By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
In a study session meeting Tuesday, Garden Grove Unified School District board members gathered to discuss the budget future for the district. With the upcoming state budget being an unknown, board members found themselves contemplating a possible $50 million shortfall.
More concrete numbers will be known March 2, when a multi-year budget projection will be available.
“We face some serious challenges,” said Superintendent Dr. Laura Schwalm.
The purpose of the study session was to examine funds, pay and all available options for saving in the year and years to come. This included mulling over busing routes, student athletics, staff reorganization, salary cuts, paycut days, something that looked like district furloughs and discussing how effectively smaller schools were managed.
None of these items are set as solutions or are even in the process of becoming a reality as of the moment. However, the discussion was meant to bring out all available options to help keep schools running on progressively less funding from the state.
“We knew we could weather the storm last year and weather it this year,” said school board member Linda Reed.
Reed also said that neither they nor others had planned for an ongoing crisis.
“You have a budget gap that may be high or low, depending on how it comes out,” said Dr. Sue McCann, assistant superintendent of business services.
The issue with looking at cuts in GGUSD is that the district already operates without many superfluous positions. Over the last three years, many seats in the district have remained vacant on purpose and often have been deleted from rosters in order to save money.
However, this has not been enough to keep the pressures of the budget crisis at bay.
“There’s nothing we that we can eliminate that we don’t immediately value,” said Schwalm.
More serious solutions such as an across the district 3 percent pay cut and instituted non-pay days off came up as well. Increasing class sizes from 29 students to 32 students would incur fees, but would in the long run save money. It would however add more work for already impacted teachers and aids.
Schwalm the mantra has been so far to keep the problems out of the classroom.
“The reality is that we can’t anymore,” said Schwalm.
Board member George West at one point suggested that the board look at the operation costs of the smaller schools in the district. Some elementary schools serve only around 300 students.
West said that the cost of keeping the schools may become at some point be too much, due the school being built to accommodate up to 400 students but really only breaking even in funding if there are 500 students.
Schwalm said that was an option that the district did not want to seriously look at. Reed said that it would be better to do a districtwide pay cut as a more solid move to help the situation.
One idea was to extend the walk distance radius around schools from 2 miles to 2.5 miles, therefore saving on busing for students. Busing priority would theoretically go to younger elementary students.
Another idea was to freeze smaller athletics, such as golf and badminton. Also, the idea was brought up to integrate junior varsity with frosh and soph sports to cut down on costs.
As for school-by-school cut options, principals will be asked to evaluate what they believe they need and do not need. The general consensus from the board was that those that work at the schools know better what they need and don’t need.
Schwalm said that no matter where cuts were made that they would be dealing with people who would not be happy with what was happening.