What budget cuts mean to us all

The state budget crisis has led to deep cuts in public education funding. We in La Cañada have not been immune.

Last September, the community received a wake-up call, rose to the challenge, and raised a record $2 million. Your generosity allowed the district to hire 12 additional teachers.

But now, as the school board develops the 2012-13 budget, raising $2 million won't be enough. We must plan for an additional $2.3 million in funding cuts from the current year.

The district hopes the community will raise at least $2 million again to maintain current services and class sizes. To bridge the rest of the funding cuts, we intend to pull an additional $2.3 million out of reserves. However, at this rate, we will only last three years before we default.

We're telling you this now because we don't want anyone to be caught off guard. We have issued pink slips to 19 teachers in preparation for the worst. This is an incredibly challenging time for us, but there is hope.

The “What ifs”

If the community raises $2 million, the district will be able to retain current smaller class size for 2012-13.

Below $2 million, we will be forced to lay off staff, including teachers. Class sizes will go up. Additional cuts to programs may be necessary.

The closer we get to the roughly $4.3 million we need, the less we will need to draw from our reserves.

Assuming no increase in state and federal funding, we project that even with a sustained yearly community donation of $2 million, we will be insolvent by 2015-2016, and subject to being taken over by the state.

We are no longer maintaining our campuses in the manner we wish. We have deferred key site improvements and a “refresh” of our aging computer system. Janitorial staff and services have been cut back. We are running as lean as we possibly can.

For a more detailed breakout of our possible funding scenarios, visit www.lcfef.org/budgetchart. We have created a condensed version of our budget to help wade through the very complicated way that K-12 schools are funded in California.

What about the parcel tax?

The parcel tax has helped offset some of the cutting that began years ago. At $150, our parcel tax is well behind that of similar districts like San Marino, which currently levies a combined parcel tax of $1,150.

After the November election, La Cañada will take the appropriate steps to extend and potentially increase our parcel tax, which sunsets in June 2014. Ultimately, a self-sustaining source of local revenue is the best solution to protect our schools from the ongoing budget cuts that continue to threaten us.

What's Sacramento doing about this?

Gov. Brown has proposed a tax measure this November, but his proposed measure is up against two competing measures. History indicates that multiple tax initiatives tend to be met by an across-the-board “no” vote from the electorate.

Regardless, our budget must be finalized by the beginning of the school year in September. Even if the governor's measure succeeds, it will be too late for 2012-2013.

Community solutions

The district is asking every family and business in La Cañada, as well as all permit families, to donate to the educational foundation. The recommended donation is $2,500 per family, roughly half what San Marino asks its families to donate.

We don't like this any more than you do, but we are out of options. Please understand that your donations directly support our schools, our community and our children.

If you have already made your donation to the LCFEF, thank you for all you have done. If not, please donate now at www.lcfef.org/donate. Every dollar counts.

SCOTT TRACY is president of the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board. He can be reached at stracy@lcusd.net.

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