Message from Supt. Hubbard Re: the California Budget Crisis
Wednesday, January 21st, 2009 - Posted in District Communications
Last week, several members of the Piedmont education community and I went to a State-wide workshop on the Governor’s proposed K-12 Education budget for 2009-10. All in attendance were aware the news would be pessimistic, given the preview to unprecedented cuts in education the Governor announced on New Year’s Eve.
As anticipated, the details of the workshop included a discussion of the continuing challenges posed by the State economy and the harsh reality of the current revenue shortfall. The impact of the current budget proposals will profoundly affect every district and child attending public schools.
The Financial Impact to Piedmont
For the Piedmont Unified School District, we are looking at mid-year cuts of over $750,000 for the 2008-09 budget, and $1.1 million in 2009-10. These are cuts made in addition to the loss of the statutory Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) as provided for under Proposition 98. The potential amount of the deficit we face in 2009-10 could be as high as $1.5 million or 5% of our total operating budget.
To put this number in perspective, it would mean a reduction of up to 15-20 full time employees, including teachers, administrators, and support staff. Although the news is devastating, it was not entirely unexpected. The District has watched and prepared for worst-case scenarios since the 2008-09 budget was initially proposed last January, revised last May, and adopted last September. We reduced expenses, increased reserves, and were one of a handful of districts that made the conscious decision not to issue layoff notices for 2008-09.
With the support of parent clubs and the Piedmont Educational Foundation, the cooperation of our employee associations, and with clear direction from the Governing Board, the District has ensured it will meet its financial obligations for this year and address all mid-year cuts proposed. Our ending fund balance will meet the required reserve level, but we face major challenges as we prepare for 2009-10.
Specifically, we must examine our budget priorities and address our Board-stated goals of providing a quality education in both depth and breadth to our students in the face of a potential $1.5 million shortfall. We must begin by examining the big picture and developing effective strategies for both short-term relief and long-term financial health.
The Governor’s 2009-10 budget proposal offers flexibility in managing District funds, manipulating reserve levels, and suggests shortening the instructional calendar. These are mostly one-time fixes, however. There is no escaping the fact that we will need to make significant changes for 2009-10 that will result in the consolidation of resources, reorganization of administrative responsibilities, overall program cuts, and increased class sizes in some areas.
I understand the uncertainty that is created for parents when talking about specific cuts in specific program areas. It also adds to the stress of the staff whose charge it is to provide these programs. Yet, these are discussions we need to have now, and decisions we must make over the next several weeks and months.
I will present a list of strategies and priorities to address our budget issues at the next School Board meeting based on conversations I have had with the District’s administrative team. Meanwhile, I continue to meet regularly with the leadership of our employee associations to identify priorities and keep them informed of our progress.
Once these strategies and discussion of priorities have been presented formally to the Board, we will use every opportunity to discuss them with our stakeholders and solicit input. This includes staff meetings, parent club meetings, Budget Advisory Committee meetings, community meetings, and future Board meetings.
The Governing Board will address these budget issues at each of its successive meetings on January 27th, February 11th, at a special Board meeting on February 24th, and at its March 11th meeting. The development of the District’s 2009-10 budget will continue to undergo revision well beyond these scheduled Board meetings as more information is known from the State. Until then, we will work together to meet these challenges and uphold our commitment to the students and families of Piedmont.