Nearly 100 full-time positions on district chopping block

It's frustrating waiting on Sacramento, school officials say, but the $222 million budget for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District for the coming fiscal year is expected to be approved next week by the board of education.

Paul Reed, deputy superintendent and chief business official for the district, said the budget for fiscal year 2010-11 will be deemed "tentative" until the state officially adopts its own budget, which can take place anywhere from mid-summer to fall.

It's not the first time the district has had to wait it out while Sacramento tries to get its fiscal matters in order, Reed said.

And it's getting to the point where many districts across the state are playing the guessing game. Some choose to adopt the budget in the summer while others, such as Newport-Mesa, opt to hold off.

"Twenty years ago, the state didn't take so long," Reed said. "But because it's been so difficult lately, we try to anticipate everything as best we can. It's hard, however, because we're at the mercy of the state."

The district's overall operating budget has seen better days, Reed said.

Last year's budget for 2009-10 was $10 million more, $232 million.

But then again, nearly 100 full-time equivalent positions had to be eliminated for next year — many of them elementary school teachers — to plug a $13.5 million shortfall in the district's finances. It's the result of state cutbacks and declining property tax revenues, Reed said.

Also, the district's adult education program, long a mainstay for English-learners, had to be dismantled for savings of more than $800,000. A sliver of the program remains, namely the High School Diploma Lab.

To lend perspective to the school district's financial situation, two years ago the district's budget for 2008-09 was $18 million more, coming in at roughly $240 million.

"There's ups and downs," Reed said. "There's the flattening out of property taxes, and there have been layoffs, so our budget has shrunk a bit, and we've had to cut expenditures."

Once the board of education approves the "tentative" budget, Reed said, it will make the final adoption sometime in September.

The district received $20 million in federal stimulus funds during the 2009-10 year.

This year, however, the federal government will only dole out only $14.4 million, Reed said.

Budget Cuts

How many positions eliminated: 104.14 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, accounting for $13.57 million in reductions. A FTE position does not equate to one person per full-time job, as one FTE could be several people with part-time positions.

Business office: No employee positions were lost, but $4.2 million in cuts were made there, including a reduction in worker's compensation rate from 1.75% to 1.25%, for $513,000 in savings.

Educational Services: At the elementary level, there was a total 52.3 FTE positions eliminated, accounting for $3.7 million. As a result, class size next year will increase from 21 students per class to 24 students per class.

At the secondary level, $4.3 million was cut and close to 41 FTE positions were eliminated, including two school resource officers and eight positions in school counseling. Class size will increase from 30 students to 31 students per classroom. The Adult Education Program also got hit, with the elimination of about 15 FTE positions, which accounted for nearly 40 teachers. The total savings for that came to $846,000.

Special education lost about eight FTE positions, accounting for nearly $1.08 million.

Human resources eliminated Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment for a savings of $251,000.

If You Go

What: Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Education meeting.

When: 7 p.m. June 22

Where: District headquarters, 2985 Bear St., Costa Mesa

On Agenda: The approval of the 2010-2011 $222 million "tentative" budget

More information: (714) 424-5000

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