The district that governs public high schools in Huntington Beach, Westminster and Fountain Valley announced Tuesday night that it is considering cutting $1.1 million in health benefits for teachers and other employees next fall.
David Hagen, superintendent of the Huntington Beach Union High School District, told a school board meeting that the proposed benefit cut would have to be negotiated with employee unions. He said the cuts are necessary because the district faces a $2.9-million possible deficit in the next school year.
Hagen said that about half of that deficit would be erased if the state Legislature gives all school districts more money to adjust for cost-of-living increases, as he expects it will.
Nonetheless, the superintendent added, the district must prepare for about $1.5 million in its own cuts to make up for about 10 years of declining enrollment and for a $900,000 loss of interest because of Orange County's bankrupt investment pool.
"The reductions will not directly impact students," Hagen said. The school board will conduct a public hearing March 14 before it votes on any of the proposed cuts.
Besides health benefits, Hagen suggested that the school board lay off one non-teaching employee, leave three other employee positions vacant and scale back maintenance and other costs for about $400,000 in additional cuts.
The school district, which has about 13,000 students, has had declining enrollment since the late 1970s when it peaked with about 21,000 students. Hagen said the declining enrollment and the recession-hit state Legislatures' inability to grant more money to the schools are the prime reasons for the district's deficit.
He emphasized that none of the proposed cuts stem from possible loss of principal in the county investment pool.
About 60 people, many of them teachers, glumly heard the proposals. Some in the audience spoke against the measures, and others indicated more opposition at the March 14 hearing.
Hagen's recommendations, if adopted by the board, may mean no pay raise again for teachers next year. The superintendent said new money from the state would be needed to offset the deficit and pay for ongoing expenditures.