Budget balanced, but more cuts possible
The 2012-13 budget is balanced, with $2.1 million in spending cuts, but the Portola Valley School District board and staff members are still trying to find other ways to trim costs so a now-empty reserve can be at least partially replenished.
On June 20, the board adopted a budget that would spend $10.97 million in the fiscal year starting July 1, with projected revenues of just over $11 million. There will be less spending on teachers, which will mean larger class sizes at some grade levels, and no money for teachers' aides.
Summer school has been eliminated except for special education students, and K-3 Spanish will no longer be taught. The fate of Spanish instruction for fourth- and fifth-graders is not yet known: Although there's some money allocated for the program, it is likely that it will no longer be offered during the school day, Superintendent Carol Piraino said.
Instead, fourth- and fifth-graders may be offered after-school, fee-based Spanish instruction, as will kindergartners and first- through third-graders, she said.
The district is asking its teachers for contract concessions, and the two parties are meeting this week and probably through the summer after teachers agreed to reopen their contract, which expires next June. Among concessions the district is seeking are a salary freeze to save $110,032; elimination of up to 10 school days to save $300,000; and elimination of the summer technology institute for teachers to save $28,000.
The proposal to cut 10 days in the school year, which has drawn much criticism from parents attending budget meetings, is not likely to go forward: John Davenport, president of the teachers association, told the Almanac last week that "there's no support at all" among teachers for 10 furlough days, although some teachers have indicated they might support elimination of one or two days of school.
In her review of the new budget on June 20, Sandra Lepley, who at the same meeting was approved as the district's interim chief business official, summarized the circumstances that led to the district's ending this fiscal year with a $1.1 million deficit, including shortcomings in the accounting process under former superintendent Tim Hanretty.
She also recommended a number of changes for budget development in the future, including the creation of a budget advisory committee made up of school staff, parents and community members to help review the district's annual audit and ongoing financial practices.