RBUSD braces for cuts

by Mark McDermott
Published January 15, 2009

Redondo Beach Unified School District Superintendent Steve Keller this week sent a letter to parents and staff warning that the educational funding cuts currently under consideration by the state could require the district to make at least $2 million in midyear budget cuts.
Keller said that despite already enacting $1.2 million in cuts this year and seeing a slight but steady rise in enrollment over the past few years, the district will almost certainly be forced to revisit its $65 million budget and make further reductions. He leveled blame at the state level, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature have been unable to arrive at a balanced budget agreement six months into the current fiscal year.
“It is discouraging to note that RBUSD’s strategic, proactive, and prudent budgeting over the last several years is ultimately compromised by the State’s lack of fiscal planning and foresight,” Keller wrote. “In other words, we did our job at the local level; the State did not.”
“There are no easy solutions…With the newly proposed midyear reductions, it appears we will have to cut another $2 million,” Keller added.
At Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, RBUSD chief business official Janet Redella presented an update on the financial outlook to the school board. It was, as she said from the outset, a dismal picture. She noted that both the Governor and the legislature have proposed educational cuts, albeit from different sources – the Governor proposes to take directly from schools’ primary source of state monies, Average Daily Attendance funding (known as revenue limit), whereas a proposal forwarded by legislators would cut so-called “categorical” funds, restricted funds used to purchase books and other specifically earmarked materials.
“One is not better than the other, but both would impact our general fund, our unrestricted funds,” Redella said.
Redella said that the latest figures coming from the state indicate that the district is likely to face $2.4 million in cuts. She also noted a few “positive” political developments at the state level, in terms of the district’s financial outlook: a proposal by the California Teachers Association for a sales tax increases earmarked specifically for classroom funding, and a legislative proposal to decrease from 66 to 55 percent the requirement for communities to pass parcel taxes.
“It’s clear to all of us that education dependent on the volatility of the state revenue has really hurt our programs,” she said. “It seems we get influxes of cash when things are good and we are able to make inroads and make steps forward, and the economy tanks…[The proposal] means that districts can pass parcel taxes to help keep our programs going.” ER