By Jacob Wilson/Garden Grove Journal
“The economic problems we’re having are not because of anything we’re doing,” Superintendent Richard Tauer said. “It’s bigger than Westminster.”
Fewer school days, more furlough days for teachers and district employees, and across the board salary cuts are possible for next year and beyond. But all three items have to be negotiated with employee associations first.
This “holistic” approach, though not quite endorsed by the Board of Trustees at its Nov. 3 meeting, was favored over ideas to target specific areas for major cuts.
“It’s a more fair approach,” Board President Jo-Ann Purcell said.
The district is holding its head above water currently. Conservative budgeting and about $8 million in one-time state and federal funds gave the district a modest $3.5 million surplus for this year. But the district projects negative balances of $3.2 million next year and $10.6 million the following year.
And if state revenues are as bad as expected, that surplus would shrink to less than $1 million and those negative balances would get even bigger. The state is already behind almost $1 billion compared to projections.
“More tax revenues for the state means more money for schools,” said Clark Hampton, assistant superintendent of business services. “But right now the state is simply not providing the money for schools.”
Student enrollment is tied to state funding. Through Oct. 31, district-wide enrollment was at 9,638 students, 104 fewer than last year. But districts don’t receive state funds based on enrollment.
Instead, funding is based on average daily attendance. Daily attendance hovers around 97 percent, Tauer said. A one-percent increase would mean almost $500,000 per year for the district.
Increasing attendance is a priority for the district. One idea is to create schools with specialized curriculum, such as an arts or technology school.
The first step is to survey current students and parents to see what kind of programs they’d be interested in. The district will also study other districts with specialty programs.
Whether it’s working to increase attendance or balance the budget, Tauer expressed the importance of teamwork and cooperation.
“These are trying times,” he said. “We need to stick together, we need to work together and we need to communicate together to get through this.”