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NEWPORT BEACH : $3-Million Shortfall Faced by Schools

With just days left before classes begin, administrators in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District are scrambling to cover an unexpected budget shortfall of roughly $3 million.

Lower-than-expected property values and delinquent property tax payments are the main causes of the debt in the district, which has a tradition of stable budgets. The district receives only basic state funding and relies primarily on property and sales taxes for revenue. This is its first deficit in nearly a decade.

“We live and die with the property tax,” said Thomas A. Godley, assistant superintendent. “When property taxes go down, we suffer.”

The shortfall in the $86-million annual budget, which the school board passed in June, is not likely to cause employee layoffs or program cuts. Instead, district officials say they will not expand staff and classes as they had planned.

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“We’re not in the (mode to) lay off teachers and cut programs,” board President Sherry Loofbourrow said. “We’re just going into the holding pattern for a few months or even a year.”

The budget passed in June was already a slightly scaled-down version of the one they had hoped to pass, with some arts and special courses cut.

With the new, tightened budget, the main cuts will affect plans for additional teachers to reduce class sizes that have swelled with the district’s slightly increasing enrollment.

In recent years, the district has seen its first upswing in enrollment after nearly a decade of declining enrollment numbers. Most of those students are younger children entering the district’s elementary schools.

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This year, enrollment is expected to total 16,800, an increase of about 300 students over last year.

“It’s a problem and a major concern,” Loofbourrow said, “but one we feel we can address without having an unduly severe impact on the children.”

The board is expected to discuss the cuts at its meeting on Sept. 10.


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