By Karen Billing
About 50 teachers attended the Del Mar Union School District board’s budget workshop on Dec. 19 to reinforce their value in the district as well as share their brainstorming ideas on how the district can save money as they face deficit spending of $4.5 million.
Employee salaries and benefits make up 85 percent of the budget and could be an area that sees some slices as the district prepares to make tough decisions next year.
Negotiations will be ongoing with the Del Mar Classified Teacher’s Association and the board will next hear an update on potential budget solutions on Jan. 23.
The district also plans to hold community budget meetings in January and February and Superintendent Holly McClurg plans to present her budget solution recommendations to the board at the Feb. 27 meeting.
“We did not predict to be in this type of situation,” said McClurg. “Unfortunately, because of the state of the budget in California and the basic aid contribution heavily impacting us, we find ourselves in a new reality that is different from what we experienced before.”
Due to the district’s fair share contribution, the district will get $2.5 million less in state categorical funding than it normally receives.
The Dec. 19 meeting was mainly about scheduling as Tim Asfazadour, assistant superintendent of human resource services, had to talk to the board about the process of layoffs. He said talk of layoffs is premature but there is certain groundwork in the highly regulated process that has to be laid in January and February in the event the cuts have to be made—certificated and classified employees must be notified of layoffs by March 15 and impacted certificated employees have formal layoff hearings in April before final notices must be sent on May 15.
“It’s really important to state up front that our employees are the strength of our organization,” said Asfazadour, noting how much time they spend trying to find the very best hires and spend so much time on professional development and training. “They’re a very valuable asset to us so it pains me to have this slide up here and explain the process we have to go through.”
“The district is about our people and we care and value our people very, very deeply,” McClurg said.
With salaries comprising 83 percent to 92 percent of school budgets, districts statewide have looked at options like furlough days, increasing class size, layoffs, salary rollbacks and deferral of major operating expenditures.
DMUSD has looked at the savings of furlough days. One day of furlough for the certificated and classified staff and management would save $176,900. Five furlough days would save $884,500.
Class size reduction, another possible solution, could save DMUSD $382,802 if it is increased by one student at a ratio of 21:1 in K-3 and 28:1 in grades 4-6; to increase by four students to a ratio of 24:1 in K-3 and 31:1 in 4-6, the net savings could be $1.2 million.
Other solutions include eliminating the over class size stipend ($142,000); continue the hiring freeze on assistant principals ($110,700); reorganize library services (saving $262,000); and reducing the maintenance and operations workforce ($55,000).
DMCTA expressed resistance to personnel layoffs and told stories about how much they love working for the DMUSD and the children.
“Your children become our children, our family,” said teacher Ocean Air Tanya Lubomudrov. “We invest in the lives of our children and that devotion isn’t in a written agreement and doesn’t show up on our test results, but we do it anyway, quite simply because we love them as if they were our own.”
MaryAnn Loes, a Carmel Del Mar teacher, pointed to statistics that out of 40 districts in San Diego, Del Mar ranks 13th for salary alone and 24th for benefits. She said as of last year, 65 percent of Del Mar teachers were scheduled for step and column raises.
“We always are willing to be collaborative and be a part of the budget solutions,” Loes said. “We represent 40 percent of the budget, we cannot shoulder 100 percent of the budget burden.”
Loes’ 40 percent number referred to teacher salaries alone, not including benefits.
Some of DMCTA’s ideas for cost savings included freezing staff development, temporary freeze on February conferences, redrawing boundaries for balancing school sites, temporarily darkening (no lights or air conditioning ) the district office and school sites on certain days, and reducing the school week to four days with camps on Fridays.
They also brought up solutions made by the 2010 task force, such as consolidating school sites, increasing after-school tuition, reducing mandated parent-teacher conferences, expanding the revenue generating preschool and installing solar panels.
“Maybe if you don’t buy out another superintendent contract we can save a little money,” joked Katrina Graupmann, DMCTA president.
Echoing statements by Asfazadour and McClurg, the board members expressed that it is not their desire to cut teachers but they have to look at the big picture realistically, and salaries and benefits do make up a large chunk of the budget so they need to consider every option on the table.
New board member Alan Kholos said his philosophy has always been to “cut stuff not staff” and the board acknowledged they hope to keep as many cuts as they can away from the classroom.