Everything may be on the table when it comes to solving the Hesperia Unified School District's mid-year deficit, but some things may be more on the table than others.
The state of California is facing an estimated $28 billion deficit by June 2010 and the pain is felt most profoundly in Hesperia at the HUSD.
Seventy-three percent of the school district's revenue comes from the state, in the form of Average Daily Attendance payments based on the number of students attending school. ADA payments have already been scaled back, and are likely to be further cut.
The district needs to cut $2 million from the budget for the 2008-2009 school year already underway, an additional $1.5 million for the 2009-2010 school year and then $2.5 million in cuts for the 2010-2011 school year.
At Monday's meeting of the HUSD school board, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services David McLaughlin outlined the staff's recommendations of where to cut this year. All of those possibilities are likely to upset someone, Alan Giles, the HUSD Director of Personnel Services, said on Wednesday.
"It's like throwing the rock into a pond," Giles said. "It's not the throwing the rock, it's the ripple effect that occurs once we do that."
Among the recommendations: Plan for a further 2.5 to 3.5 percent decline in enrollment, and staff accordingly. State law requires teachers be notified by March 15 if their services will not be required in the following year, so guesses about enrollment in August will have to be made in March.
"You can always bring people in if you need people there, but after March 15, you can't let any people go."
The legislature has recognized that a lower student to teacher ratio is especially important at certain grade levels, and provides funds to help districts afford more teachers for those grade levels. Last spring, with Class Size Reduction funds likely to dry up, the school board voted to let go the kindergarten teachers the district was only able to afford due to CSR funds. Now, grades 1 through 3 may see cuts for the same reason.
"If the state decides not to fund it -- and we don't know yet -- can we continue to fund that?" Giles said. "The money the state gives only covers about two-thirds of" the cost for those teachers.
The school board sought to spend less on busing by changing busing boundaries over the summer, although parental outcry got them to roll back most of the changes by autumn. This time, busing for sports events and summer school are candidates for cuts.
"We have to look at everything," Giles said. "We have to consider every single option we have, and see which makes the most sense, both financially and what's best for kids."
Summer school for elementary school students is also a recommended place for cuts.
To save money, the HUSD uses a centralized print shop for major print jobs, meaning most print jobs cost a fraction of what they'd cost if done with photocopying machines at each of the school sites.
"Every site uses it for worksheets that go to kids, flyers that go home to parents. Basically any publication that's used in the district," Giles said. "You're going to run off your math test for 150 students, you're going to send them to the print shop ahead of time, so it's much cheaper than running it off themselves."
But maybe not cheaply enough: The print shop being restructured or reorganized is also a possibility.
Assistant principals might be shared between multiple sites in the coming school years, said Giles, who once rotated between Topaz Elementary School and Mesa Grande Elementary School as an assistant principal for both sites.
"I don't recommend it; it was difficult," he said. "But that's something that cabinet has to look at."
And then comes the really difficult recommendations: the ones that will require the agreement of the employee unions to accomplish.
Stipends -- extra cash for teachers who also serve in extra-curricular roles like coaching or club advisors -- might get put on hold for a year.
The work year for employees might be temporarily or permanently shortened.
Yearly salary increases based on seniority and additional schooling might be frozen.
"All of these things here are going to be very difficult," Giles said. "All of them."
The school board doesn't have long to decide. More than 80 percent of the $160 million HUSD budget is salary and benefits, and most of that is teacher salaries. And that means the March 15 state guideline is a critical deadline.
"If we're going to be layoffs and reductions in force ... we're going to have to have some board resolutions done by March 15," Giles said. "We probably have two months at best window of time to make some decisions."
Despite the "double-whammy" of a state budget crisis and declining enrollment -- meaning declining revenue even if the state's financial house were in order -- Giles says the HUSD will get through the current crisis, somehow.
"I think the approach that the district is taking, which would be [Superintendent Mark McKinney] and the board especially, is that we're going to hope for the best and plan for the worst," he said. "We have such great people in this district from top to bottom. That's the only way we're able to get through this."
The next scheduled meeting of the Hesperia Unified School District school board will take place on January 12 at 6 p.m. at the HUSD annex building, 15576 Main Street.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.