State Budget Crisis Requires Local Cuts

A plan to help balance the Long Beach Unified School District’s budget was approved recently by the Board of Education. Due to the state budget crisis, the plan includes a reduction of $20.9 million for the remainder of this year and next. "The school district needs to make these cuts to remain fiscally strong," said Kim Stallings, chief business and financial officer. The budget plan includes the elimination of some full-time positions, though many of the positions are vacant or were already scheduled to become vacant. In other cases, employees may move to other positions in the school district. The affected positions include some clerical and support workers, counselors, psychologists and certificated managers. Decisions on job shifts hinge upon the number of retirements and other factors. In approving the reductions, board members said the school district would work diligently to avoid layoffs. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger presented his proposed state budget earlier this month. His proposed budget is the first step in a lengthy process of revisions in Sacramento. School districts statewide have seen cost increases in employee health care and workers’ compensation for the past few years. These cost increases have outpaced relatively small increases in state funding. The school district’s First Interim Report in December showed that LBUSD would have to cut at least $40 million over the next two and a half years. In all, the latest cost-savings plan saves $27 million in unrestricted funds over this year and next by including a $7 million funding shift from unrestricted funds to categorical funds. Ongoing cost-savings steps include curtailed hourly, overtime and additional pay assignments, elimination of travel expenses that use unrestricted funds, a freeze on newly unfilled positions, deferred equipment purchases and other measures. The latest reductions in LBUSD include no plans to issue layoff notices to teachers, reflecting an effort to keep cuts as far away from classroom instruction as possible. This approach follows the recommendations of the school district’s broad-based budget committee that met last year. The school district will resume budget committee meetings this spring to allow further input from employee groups and others regarding the budget. With California’s school funding ranking among the lowest in the nation, other school districts in the state face serious budget problems. The Fresno school board recently declared its school district would not meet its financial obligations for at least the next two years. In recent years, school districts statewide have issued thousands of layoff notices to teachers, support staff and administrators. This year, many California school districts have proposed further job cuts, school closures, increased class sizes and other cost-cutting measures.