The following is from the Jan. 13 meeting of the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education.
Norma Shelton, assistant superintendent for business services, reported that the district is in good financial shape as of Nov. 30. Property tax receipts were higher than expected, ironically due to foreclosures that required banks to pay property taxes based on the previous market price of homes, she said. Property taxes are expected to fall in the coming year when the properties are sold.
“The tax assessor has said that property taxes will be flat this year and negative next year," Shelton said.
As for the district, “Revenues are as anticipated, we are where we need to be regarding expenses, and cash flow is good," Shelton said.
Shelton, who is keeping a close watch on the state budget process, told the board the legislature seems to have “no sense of urgency" regarding finalizing a budget. The state is projecting a budget deficit of nearly $42 billion by the middle of next year, and education spending is proposed for deep cuts.
Board President Jan Vickers said state legislators may be waiting for President-elect Obama to assume office before acting on a budget.
“They think they’ll get a bailout after the inauguration," Vickers said.
Summer school goals detailed
Laguna Beach High School Principal Don Austin gave a detailed report on efforts to offer more substantial classes, including some advanced placement and required classes, during the summer, in addition to the remedial and extra-curricular classes now provided.
The district also wants to offer a new program to prepare eighth-graders for the rigors of high school. Thurston Middle School Principal Joanne Culverhouse said she has identified about a dozen students who could benefit from such a program.
Some board members questioned whether summer classes can replace instruction during the normal school year and whether summer advanced placement classes would be given college credit. Supt. Robert Fraisse said the issue will be presented to the board in the future for action, after the district gages student interest in an expanded summer program.
Spanish language program update
Nancy Hubbell, assistant superintendent of instructional services, reported on the district’s efforts to incorporate Spanish language teaching in first through fifth.
The goal of the program is to increase the number of bilingual graduates, Hubbell said.
“We want to build excitement and enthusiasm for foreign languages and increase awareness of the global culture and economy," she said.
The district is set to hire a bilingual elementary teacher, and will advertise the position soon, Hubbell said.
The district received a $500,000 grant from SchoolPower for foreign-language programs.
Shelton reported that the district has $880,000 worth of unfunded construction projects, including some major renovation projects that have been placed on hold.
With this news, Vickers said she would like to see a priority placed on providing better accommodations for visitors on the high school football field, which now is serviced by one porta-potty.
Board member Betsy Jenkins said she is concerned that proposing a larger structure “could open up a can of worms" with regard to neighbors of the school who might object.
Board member Bill Landsiedel supported Vickers’ suggestion, saying “We should look at getting a better restroom."
Fraisse said the district could investigate improving the concession stand and restrooms at the field.
El Morro traffic issues
A meeting of the El Morro Elementary/State Park Committee will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Jan. 23 in district headquarters, 550 Blumont St., to discuss traffic alternatives for the school, Shelton said.