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RWC School District Proposed Cuts, April 30 Meeting

The Redwood City School Board met last night to present to the community the first round of budget reductions relating to the General Fund (the next round on Categorical funds is TBD). This is a summary, not an editorial comment of the cuts and their meaning.

The meeting consisted mostly of a presentation and discussion of the proposal, which is contained in this excellent document:
April 30 Board Memo: preliminary budget recommendations for 2008/2009

There are no significant news from Sacramento and any expectations of any improvement in the May revision of the Governor's budget seem extremely optimistic at this point.

So, the assumptions remain the same: the RWC School District will face a 6 million dollar reduction next year, 4.5 million reduced from the General Fund and 1.5 million from the Categorical Fund. Given the current reserves, the district is able to mitigate the impact of these cuts while maintaining the 6% reserve (3% required from the State and an extra 3% from our School Board). Even so, the District needs to make cuts of around 1.8M from the General Fund and 1.5M from the Categorical Funds.

The General Fund is used to pay for salaries, staff and basic services from the District. This meeting focused on what can be done to achieve these cuts with the over arching goal of minimal impact in the classroom.

The District made a point of explaining the process that originated the proposals. The Financial Advisory Committee worked with the District Business Office to put together a list of recommendations after much discussion. The recommendations were passed on to the Superintendent who then produced the final set of recommendations for the Board to consider.

The District identified three money saving areas:

  • Budget Savings

  • Budget Reductions (cuts)

  • Other Possibilities Subject to Contingencies

Budget Savings

These are optimizations of existing processes at the District. The size of the list shows that really there isn't much left to optimize. Not surprising after so many rounds of budget cuts. Here's the list from the document:

Reclassification of purchasing manager to a non-management position$15,000
Reclassification of funding source of 0.4 FTE account specialist$26,000
Savings in energy cost - close district office during the last week of December$20,000
Savings in energy cost - close district office each Friday during the last week of June and entire July$15,000
Savings in teachers substitute cost$40,000
Medical Administrative Activities ("MAA") site allocation$80,000
Strategic plan cost$50,000
2.0 FTE Classroom teacher - would naturally save using current staffing ratio$162,000
Bottled water$3,000

Interestingly, unification of the calendar would result in very significant savings and is an untapped optimization at this point. It's too late to consider it for 2008/2009 but seems very much open for following years. The Board noted the need to discuss this at the community level.

Budget Reductions

These are the proposed cuts. They're listed in prioritized order.

6 non work days for the Superintendent$5,000
50% cut to school board stipend$7,000
10% cut in district office supply budget$25,000
0.8 FTE Office assistant data/assessment$35,000
2.0 FTE Custodian$120,000
1.0 FTE Special education administrative secretary$63,000
1.0 FTE Occupational therapist$109,000
2.0 FTE Classroom teacher-create combo classes$162,000
1.0 FTE Nurse (may be restored if funded by Sequoia Health Services)$93,000
Principal's substitute cost$30,000
2.0 FTE Additional custodian$120,000
1.0 FTE Special education administration$149,000

The hardest hit area by far is administration of Special Education programs. Many of the administrators spoke at the meeting pointing out that there will not be enough people to process State mandated paperwork in a timely manner which could result in costly lawsuits.

The reduction in the the number of custodians means that schools won't be cleaned as often as today. The documents points out that at least the restrooms will continue to be cleaned every day at all sites.

Other Possibilities Subject to Contingencies

Finally a set of items that can result in savings but depend on contingencies outside our control.

Early retirement incentive for teachers (should have 30 FTE participants at 40% incentive)$100,000
Routine repairs and maintenance ("RRM") flexibility (waiting for May revision)$338,000
MAA reimbursement (waiting for definitive information from the Federal)$800,000
Categorical carryover flexibility away from the classroom (waiting for May revision)$500,000

If all of these come through, the number of cuts can be reduced to some extent.

Wrap Up

The above is pretty much all the hard data presented at the meeting. As usual, there are several sources of uncertainty. The May Revision of the Governor's budget is one. Nobody seems to expect significant good news out of it. And even then, the final budget might only be signed around September. By that time our schools are in session and our budget needs to be finalized.

The proposed cuts are proposals for now. The Board went out of its way to point out again and again how excruciating these decisions are and how sad they are to be in this position. No cut is a good cut and any cut can impact the goals of the District.

Soon the District will turn to cuts in Categorical programs which affect English Language Learners and all sorts of special programs in the district (Selby Lane's IB, for instance). More on that later.


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