By Karen Billing
The Del Mar Union School District board approved $1,596,138 in cuts at its March 20 meeting. The board members admitted the slices were painful to make, and they were in a position they did not want to be in, picking savings options from “a litany of bad choices.”
The approved cuts include five furlough days for classified and management staff; the reduction of three special education aide positions; allocating library media specialists and health aide technicians based on enrollment; elimination of a computer technician supervisor; elimination of eight English language learner positions; the elimination of four utility workers and one maintenance worker; the sale of maintenance trucks; and district department spending freezes.
An additional $1 million in cuts is coming as the district goes back to the table in negotiations with the Del Mar California Teachers Association (DMTCA) on March 27.
The main options to reach the $1 million in savings pledged by the DMCTA are increasing class sizes to 22:1 and five furlough days. Other proposed options could be restructuring ESC minutes and suspending oversized class payment.
All furlough days are contingent on negotiations with the DMCTA. The furlough days have to be equal—the classified staff will not take furloughs unless the DMCTA agrees for certificated and management staff to take furloughs as well.
Based on a budget workshop last week, Superintendent Holly McClurg said there was no consensus about the top priority among proposed cuts and there were pros and cons for all.
Many teachers in attendance on March 20 spoke up about the financial hardships they will face if they are forced to take furlough days.
Teachers also spoke against increasing class sizes, noting the district’s lower class sizes are valued and increasing them would result in the loss of around 11 to 15 temporary teachers and one permanent unit member to be transferred.
Teachers said that there is enough money in reserves to keep the district solvent without shoving more kids into a classroom or losing quality teachers.
They urged the district to suspend professional development and to use more of its reserves — “We saved for this, we have the money and we are asking you to please spend some of it,” said Sage Canyon teacher Chris Rappa.
The board has established a minimum reserve of 15 percent to address economic uncertainties. The state requires a reserve of 3 percent.
If the district does nothing to reduce expenditures and just uses its reserves to fill the gap, the reserve balance would be at 10 percent next year, according to Cathy Birks, assistant superintendent of business services. By the third year out, the reserves would barely make 3 percent.
While teachers urged them to spend reserves, the district is planning on spending $2 million to $2.5 million of its reserves this year, leaving a little over the 15 percent.
Del Mar Union School Board President Doug Rafner noted that on the financial task force he and trustee Doug Perkins served on three years ago, they never even discussed the 15 percent number. That task force determined 22 percent to be the floor and when they got to that 22 percent level the group recommended the district start making significant cuts.