9, 2010

MVLA trustees consider $1.6 million in cuts

by Kelsey Mesher

High school district officials weighed proposals for budget reductions for the 2010-11 school year during a special meeting Tuesday evening — and although no final decisions were made, trustees gave a hard look at more than $1.6 million in cuts.

Trustees of the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District vetted a long list of items that had been prioritized over the last two months by the Budget Advisory Committee, or BAC, a group of district staffers, trustees, parents and students.

Joe White, associate superintendent of business, said the combination of declining property tax revenue, state take-backs and growing student enrollment has created the "perfect storm" for balancing future budgets.

"The district is going to have troublesome times over the next three to six years," he said.

"This really is the great California recession, the worst recession since the 1930s," said Superintendent Barry Groves.

In addition to endorsing most of the prioritized list of reductions put forth by the BAC, Groves recommended several options for balancing next year's budget, including dipping into the district's reserves, which currently stand at 5 percent. He pointed out that the district made $1.2 million in reductions for this school year, and recommended maintaining those reductions for 2010-11.

He said the district's education foundation had recently pledged a donation of $700,000, with a promise to try to give even more next year. He also called it "vital" that Measure A, a bond measure on the June ballot for the construction of new classrooms, passes.

The prioritized list put forth by the BAC included a variety of reductions, ranging from cell phone costs to instructional materials to staff development funding, and some cuts for support staff such as coaches. Members of the group said they were intent on shielding students as much as possible from the direct affects of the cuts.

Groves said some reductions would only be made for one year, such as $15,000 normally given to Partners for New Generations, a mentoring program helping more than 100 students.

Though trustees agreed the cuts were "painful," principals and district officials said they could continue to operate programs with less. For example, rather than spending money on materials used during freshmen orientation activities, the educators said they would focus on discussions or no-cost games. Or administrators could purchase new generations of textbooks after six years instead of four.

"There's no doubt in my mind that we won't be as good a district with these cuts," said trustee Phil Faillace.

Several district employees spoke at the meeting in support of their positions. Seth Donnelly, a social studies teacher at Los Altos High School, asked that alternatives be explored before cuts are made to important programs or services.

"We should look at voluntary furlough days," he said. "Some of us would even take voluntary cuts."

Groves said those options are being considered, but must clear union negotiations before they can be officially included on the proposed list of reductions.

No decisions were made at Tuesday's meeting. Going forward, classified personnel reductions would be negotiated by April 26, and a final budget for 2010-11 put forth in June.

E-mail Kelsey Mesher at kmesher@mv-voice.com INFORMATION: Following are the 10 largest reductions proposed for the 2010-11 school year. The list is by dollar amount and does not indicate priority as set by the BAC. Tier III categorical program carryover dollars: $538,847 Program specialist (vacant position): $150,739 Senior office assistants (reduce hours by .5 at MVHS and LAHS): $108, 255 Instructional materials ($201,100 grant): $101,000 Sr. staff secretary, IT department (vacant position): $100,000 Deferred maintenance projects: $88,000 Library technicians (reduce hours by .5 at MVHS and LAHS): $73,991 Computer support specialist: $62,460 Art and music block grant: $61,000 Eliminate exit exam classes: $60,000 Other cuts: $337,822 Total proposed cuts: $1,682,114 ?? ?? ?? ??

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