School district faces layoffs, larger classes

In anticipation of more state cuts to public education, the La Cañada school board is looking at cost-cutting measures for next school year, including increasing class sizes and laying off more than a dozen teachers.

The district faces an uncertain future as Gov. Jerry Brown is counting on voters to pass a measure to increase sales tax in November. If voters reject the proposed tax-increase measure, state schools could see cuts totaling $5.4 billion. The state Department of Finance estimates that the cuts would amount to about $370 per student.

“It’s uncharted territory,” said school board President Scott Tracy, adding that the district once again will look to the public for assistance in making ends meet.

“Given all the challenges we face with the school budget problems, the immediate solution, unfortunately, is private donations,” he said.

Board members studied the Second Interim Financial Report for the 2011-12 school year Tuesday, which will continue to undergo revisions before the board votes on it March 6.

In the report presented during the school board meeting on Tuesday, officials projected a $16,000 reduction in transportation funding and a $50,000 reduction in revenue-limit funding for the 2011-12 school year.

The report also assumed that the district would receive at least $1 million from the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation for the 2012-13 school year and beyond. In January, the district accepted a check from the foundation for $2 million, nearly half of which was used to reduce class sizes for the current school year. [See related story, A3.]

Board member Joel Peterson warned that even if the district does receive that amount from the foundation again next year, the community should prepare for a rise in class sizes, and for other cost-reduction measures.

“Even if the foundation raises the exact same amount of money, class sizes will go up regardless, because we have ongoing increases across the board,” he said. “This is a message we have to get out there.”

There are 10 temporary teachers on the district’s payroll current payroll and a few other recent hires, all of whom risk losing their jobs in the 2012-13 school year, according to budget assumptions laid out in the report. Enrollment at district schools is expected to continue to decrease over the next few years, and officials said the number of teachers then would need to be cut.

“We assume we’re going to lose $1.5 million dollars,” Peterson said. “If the governor’s tax ballot measure doesn’t work, we could lose an additional $1.2 million on top of that. We can’t sustain the staffing that we would have.”

Tracy confirmed that 15-16 teachers could be laid off next year. The district needs to move fast, he said, because it has to make personnel decisions for next year’s budget before the summer.

Yet nothing in the report is set in stone, he said. “This budget is fluid and constantly changing, almost on a daily basis.”

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