Saturday, 25 May 2024

Budget crisis forecast: Stormy weather for Lake County schools

LAKE COUNTY – As the state's budget crisis continues to build, one of the results is that Lake County schools are facing a forecast calling for stormy weather, with schools already having suffered millions in budget cuts and dozens of lost positions.


On Friday, the county's school superintendents issued a joint statement that said, in part, “We believe that we must help our community become aware of the magnitude of the current proposed cuts.”


County Superintendent of Schools David Geck, Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Boyce McClain, Konocti Unified Superintendent Bill MacDougall, Lakeport Unified Superintendent Erin Hagberg, Lucerne Elementary Superintendent Michael Brown, Middletown Unified Superintendent Korby Olson, Upper Lake Elementary Superintendent Kurt Herndon and Upper Lake High School Superintendent Pat Iaccino say the situation ahead for the schools they serve could be dire as more cuts are proposed.


Lake County schools already cut more than $3.8 million when the state budget was passed in September, according to the superintendents. “Those cuts are already hurting our students.”


Across the schools in Lake County county the current budget cuts have resulted in the elimination of the following:


  • 21 teaching positions;

  • 25 instructional aide positions;

  • Four administrator positions;

  • Two school counselor positions;

  • 12 office support positions;

  • Two health aide positions;

  • One library support position;

  • Five custodial and maintenance positions.


In addition, 17 part-time instructional aides and office support positions were reduced in hours.


There also have been 25-percent reductions in classroom materials and supplies, reductions in athletics and extra curricular activities funding and closure of one school site, according to the Friday report.


The superintendents noted that these reductions resulted in increased student-teacher ratios, program reductions, reduced training and resources for teachers.


Now, they say additional budget reductions are being proposed.


An additional $4 million or more could be cut in the middle of the school year after employment contracts are signed and classes under way for five months. The superintendents said this is the same as cutting a district an additional $425 per student or $10,500 per classroom.


“To try and balance the budget without additional revenue undermines the future of the 9,500 students in Lake County,” they explained in their joint statement. “Cuts alone would be catastrophic.”


They suggested that what's needed is a balanced approach that includes additional revenues and greater flexibility in categorical budgeting requirements. Time limited solutions like vehicle license fee increases, increased sales taxes and restructured income taxes must be considered in order to reduce the impact to schools and to the other parts of the state budget.


“As local school districts we are meeting with other Lake County agencies in order to look for cost effective ways to provide common services and pool resources for common purchasing,” the superintendents said in their statement. “That is the spirit of cooperation that is needed at the state capital.


“We believe that as a community we must do everything possible to protect the education of our students,” they added. “Please contact your state legislators to insist that they make education a priority. The future of our children is at stake.”


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