Del Mar school board continues to discuss options to address budget woes

By Karen Billing

Furloughs, bumping up class sizes, limiting librarian hours and reducing maintenance and operations staff are all being discussed as potential solutions for the Del Mar Union School District’s budget woes.

The district is staring down a $4.5 million deficit for the current school year and is on track to deficit spend approximately $4 million for 2013-14.

“The district cannot continue to deficit spend the way we are spending and be a fiscally solid district,” Superintendent Holly McClurg said, before presenting her budget solutions at the Feb. 27 district board meeting.

In dealing with the budget, McClurg said she has aimed to keep the community as involved as possible. She has held informational meetings at various school sites over the last few months and about 420 people attended. Those in attendance expressed concerns about the proposed furlough days; parents wondered what the instructional impact would be for students as a result of fewer school days as well as expressing concern about the hardship it might place on working parents. Lower class sizes were said to be highly valued.

To further community involvement before the superintendent issues her final budget solutions and recommendations on March 20, a town hall budget forum will be held on Monday, March 11, at Del Mar Hills Academy from 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. (14085 Mango Drive, Del Mar, 92014).

“I’ve encouraged people to be informed, know what’s going on and have a voice,” said McClurg. “These are difficult times.”

Budget solutions such as class size reduction and furlough days are subject to Del Mar California Teachers Association negotiations, although there has been a verbal commitment from the association that there will be a savings of approximately $1 million.

The proposed five furlough days for certificated employees could amount to a savings of $682,500. Furloughs could be negotiated from one day up to five days. McClurg said whatever furloughs can be agreed upon for certificated teachers, it would have to be equal for classified employees.

Raising class sizes to 22:1 in kindergarten through third grade will result in a savings of $550,000. Board President Doug Rafner had some concern as small class sizes are a high priority for parents.

In neighboring Solana Beach School District, where there is no cap, the district has about 22 to 23 students in most classes. The Encinitas Union School District’s ratio is 24:1.

Other solutions subject to DMCTA negotiations that could be made are reducing upper grade conference days ($28,000 savings); restructuring the Extended Studies Curriculum 120 minutes planning time for all grade levels ($216,000); suspending the oversize class payment ($142,000); and shared assignment out of contact ($19,000).

Caitlin Williams, an Ashley Falls teacher who has been with the district for 15 years, proposed that the district look into staff development as a place where they can cut.

She said she feels professional development is “mostly ineffective,” that the district should not be paying for substitutes when they are offsite and that teacher collaboration is a much more valuable resource.

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