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Hilmar Unified facing financial crisis
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List of recommended cuts and possible savings
• Use of reserve funding (only so much to remain solvent)
• Increase class size (dependent on penalties from state)
• 8-day calendar reduction ($429k)
• 5% salary reductions for teachers ($580k)
• Reduction of transportation personnel ($30k)
• Hiring freeze (unknown at this time)
• Eliminate summer school ($55k)
• Eliminate 6-8 grade athletic programs/ stipends ($18k)
• Eliminate 9-12 grade athletic programs/ stipends ($20k)
• Eliminate non-athletic stipends ($50k)
• Eliminate yard and bus duties ($35k)
• Closure of Merquin Elementary ($215k - cost would be added at Elim Elementary)
• Closure of Irwin and Colony schools ($215k- concurrent enrollment at HHS)
• Further reduction of support staff ($-a few thousand)
• Reduction in force of teachers (dependable on how many teachers are laid off)
• Starting school later in August or end earlier in May to cut down on air conditioning (minimal)
• Complete shutdown of campuses over summer (minimal)
• Charge for transportation (unknown)

Hilmar Unified School District Superintendent Isabel Cabral-Johnson held a special informational public meeting last Tuesday evening to discuss possible courses of action for the HUSD Board of Education to take in various budget scenarios.

The only clear unanimous conclusion from the meeting was that the district should plan for the worst case budget scenario and that drastic expenditure cuts must be made throughout the district.

 “So we are really trying to build our budget on sand but we need to plan for the worst case scenario,” said Cabral-Johnson. “The state has made it impossible for us to do our jobs.”

The state requires schools develop a balanced budget that is projected three years into the future — even though schools have no idea how much money they will have, not even in the same ballpark.

The worst case scenario is that Governor Jerry Brown’s plea to Californians for an increase in taxes goes unheard and fails to pass a November ballot — if it even gathers enough signatures to reach the ballot.

If this is the case and the HUSD Board of Education fails to make cuts the district will be insolvent, essentially bankrupt, by the 2012-13 school year. If no cuts are made the district will be deficit spending in each of the next three years and using its reserve funding.

Currently, HUSD has nearly 11.5 percent of its budget in reserves. If the tax increase is approved the district would still have to deficit spend and reduce its reserves to 6.65 percent. If the taxes are not approved and HUSD does not make budget cuts, then it is insolvent next school year.

“That’s when the state comes in and ‘helps’ you make cuts,” said Cabral-Johnson.

“The same state that has created this mess in the first place,” said board member Robert Machado.

In the last week Cabral-Johnson sent out a district-wide e-mail asking for suggestions to reduce the district’s budget.

“At this point anything and everything is on the table,” she said.

From turning off a third of the district’s lighting sources to the complete closure of Merquin Elementary School and/ or Irwin Continuation High School is being considered.

Under the worst-case scenario the district would have to cut $1.2 million in expenditures to remain solvent through 2013-14.

Cabral-Johnson said she is fed up with the state’s fiscal irresponsibility.

“This is the fifth year in a row we’ve had to have this discussion. Over the five years no other section of the state budget has been cut more than education and yet our expectations have been increasing each year,” she said.

According to Cabral-Johnson, in the past five years HUSD has had to cut classified staff, reduce teachers, reduce bus routes and cut the school year by five days.

The biggest cut this round could be to transportation. In any scenario under the current budget proposal the district will lose all if not most of its transportation funding — which board members fear will reduce state per-pupil funding — which comes from attendance.

The board will hold another special meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the district office.

To contact Jonathan McCorkell e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.