Trustees’ View: Redirecting your federal stimulus could help schools

By Doug Perkins and Comischell Rodriguez

With so much bad news about our faltering economy and the federal government having taken action and the state passing its budget, we wanted to let you know how the Del Mar Union School District is tackling its budget issues and how you can help.

As a Basic Aid District, we depend upon property tax revenues for funding, not a per-student allocation from the state like most school districts. In the past, homes were being built rapidly in and property values increasing, so it’s not hard to understand how our district has built new schools and developed rigorous programs for students.

As home building has slowed and property values have stagnated or even decreased, revenues have not kept pace with programs and expenses. In fact, it is projected that the district will dip into the reserves in the amounts of $1.8 million at the first interim (budget) this year, just to make ends meet.

Under our new superintendent, we have embarked on a process to thoroughly examine our budget to flush out non-mandated operational areas where costs can be brought in line with revenues. (Unlike most businesses, over 83 percent of our budget is personnel expenses.)

The State Education Code requires that we focus on eliminating certificated staff (read: teachers) because lay-off notices must be issued by March 15. In the coming weeks we will examine non-certificated staff and operational expenses to make similar adjustments. Unfortunately, it is likely over 50 of our excellent teachers will receive layoff notices.

Currently, we are examining the drastic reduction of a highly popular program - the Extended Studies Curriculum (ESC) Program, which provides enrichment in key curricular areas such as science, technology, music, art, and physical education beyond the state requirements. A recent budget analysis showed that these programs are costing the district more than $3.2 million annually. Making adjustments in this non-mandated program is a prudent step that the trustees are forced to consider.

Fortunately, there is something YOU can do for the children. The Del Mar Schools Education Foundation has been set up to raise funds to enrich our children’s educational experience. Under our new superintendent, we are re-invigorating the foundation to make it a primary fundraiser, in particular, for the ESC Program.

If each parent in our district contributes or redirects their new federal stimulus money ($400) to the foundation, we believe we could find a way to keep our enrichment programs largely intact.

We know families everywhere are feeling the squeeze of this economy and tightening their belts. Not all can help, but many of us choose to live in this area (and these schools) for our kids and have been blessed for doing so.

Please consider making the $400 contribution (or whatever you choose) to the foundation to benefit each of our students equitably as we all struggle during these belt-tightening times.

Doug Perkins is a San Diego small business owner. Comischell Rodriguez is a Realtor and Community Volunteer. Both are members of the DMUSD Board of Trustees.