Schools - February 10, 2010

Las Lomitas school district faces big cuts

• Board to consider hiring freeze, larger class sizes, enrichment program cuts.

by Renee Batti

Faced with the prospect of a $1.6 million deficit next school year if significant cuts aren't included in the new budget, Las Lomitas School District officials are recommending that the school board approve reductions that include a hiring freeze, larger class sizes, cuts in or elimination of some enrichment programs, and shrinking the summer school program to mandated classes only.

The school board may approve these and other cuts at its Feb. 10 meeting at the Las Lomitas District office, 1011 Altschul Ave. in Menlo Park. The meeting begins at 7 p.m.

Superintendent Eric Hartwig said in a staff report that "almost zero local revenue growth" is predicted for the 2010-11 school year. That, coupled with Gov. Schwarzenegger's proposed permanent per-student cuts in state funding, requires the district to cut about $1.2 million of ongoing expenditures and find about $200,000 in temporary savings to get out of deficit spending by 2011-12, he said.

Mr. Hartwig said the district is projected to "deficit spend" by about $481,000 this fiscal year.

The proposed cuts, totaling about $1.1 million over the next two years, are the result of an effort by district staff to identify and prioritize possible cuts to the budget, Mr. Hartwig said. After reviewing more than 50 options, district officials came up with a recommended list that "would be least likely to affect the educational program or involve reducing staff," he said.

About 75 percent of the proposed cuts would be put in place in the next fiscal year, with the remaining cuts intended for the 2011-12 fiscal year, he said. Some of the cuts proposed for 2011-12 will require negotiated agreements, and if the agreements aren't achieved, another $214,000 in cuts would have to be made, Mr. Hartwig said in the report.

In addition to the cuts listed above, other proposed reductions include up to five non-instructional furlough days for all employees; lengthening the computer replacement cycle from four years to five years; eliminating traditional GATE (Gifted and Talented Education program) projects; hiring teachers in the early years of their careers; and cutting special education spending.

For more information, call the district office at 854-2880.


Posted by Amy Kettering, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 16, 2010 at 9:55 pm

How about similar percentage cuts to the superintendent's and admin salaries/benefits to the teaching unions benefits? AND another bond (which would only require 55% versus 66% for another parcel tax) so all residents in the district can contribute. Now that's serious sacrifice for our little ones.

Posted by Scott C., a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 17, 2010 at 12:15 am


How many of us think it will get worst or better?


In the past, I would think that these types of cuts are a scare tactic to get parents to contribute more and teachers' unions to demand less, but this time it feels different with the State going broke and us dependent on Fed funds for a bailout. What do you folks in LLSD think?

Posted by Susan, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 21, 2010 at 7:30 am

Times look tough in the future, even for basic aid schools.

Tax burden will be passed to homeowners and business owners. The glory days when real estate prices were going up 10-20% a year are long gone. As assessments ease and higher enrollment continue, something gives. Those that can contribute will start to wonder if they are carrying most of the weight and not be happy, driving lower donations. Eventually, higher student/teacher ratios, less cultural programs, less gifted or special needs programs, you get the drift.

Yes, more parcel tax proposals, but their is a limit in what homeowners will support. Unhappy customers means unhappy voters. Unhappy voters can be dangerous.

Posted by alc, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 23, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Why do we have two different school districts in Menlo Park (a relatively small community)? One district for Las Lomitas and another for the rest of Menlo Park seems top heavy; both districts have a very small number of schools. Why pay to two superintendents and other redundant administrators for so few schools? Is this the best use of our money? Palo Alto has one Superintendent for many more schools - and they are well administered.

We always say that we need to make hard choices, yet those 'hard choices' always involve extra burden on the tax-payers and students and teachers.

I support doing whatever has to be done to improve the education for all of our children, including increasing taxes, if that is needed... but, it would be good to also consider how to reduce the overhead even more.

Posted by Concerned Home Owner, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 8, 2010 at 12:06 am

Honestly, I'm sick and tired of homeowners footing the burden to educate kids at public schools with these extra taxes. Don't take my money parents - demand more fiscal responsibility from the schools and seek parent fund raising. Yes, I know this won't be a popular argument, but if you took a look at my property taxes you would see over 25% of my taxes going to educate your kids.

Concerned Home Owner taxed to the brink...

Posted by Resident, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Apr 13, 2010 at 9:53 pm

I agree with alc and concern parent above completely.

I recently moved into the area so my taxes are much more than most (if not all) of my neighbors. Now if I was able to say that my kids or grandkids can go to a good public school, I wouldn't even mention about the taxes. However, it's lame for the districts full of unnecessary overhead and see them go into these public hearings with their "followers" such as school board members staff and "supportive" parents to act like they are so strapped for funds and that there just isn't any more room for other kids outside of their "almighty" school district. They turn to their friends from the school district that is crappy to support their efforts to not let anyone leave. Yes, times are tough but mark my words things will get very bad for education in a state where key taxpayers are starting to move out of the area and looking for other ways to get their tax overhead down. Yes, people always want public education as an option but when it's so bad and the school admins act like parents are to blame since parents are too snobby. That's when you know you have the wrong leadership spending your tax dollars; vote them out and get your voice heard up the food chain. Hopefully, Sacramento wakes up before the resentment turns towards them. Have fun getting legislation and new parcel taxes through. The big money (even Larry Ellison got a reduction on his assessments of $110M) paying the big taxes will start to feel unhappy and yes their voices will be heard. Money talks and you won't see much support when parents don't get what they expect for their kids.

Posted by Julie Cagalini, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 20, 2011 at 10:00 pm

When Eric Hartwig is out, I will be happy to approve a bond. Eric Hartwig ruined MA and has ruined that great district LL was. He is a PR guy that cannot get anything done. The once great district has been ruled by his lack of leadership....QQQ

Posted by Well Put Julie, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 5, 2011 at 5:34 am

Can't say it any better than how Julie said it in the previous post. PR doesn't pay your bills. You had your chance to do something real but you chose to play around with people's time and money, now that they see the real deal they will ask for new leadership or consolidated leadership.

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