By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
It’s almost like turning some appliances off to keep the electricity on.
The Westminster School District Board of Trustees approved a resolution Thursday allowing the district to add to its general fund by cutting specific programs. Vice-President Mary Mangold voted no.
The diverted money should help the district avoid more teacher furlough days and layoffs.
“We don’t want to have furlough days or layoffs,” board member Sergio Contreras said. “Something’s got to give, at least temporarily.”
California allows school districts to use certain program funds for any educational purpose if necessary.
“The state cut 20 percent but allowed districts to use funds any way they want,” Assistant Superintendent Clark Hampton said.
The resolution adds almost $3.3 million to the district’s general fund but cuts funding for 15 programs, including the GATE program and math and reading programs.
The money will also help district guard against more state cuts.
“The governor may have to do mid-year cuts,” Superintendent Richard Tauer said. “If that happens it will hurt us. But by playing things a little more carefully, we’ll be able to handle it.”
But Mangold said the resolution was unnecessary based on the district’s current budget.
“In my opinion we excessively cut areas,” she said. “We are cutting these programs yet we have double the required amount in our coffers.”
School districts are required to place three percent of their budget in reserves. The WSD set aside $2.77 million and expects to have another $2.65 million available at the end of the year, bringing its reserves to 6.5 percent. But the district is projecting losses for the following two years, according to Hampton.
“We are deficit spending right now,” Hampton said. “We are spending one time money.”
Much of the debate centered on whether to sacrifice for the future or to maintain services now.
“I understand we need a rainy day fun but it’s to the detriment of our students that we have so much in our reserves,” Mangold said.
But Tauer argued that even if cuts weren’t made this year, they would have to be made soon.
“We don’t want to be in a position where we hire people one year and lay them off the next,” he said.
Mangold specifically protested cuts to a middle school counseling grant worth $121,933, a physical education grant that would have provided $146,800 and an art and music grant for $134,620.
Hampton said there will be limited physical education and the district’s three middle schools still have full-time counselors.
Tauer added that music programs are still intact thanks in part to a contribution from Boeing.
“We have music programs at all three middle schools and we have a traveling music program for the elementary schools,“ he said. “We’re trying to maintain as much of a music and arts program as we can.”
But Mangold pointed out classes below fourth grade don’t have music programs.
“It is the responsibility of the teachers to provide music education for lower grades,” Tauer said. “It is typical to find teachers who like music and enjoy teaching it.”
Contreras tried to steer the debate back to the bigger picture.
“Right now it feels like we’re choosing off a menu,” he said. “If we are going to do that, I have some items I’d like to protect, but I think its better if we come together as a group to prioritize the programs.”
Board member Andrew Nguyen was not at the meeting.