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Saugus District Budget Comes Up Short

Schools may be in the red for 2 years.

Posted: March 6, 2008 3:06 p.m.
Updated: May 7, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
For the first time in its nearly 100-year history, the Saugus Union School District has a budget that is in a "qualified" condition for upcoming years, which means the district may be unable to meet its financial obligations during those school terms.

The district governing board took action to approve qualified certification of the second interim budget report at its Tuesday meeting. State law requires school districts to present two interim reports to the board describing the district's financial position for the current year and projecting out for the next two years.
While the district is in good shape for the 2007-08 school year, after applying the recommended state and county budget reductions, the district is in a qualified condition for 2008-09 and 2009-10.

"The budget crisis was not due to any action on the part of the Saugus Union School District," said Superintendent Judy Fish. "Our school district has always had a healthy reserve in spite of receiving the lowest base revenue funding in Los Angeles County."

Over the course of the last two months, the board and staff have looked at many ways to cut the more than $5 million needed to balance the budget based on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed state budget cuts in funding for education.

An additional $4.4 million still needs to be cut for the 2008-09 fiscal year and nearly another million - $.9 million, to be exact - for the 2009-10 fiscal year, Fish said.

Fish indicated that the second interim report includes many cuts that do not incur major personnel or program reductions, but given that the state budget is not finalized, drastically cutting programs that would have a negative impact on student learning is not something the district is willing to do at this time.

"We didn't want to hand out pink slips only to find out there were changes to the state budget that would allow us to continue our programs and our current staffing," Fish said. "It's very disruptive both to our programs and to our employees when we take drastic measures like that."

Fish further emphasized that the district would search for additional nonessential reductions and verify all reserve balances before dismantling successful teams and programs.

"We will be working with our board, cabinet and administrators to look at other options that we might have," she said.

District staff members plan to develop several options to recommend to the governing board for deeper cuts if necessary before recommending the 2008-09 budget, which must be passed in June.

"We're hoping that there will be some changes (to the state budget) that allow us to keep the cuts away from our employees and allow us to do the job we have always done," Fish said. "We hope the governor and the legislature see the importance of education to the state of California."

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