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Newhall School District signs off on budget

District will operate with a less of a reserve than usual

Posted: June 16, 2009 9:58 p.m.
Updated: June 17, 2009 4:30 a.m.

The Newhall School District board signed off on a roughly $57 million budget Tuesday, and expects to go back to the drawing board as state legislators trim more off California’s long-overdue spending plan.

Within three years, the district could be faced with a 3 percent operating reserve, according to Mike Clear, assistant superintendent of business. The district has typically operated with at least a 5 percent reserve.

Without any cuts, the district would be going into the 2009-10 fiscal year with a reserve of about $8.4 million. Further cuts at the state level will likely slash about $1.8 million off that, Clear said.

“We’ve been riding this roller coaster for over a year now,” he said of the state’s budget fiasco.

Late in the day Tuesday, a joint state budget conference committee voted to cut $5.5 billion from education, nearly $1 billion less than Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed, and eliminate California’s high school exit exam.

Newhall district Superintendent Marc Winger has said the district budget reflects class-size increases in primary grades, shifting funding for specific categories to the general fund and a reduction of school-site budgets by 20 percent.

Part of the plan allowed for two furlough days — days district employees take off without pay — for all Newhall School District employees. Those days, one in August and another in October, would save the district an estimated $400,000.

Winger said Tuesday the district will not use the August furlough day, and said his hope is to not use the October one either.

While the district has sufficient reserves for the time being, Winger said: “it just drains over time.”

Further budget cuts may mean cuts in school programs, he said during a presentation about the budget during Tuesday’s district board meeting.

Despite the reductions, the district plans to preserve its music, counseling and visual-arts programs.

Winger said the district does not intend to lay off employees to deal with budget woes.

If the state approves a budget by June 30, he said the district could be reviewing a revised budget of its own by July 14.

Revising the budget adopted Tuesday, Winger said, means getting final direction from the state, and then changing budget assumptions for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

“All things considered, we’re in the best place we could be,” district board President J. Michael McGrath said.



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