Is the state sending Loomis School District towards bankruptcy?

By: Lien Hoang,Loomis News Correspondent
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One thing is certain for Loomis students, educators, and parents – more education cuts are on the horizon. A budget workshop last week revealed that even in the best-case scenario, the Loomis Union School District must continue paring back, likely in the areas of transportation, counseling, special education, libraries and English learning. By several measures, the district has a good chance of going broke in 2014. “And by broke, that’s bankrupt, no money in the bank,” trustee Mike Edwards said at the Feb. 2 district Board of Trustees meeting. If no additional funds from the state materialize, the school district could be $2.78 million in the hole by the 2013-2014 school year, according to Jay Stewart, associate superintendent of business services. Setting aside money for reserves increases that number to $4.07 million. That’s compared with a total, annual operating budget ranging from $14 million to $17 million. Solutions are more outside funding - from the state or elsewhere - or internal spending reductions. For most of his current term, Gov. Jerry Brown has linked K-12 funding with a push for tax increases. Last year, his failure to secure those higher taxes resulted in massive cuts, though less to public education than expected. The Democratic governor is waging a similar battle this year, mainly against GOP lawmakers, to request income and sales tax hikes from voters in November. A competing tax plan would target California’s wealthiest. “The best we can hope for is to be flat-funded for next year,” Stewart said, in a presentation to the trustees. Should all efforts to raise revenues fail, Loomis stands to lose nearly $800,000 annually. That’s on top of the $450,000 the state plans to take away for buses starting next school year. The district can make up part of that loss by cutting buses, including the $40,000 it spends on eight mid-day kindergarteners and $16,000 it spends on five students in a geometry program. After transportation, Stewart’s recommendations for the biggest savings would be nearly $150,000 from cutting back on utilities and other bills such as telecommunications. His secondary recommendations include larger class sizes and fewer hours for librarians and office clerks. “It’s not a lot of money, but it’s an efficiency, one less thing to pay,” Stewart said. The district could save an additional $200,000 by negotiating contracts to add three furlough days and freeze salaries, and could start charging gym and field usage fees. Implementing Stewart’s chief reduction proposals would still mean a shortfall of $1.88 million – as opposed to $4.07 million without them. If the govenor’s tax proposal passes, the $800,000 the district would receive wouldn’tt change the books from red to black. “Even if taxes pass, we still have to make drastic cuts,” Edwards said. District superintendent Gordon Medd spoke in support of a November initiative and urged the community to stay calm. He said the district would persist and remain competitive by making smart cutbacks. “The sky is not falling, the barn is not on fire yet,” he said. The district will hold its final of three budget workshops on Feb. 16.