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Hart slashes budget by $10.4M

Posted: March 7, 2008 2:11 a.m.
Updated: May 8, 2008 5:02 a.m.
The Hart district governing board members entered a budget workshop Wednesday prepared to file a "qualified" budget to send the state a message, but ended up making enough cuts - almost $10.4 million worth - to meet the state budget requirements.

"I will be recommending to the board that we go with a qualified report to the county at this time," Superintendent Jaime Castellanos told the audience in the overflowing board room at the beginning of the workshop. "I think we need to show the county that we tried, but we couldn't make it."

William S. Hart Union High School District Board Member Paul Strickland agreed with the plan to file a qualified budget, which would let the state know that the district may be unable to meet its financial obligations in upcoming school years if the proposed state cuts are implemented.

"The problem really begins with the state ... and we have to come up with ideas to save their necks? I would just say, 'Here's the qualified report - deal with it'," Strickland said, which prompted a round of applause from the audience.

But in the end, after almost four hours of concessions and compromises, including an agreement with the Hart District Teachers Association to defer the retroactive payment of their 2 percent raise, board members were able to agree to $10,347,134 in cuts and savings to the 2008-09 budget.

"While we were able to find over $10 million in budget adjustments, $4.5 million of the total is actually not a budget cut, but rather a deferment of expense to a future timeframe," Board Member Steve Sturgeon said.

Many of the approved cuts and changes were the same items recommended at the board's last budget workshop, with some exceptions. Namely, mailings to parents will continue, technicians will not be reduced, and The Learning Post, an independent study high school, will not have to close its doors.

"We've looked at that a little more closely, and reducing the staff by one teacher, one clerk and one teaching assistant would net the same amount, so we will keep that program," Chief Financial Officer Sue Guthrie said of the Learning Post.

Several staff and administrators from The Learning Post were in attendance at the workshop and were relieved to hear that their school would remain open.

"We feel that The Learning Post is an irreplaceable institution for students," said teacher and counselor Harlan Perlman.

Class size will be increased by one student, which the Hart District Teachers Association agreed to only if the 2 percent raise remained in the budget. But the turning point in the workshop came when Association President Leslie Littman told board members that the teachers would agree to wait for retroactive raise payments. The board had agreed to make the raise retroactive to July 2007.

"The Association would consider deferring payment of retro, which would allow the district to file an unqualified report," Littman said. The deferment of those payments will save the district $1.9 million.
"That is a huge concession on the part of the Association," said Hart District Assistant Superintendent of Student Services and Personnel Rochelle Neal.

Once the board decided to attempt an unqualified budget, its main goal was to save as many jobs as possible.

"What bodies are going to walk away from this with no jobs, and how can we save their jobs?"
Board Member Patricia Hanrion asked.

The board decided to go ahead and reduce the number of custodians and resource instructional assistants, with the hope that other jobs would become available for those people in the next few months through attrition.

"We have five months to promote people and to move people to other jobs," Neal said.
Many of the jobs eliminated in the new budget are already vacant due to attrition, Neal said.

Hart's Proposed Cuts

The Hart District Governing Board approved the following cuts, reductions and deferments to the district's 2008-09 budget during Wednesday's budget workshop in order to accommodate Gov.
Schwarzenegger's proposed state cuts to education funding. Figures have been rounded to the nearest thousand.

  • Class size could be increased by one student, which will save the district $2 million.
  • The number of resource special assistants could be reduced by 30, saving the district $800,000.
  • A reduction in the custodial staff would save $240,000.
  • The budget reserve could be decreased from 31Ž2% to the legal minimum of 3%, which would provide an additional $1.4 million in spending money.
  • The district could turn lights off at night, which would save $228,000.
  • The district could publish its "News & Views" online only, saving $31,000.
  • The off-season swim program could be eliminated for a savings of $50,000.
  • The district could eliminate the February buy-back day for a savings of $340,000.
  • The Advancement Via Individual Determination program could be reduced, saving $110,000.
  • The district could reduce security patrols in the evenings for a savings of $88,000.
  • The district could defer payment of the early retirement liability offered in 2004-05, saving $1.2 million.
  • The district's ROTC program could be held only at the Valencia High School site, for a savings of $65,000.
  • The independent study program could be reduced, without the elimination of The Learning Post, for a savings of $141,000.
  • Payment of retroactive employee raises could be deferred for a savings of $1.9 million.
  • The district could reduce its campus supervisor staff for a savings of $68,000.
  • The district could have all classified employees take a day off without pay some time during the year, which would save $160,000.
  • The district's technology department could receive half its funding from the maintenance fund, for a savings of $499,000.
  • Staff development courses would be reduced for a savings of $6,000.
  • A longer turn-around time for payments to vendors would save $36,000.
  • Administrative positions could be reduced, which would save $156,000.
  • Summer school interns could be reduced, for a savings of $24,000.
  • Personnel Department staff could be reduced to save $17,000.
  • Par providers could be reduced for a savings of $97,000.
  • Sequoia staff could be reduced, which would save the district $112,000.
  • Program assistants could be reassigned for a savings of $48,000.
  • Administrator salaries/work days could be reduced to save $43,000.
  • The use of colored paper could be reduced for a savings of $8,000.
  • Attendance at conferences could be reduced, which would save the district $114,000.
  • Intra-district and Parks & Recreation use of district facilities could be reduced to save $15,000.
  • A reduction in the use of color copiers would save $25,000.
  • Reducing operational costs of soda machines would save $16,000.
  • Reducing district-paid cell phones by 50% would save the district $50,000.
  • Using well water at Hart High School and Placerita Junior High would save the district $60,000.
  • Terminating a spam filtering contract would save $33,000.
  • Reducing the district's use of consultants would save $48,000.
  • Eliminating the use of drug dogs would save $21,000.
  • The district's Drug Alcohol Prevention Education Course could be eliminated for a savings of $47,000.


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