LVUSD forced to consider cuts along with other districts in state
By BEATRIZ E. VALENZUELA
FOR THE LEADER
Lucerne Valley Unified School District is considering a shorter school year due to state budget cuts.
With deep cuts proposed by Republican legislators essentially off the table, if a tax initiative proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown fails to pass in November, schools throughout the state could be looking at cutting the school year by as many as 15 days.
“For them to lose this many days off the school year will impact the student’s education,” said Dan Evans, spokesman for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. “It’s frightening. There’s no other way to describe it.”
Brown’s initiative would increase sale tax by a quarter cent for the next four years and also raise income taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year for seven years. The reduction in the school year is a trigger that will only take place if the tax initiative fails to pass in November, officials said.
“We were already down to 175 days,” said Sheri Staszweski, director of business services for the Lucerne Valley Unified School District. “This is the lowest number of school days the state allows. Nationally, it’s 180. ... Most of the cuts have fallen on our employees and our salaries, and we have tried to spare cutting any programs.”
Staszweski said if the initiative fails in November, they will have to cut 15 days out of the school year, but they have two school years to do it. She feels this may happen in the 2013-14 school year.
“The community hasn’t seen much of the impact yet, but if (the cuts) keep coming we’ll eventually have to go somewhere,” Staszweski said, referring to the possibility of programs being cut if the situation gets worse.
But many districts can’t wait until November, Evans explained. Districts must have next year’s budgets finalized by June 30 for the next school year.
“If this fails in November, the districts can’t go back into negotiations to see what they’ll cut,” Evans said. If districts do not factor in the potential cuts now, they will have to absorb the state cuts if the initiative fails.
School districts can expect to see a loss of $441 per student, school authorities stated. Most of the cuts will fall on school employees and salaries.
“Financially we’re looking at losing $350,000 this coming year,” Staszweski said. “For us that’s a large amount of money.”
The Hesperia Unified School District could be looking at a nearly $9 million loss in revenue, said David McLaughlin, assistant superintendent of business services for HUSD.
California schools could shorten the school year to 160 days, making it one of the shortest school years in the country. Currently, the state requires a minimum of 175 school days a year. Nationally, a typical school year is 180 days.
“We’re looking at an 11 percent reduction in the school year,” Evans said. “To put in other terms, would you be able to live with an 11 percent cut in pay? It’s a very significant cut.”
The proposal will affect K-14 education, and several Victor Valley College Board of Trustees are taking notice.
“Now I don’t think the college will lose days, but we are looking at cuts,” said board member Joseph Brady. The board held an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss the college’s upcoming budget and what November’s initiative can mean.
Even if the initiative does pass, some feel public schools will see little of the revenue made by the increases, noting Brown’s tax measure would split the money for public safety as well as public schools. A rival proposal — backed by Pasadena attorney Moll Munger — would raise income taxes on nearly all California residents for 12 years. The increase would be done on a sliding scale with the wealthiest seeing the largest jump.
The Munger initiative, as it’s being called, has no triggers like the governor’s plan and could mean more money for local schools, McLaughlin noted.
“We’ve tried as a district to protect our programs,” McLaughlin said. “We may no longer be able to protect our programs but we won’t know that until November. The board hasn’t made that decision yet.”
Beatriz E. Valenzuela may be reached at (760) 951-6276 or at BValenzuela@VVDailyPress.com.