On Tuesday, February 7, 2012, the Superintendent of Sunnyvale School District, Dr. Benjamin Picard, held an information session for parents about the forecast budget for the 2012-13 school year. He discussed actions that the district is considering to address future budget deficits. Approximately twenty parents attended the meeting.
Even with continuing cuts from the state, a reduction in tax revenue, and a $2.1 million dollar deficit, Sunnyvale School district has managed to maintain most programs and avoid layoffs, with only modest cuts to existing programs and slightly increased class sizes. Measure B, the parcel tax approved in May helped offset some of the current budget issues; however, the future holds more severe threats from the State.
In January, Governor Brown published his draft budget for fiscal 2012-13. This budget includes an assumption that voters will pass a tax increase in the upcoming November 2012 election. If the voters approve Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, much of the money will go to schools, but will be used to pay off past deferrals. The result will be a mostly flat budget from the state, which means Sunnyvale School District will continue to have a deficit. However, we will be able to maintain our schools with only modest cuts. Unfortunately, the scenario is much worse if voters don’t approve the tax initiative. Without the added income, the State will take approximately $5 billion from schools, which will result in an additional $2.5 million from our district’s 2012/2013 budget.
Even though voters will not vote on the tax initiatives until November, school districts must submit balanced budgets by June 30, 2012. This means they must make assumptions about their revenue and expenses for next year. Basing the budget on the worst-case scenario, the district is proposing a 7-7-7 plan, which would reduce spending by $2.1 million for next year.
The key components of this plan are as follows:
- $700,000 one-time reduction – some ideas to achieve this could be four furlough days or a one year salary reduction of 1.7% for all employees or a combination of these
- $700,000 ongoing reduction – could be achieved by increasing class sizes and/or eliminating programs like Starting Arts or Energy Educators
- $700,000 transfer from Reserves – Reserves are currently at $8.8 million
In addition, the Superintendent will continue to monitor local, state and federal revenue sources to identify any potential funding that would allow us to moderate budget cut recommendations.
After Dr. Picard presented the proposed plan, he took questions from the audience. Parents wanted to know how they can be involved in the process and provide input about the programs they most value. Dr. Picard responded that the first step is for the district to work with the employee unions, and then they will open the discussion to everyone. He recommended that parents continue to support their local PTA/PTO organizations. He also mentioned that parents may advocate for one of the tax initiatives on the November ballot to support schools and education.
Discussions about the budget and this proposal have already begun and will continue through June. The District Office and the PTA will work together to share information and engage parents as additional information is available.
Article by Reid Myers and Pam Anderson