Murrieta teacher Lisa Amstutz is already planning a drastic cut to her family budget come December.
“I’m really anxious, I am already losing sleep over it,” Amstutz said, following a budget workshop held Thursday by the Murrieta Valley Unified School District.
Roughly 100 people—many of them teachers—turned out to hear the state of the district’s budget that, according to administrators, may get worse if statewide voter Proposition 30 does not pass in November.
“We don’t live extravagantly; we drive an 8-year-old car and a 6-year-old car,” Amstutz said, noting that her husband who also teaches in the district has received pink slips the last three of six years.
That is about when the district starting facing a loss of revenue from the state, Assistant Superintendent Stacy Coleman told those in attendance.
Since 2007, the district has lost $139 million in revenue and made $105 million in cost-saving measures, he said.
“It is like they took a whole fiscal year out of the last five years, that is how drastic the cuts have been,” Coleman said.
Superintendent Pat Kelley, who had encouraged the public to attend the workshop and is hosting a series of community forums, said further cuts have the potential to affect the caliber of education that brought many families to Murrieta.
“That quality of education that brought us here is under attack,” Kelley said, noting the district will have spent down all of its reserves by the end of 2012 and used all of its one-time fund mechanisms.
The district is facing an $11 million shortfall for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, administrators said, which is expected to increase to $21 million should Prop 30 not pass in November.
This is because there are mid-year triggers—should Prop 30 not pass—built in at the state level that for the district would mean the loss of $10 million in the current fiscal year and next, district officials said.
Prop 30 vs. 38
While both are geared to help education, they would affect the district in very different ways, administrators said.
Prop 38, endorsed by the California PTA, is a tax increase of .4 percent for the lowest income earners and up to 2.2 percent for those who earn more than $2.5 million a year. It would send approximately $1,000 per student to each school site for the next 12 years.
Prop 30, endorsed by the California Teachers Association, is a state constitutional amendment that calls for 1/4-cent statewide sales tax increase and a 1- to 3-percent income tax increase on those who earn more than $250,000 a year.
If both propositions pass in November, the one with the greater amount of votes goes into effect.
If that is Prop 38, Coleman said the district’s general fund would not see any relief.
If Prop 30 passes, it means the district will not be dealt the additional $10 million per year blow, he said.
The district has not taken a formal stance on either proposition, and Coleman said it was not his intention to persuade voters.
The Murrieta Teachers Association, however, was not shy about which proposition it supports.
Kathy Ericson, president of the Murrieta Teachers Association, said Prop 38 was well intended but it does not stop the cuts from hitting the district’s pocketbook.
The mid-year cuts would trigger an additional six days taken off this school year—from 175 to 169—according to the teacher’s union agreement with the district, she said.
Teachers would face additional days bringing the total to nine furloughs, Ericson said.
“If prop 30 doesn’t pass, those cuts by law are automatic,” Ericson said. “So Prop 30 is the only one that can keep us from facing that $21 million shortfall."
Ericson said it is believed Prop 38 can not be used to keep teachers employed or hire new ones in order to reduce class sizes back to previous levels.
"With Prop 38 there are limits. It was well intended, but we are in the business of educating kids and it takes teachers and support staff to be able to do that."
Preparing for More Cuts
The district has cut in all possible areas, Coleman said.
Ongoing budget cuts, he said, include increased class sizes, fewer days in the school year, early retirement incentives, not replacing vacant positions, department and school site budget reductions, sweeping of flexible program funds, installing solar panels, and utilizing reserve funds.
Coleman shared a list of what other districts have done or are considering due to further revenue reductions and shortfalls. These include: fewer school days, increased class sizes, cutting extracurricular activities, cutting programs, cutting busing, closing schools, layoffs or a parcel tax on residents.
Board member Margi Wray said the community—through a process yet to be established—will be asked for their input on potential cuts.
Board member Kris Thomasian said the savings from each furlough day—$635,000—can not make up the potential gap in funding.
Kelley said though it was not a subject he wanted to broach at his first board meeting as superintendent, it was necessary.
Key dates, district officials said, are the Nov. 6 election and January, when the governor is expected to released his budget proposal for next fiscal year.
“We do not have to decide what these cuts are today,” Kelley said. “But we must keep our community informed.”