As the Portola Valley School District struggles to slash more spending for the next fiscal year, a key concern of a number of parents is the potential elimination of up to 10 school days to save the district about $300,000. But that option, which would require agreement with the teachers' union, appears almost certain to be grounded even before contract talks are reopened.
"I'd say there's no support at all for 10 furlough days" among Ormondale and Corte Madera school teachers, represented by the Portola Valley Teachers Association (PVTA), said John Davenport, the association's president and a Corte Madera teacher. He said, though, that some teachers have indicated they might support one or two furlough days.
The furlough option is one of the district's proposals to the PVTA, which in the face of an unexpected budgetary shortfall has agreed to reopen talks on the teachers' contract, set to expire next June.
When the board meets Wednesday, June 20, it is likely to approve a budget for fiscal year 2012-13 that cuts $2.1 million in spending, eliminates summer school and K-5 Spanish, increases class size at several grade levels, and has no reserves.
The extreme measures are the result of a budgetary shortfall that has left the district ending this fiscal year on June 30 with an estimated $1.65 million deficit -- about half of which came as a surprise to the board and administrators. Board members were already wrestling with a projected deficit of about $854,000 when auditors informed them in late April that they had uncovered bookkeeping irregularities and possible misappropriations of funds that would compound the shortfall.
The auditors had been called in following Tim Hanretty's resignation as superintendent in January after the county District Attorney's Office began an investigation into alleged misdeeds stemming from his earlier work with the Woodside Elementary School District.
In addition to the furlough days, the district's proposals include a salary freeze and take-aways in bonuses agreed to in exchange for prior salary freezes, and elimination of the summer technology institute for teachers.
The teacher association's proposal primarily involves working conditions, including provisions confirming preparatory time during the instructional day; limiting the scheduling and duration of mandatory meetings; and refining the employee grievance process.
Contract talks will begin after a second, legally required "sunshining" of the proposals takes place at the June 20 board meeting. They were first publicly presented at a special June 12 meeting.
The proposed 2012-13 budget, also on the June 20 agenda for approval, includes $10.97 million in spending, with projected revenues of just over $11 million. It projects ending next school year with a balance of only $46,871.
As auditors continue to sort through the books and finalize their investigation, Acting Superintendent Carol Piraino has approached the nonprofit Portola Valley Schools Foundation about the possiblity of additional funding.
Foundation co-president Joyce Chung said in an interview that the foundation plans to contribute about $1.3 million to the district this year -- a boost of more than $200,000 over last year's donation that will be drawn from the nonprofit's reserves in response to the unexpected shortfall.
The foundation also will "run a more aggressive (fundraising) campaign this year," Ms. Chung said.
"It's really an unfortunate situation," she said. "But we believe that between the parents, the administration, the teachers, the whole community at large, we will get through this. ... We'll pull together."
■ Related story: