October 28, 2005

South Bay school district faces budget reductions –again

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Located in the southwestern corner of the United States, the South Bay Union School District has a unique position in San Diego’s educational panorama.

The District has about 8,500 students, and about 75% of them are of Latino descent.

With schools in Imperial Beach, San Ysidro, Nestor, and South San Diego, the District has experienced a decrease in enrollment since 2000.

This school year, 2005-2006, it has about 300 less students than last year.

This enrollment decline represents great challenges for the District since school funding is directly tied to student enrollment and attendance. In other words, when enrollment declines the revenue a school district receives from the State of California also declines.

In the three years he’s been in the School Board, Russ McKay said that the District has faced significant budet reductions of $2 million per year.

Unfortunately, due to the continuous decline in enrollment, the District migh have to do the same again for the 2006-2007 school year, McKay said.

The District entered the 2005-06 year with a budget deficit of approximately $1,100,000. This deficit will rise if there are additional salary or benefit increases negotiated with employee groups.

This year the school board has approved several meeting dates to discuss possible reductions to the District’s budget before the beginning of the 2006-07 year. The public is invited to attend these meetings and speak to the Board about any items that could be reduced or eliminated from the budget or offer suggestions to the Board.

The first of these meeting took place yesterday, Thursday October 20.

At that meeting, the school board reiterated its philosophy and values regarding District budget, said school board president Dee McLean.

Last fall, the Board held three public meetings to discuss and identify their philosophy and values related to the District budget. The Board’s philosophy is a statement of the Board’s beliefs regarding District budgeting and funding priorities, she said.

Some of the most important aspects of the board’s philosophy include increasing student achievement for all students, retaining the highest quality staff through competitive total compensation and working conditions, and delivering a guaranteed and viable curriculum for all mandated programs.

One of the reasons for the enrollment decline might be because residents are moving out of the District’s area, presumably because of high costs of housing in the Imperial Beach area, said Kimberly Phiser, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services.

Phiser added that District student enrollment reductions are a trend in coastal communities such as Imperial Beach due to housing costs.

In the last 7 years, the South Bay Union School District has seen a decline of about 1,650 students, McKay said.

He noted that, based on statistics from the School Board, it is expected that in the six years to come the District will lose about 600 more students.

McKay added that the District has a separate School Consolidation Advisory Committee that was created in late September in order to make recommendations to the board about possibly closing one of the District’s 12 schools.

“They will be reporting to us a preliminary recommendation in mid-December and a final recommendation in mid-February,” McKay said.

The 1,650 students the District has lost in the past 7 years are “equivalent to the size of one of the larger schools in the District as well as a medium-sized school,” McKay said.

“Looking at the numbers, you can’t afford keep operating all 12 schools,” he said.

The board member said that the District is considering moving the children to neighboring schools.

This isn’t the first major decision about budget reductions that the District and the School Board have faced in recent years.

McKay said that in the last three years, the School Board has had to cut programs as well as lay-off teachers and other staff.

“We’re trying as much as possible to reduce any negative effects on children and as far away from the classroom,” he said. “The cuts that were easy to make were made a long time ago. Now all cuts are we do are very difficult.”

McKay said that parent and community involvement is important for the school board.

“I want parents to be informed about the issues going on at the District. I would like to invite them to come and find out about this in order for them to give their opinion and input,” he said.

For further information, you can call the South Bay Union School District at (619) 628-1600.

South Bay Union School District Budget Reduction Planning Meeting Schedule:

DATE/TIME PLACE ACTIVITY

November 3, 2005, 6:00 p.m., Conference Rooms. Superintendent provides Board with possible reduction options

December 15, 2005, 6:00 p.m., Conference Rooms. Information sharing on budget reduction items

January 12, 2006, 6:00 p.m., Conference Rooms. Board rates budget reduction items on a continuum

February 9, 2006, 6:00 p.m., Special Board Mtg., Burress Auditorium. Superintendent presents to Board recommended reduction list

March 2, 2006, 6:00 p.m. Special Board Mtg., Burress Auditorium. Board ranks final decisions on budget reductions

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