Saturday, 13 April 2024

Kelseyville board approves more staff cuts



KELSEYVILLE – “It’s doom and gloom,” according the Kelseyville Unified School District superintendent Boyce McClain. “Everyone in the district knows what that means.”

McClain’s comments followed Tuesday night’s board of trustees meeting during which his recommendation to cut the equivalent of 10.5 full time non-teaching positions was approved unanimously.

Those followed last month’s cuts of 12 teaching positions as well as elimination of a counselor, a vice principal position and 20-percent of a school psychologist’s position.

“It just gets worse and worse,” school board chairman Peter Quartarolo said.

“It’s really discouraging,” said Kathy Garrison, the district’s business manager, referring to the state’s budget cut that alone amounts to a $1 million loss for her district, which serves 1,796 students with a $17 million operating budget.

Garrison told the board the district is currently spending more than it should. “Ongoing revenue is less than ongoing expenses,” she explained in an interview Wednesday. “We will run out of money if we keep doing this.”

Although she attributed some of the current overexpenditures to rising fuel costs, the future looks bleak.

“The state is creating its largest deficit and the end is not in sight,” McClain stated to the board.

He also noted that the nation is heading into a recession and costs are rising.

But the superintendent was not completely pessimistic. He referred to a speech Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made in January predicting the tough times.

“He’ll stand up again on May 15 and he’ll say how much has changed,” McClain predicted. “I expect education to come out better than what he said.”

McClain said that although he is optimistic the governor will at least partially revoke the dramatic 10-percent statewide school budget cut in May he, too, is discouraged by the actions he felt he had to take.

“You work really hard to build the district and improve the district and all of a sudden the state comes in and starts destroying what you built,” he said.

“In a matter of months you succumb to state politics,” Garrison said. “You realize how little control you have.”

Quartarolo echoed Garrison’s comments. “I’m really tired of the state of California using us as pawns,” he said, adding that the extreme budget deficit “shows gross mismanagement on the part of our legislature and governor.”

The state’s 10-percent cut in funding is tempered by a cost of living adjustment and other factors to reduce Kelseyville’s funding a net 6.5 percent.

“It’s really ten percent,” Garrison said. “It’s not normal.”

Quartarolo noted that school cuts are not limited to Kelseyville. “Everyone else is in the same boat,” he said. “They’re pulling everyone’s chain ... law enforcement, fire departments ... this time they’re really putting it to everybody.”

Like other districts in the area, Kelseyville is also affected by dropping enrollment.

Based on average daily attendance figures, the Kelseyville district will receive funding for 47 fewer students next year, which drops the 2008-09 budget another $300,000, Garrison said.

Quartarolo also noted that enrollment drops are statewide.

In addition – or subtraction – to the two major “hits” to upcoming years’ budgets, Garrison said the state has revised the way it distributes federal funds, which means Kelseyville schools will be getting $63,000 less than expected in Title I or low income-targeted funds.

McClain explained that the state projects the district’s poverty level based on the 2000 census.

“The state is saying we don’t have the poverty level, that it’s not the same as it used to be,” McClain said. “But if you look at our free and reduced lunches, our poverty level has not gone down.”

Garrison said that although the district is currently “deficit spending,” or that its expenses exceed its revenues by about $11,000 this year, “We have enough savings to support our budget for the next two years.”

Also, Garrison pointed out that health and welfare benefits are rising in costs. She explained that such benefits have been rising at a rate of 16 percent annually and have slowed to 9 percent growth.

But that still amounts to $245,000 in cost increases that will be borne by either the district or its employees, depending on negotiated contracts.

Garrison pointed out that Tuesday’s board resolution, identified on the agenda as “reduction or discontinuance of certain particular kinds of service” will not be enough to stop the deficit spending. In other words, the district will have to continue to spend savings to make ends meet.

In the next year, she said, the district’s budget will be $413,000 in the red without improvements in the state budget. “The reductions proposed are insufficient,” she said, referring to the combined lists of teacher and staff layoffs.

McClain said he met with managers within the district and asked the principals for their priorities in order to determine where to make the cuts.

“We don’t do like Lakeport,” he said, referring to the budget committee process that included solicitation of ideas from teachers and staff there.

McClain kept his proposal confidential until the board approved it. “It’s not a fact until the board approves it,” he explained. “I didn’t want to say anything until the board spoke … boards tend to get offended if superintendents assume what their decisions are going to be.”

Only Trustee Chris Irwin questioned the cuts, asking whether McClain had considered consolidating facilities. “I want to make sure we look at every stone,” Irwin said.

“We need to be patient for the May revise,” McClain responded.

The superintendent recommended the board “wait and see” what the May revision of the state budget is before making any further cuts. “We’ve done all we need to do.”

His advice for parents and staff? “I think they all need to continue to let Sacramento know that education of their children is an extremely high priority.”

E-mail Maile Field at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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