Portola Valley schools face minimal cuts, balanced budget
Thanks to a smaller-than-expected hit from the state and some budgetary fine-tuning, Portola Valley School District officials expect to begin the 2009-10 fiscal year on July 1 with a balanced budget — a change from last year.
Tim Hanretty, assistant superintendent, said the projected $10.6 million budget for next fiscal year reflects layoffs of two non-teaching staff members, and a loss of work hours for one teacher.
This fiscal year's budget was about $11.3 million, and included about $500,000 in deficit spending.
That sum, and the $580,375 in planned budget reductions for 2009-10, represent in large part the revenue loss to the district resulting from the reassessment of billionaire Larry Ellison's Woodside estate, which dropped his property tax bill by about 60 percent.
Mr. Hanretty said the board last year decided to spread the pain of that loss over two school years, and endorsed the deficit-spending plan for the first of those years.
Aside from the revenue loss because of the Ellison reassessment, property tax revenue in 2008-09 was flat, Mr. Hanretty said. Next fiscal year, however, tax revenue is expected to grow by about 4 percent, he said.
Superintendent Anne Campbell told the school board at its March 4 meeting that the district fared better than expected with state budget cuts. Rather than the $540-per-pupil cuts that district officials were told to expect, the cuts were limited to categorical funding — money that is required to be spent on specific programs.
The categorical funding loss is about $35,300 for this school year, and about $47,000 in 2009-10.
But, Ms. Campbell warned, the situation is "very dynamic and fluid," and much could depend on the May 19 statewide election. If voters reject Proposition 1C — the "lottery securitization" measure that would generate over $5 billion for the state — school funding will likely take another hit, she said.
Mr. Hanretty said after the meeting that the funding cuts for categorical programs this year "won't make or break the programs," adding that the district will be able to absorb the loss with "perhaps a minimal trimming of operational costs."
Categorical programs include the arts and music block grant; the Gifted and Talented program; instructional materials; peer and assistance review; professional development block grant; and the school and library improvement block grant.
Among the budget-reduction measures for 2009-10 is "belt-tightening" at Corte Madera School, which includes dropping an advanced math course and English Language Development periods. Mr. Hanretty said one teacher's hours will be reduced by two periods a day.
A network administrator and the special education administrative assistant will be laid off as cost-cutting measures.
Other measures include a freeze on administrative and confidential staff salaries; elimination of strategic plan funding; elimination of conference attendance and travel; a freeze on technology purchases; and a reduction in supplies and services.