BHUSD to cut $3.5 million

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Robert Katz, assistant web editor

From Nov. 30 print edition

Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) administrators have begun formulating a reduction plan for the 2013- 2014 school year. While Governor Jerry Brown’s Proposition 30 passed on Nov. 6, the district still must carve $3.5 million of the originally estimated $6 million deficit.

“I was pretty excited about that and knowing that we’re halfway home,” Principal Carter Paysinger said, referring to Proposition 30’s steps toward financial stability in BHUSD.

The plan, officially adopted by the Board of Education on Nov. 27, is currently aimed at cutting $3.5 million of expenses, with measures such as eliminating staff positions, limiting classes and reducing administrative salaries. Trimmed staff positions could range from teaching to maintenance positions, while classes reduced may include language courses and electives. An ultimate decision will be made regarding individual personnel on May 15.

Prior to Proposition 30’s passing, a more extensive list of cuts was proposed. However, the top priorities for reductions have been eschewed, with less crucial items being considered for elimination.

Proposition 30 will remain for the next seven years to appropriate funds to California’s education.

“It gives us some time now,” Paysinger said. “You’ve got a seven year period where at least we can get through the $3.5 million cut and we can project out and budget. However we balance the budget, we’re looking for multiple years of that. We’re hoping to have commitments for those monies for multiple years, so we’re not in the same boat again next year.”

The $3.5 million cut is the latest in a series of budget reductions, with the district projected to pay an average of $5,768 per student during the 2012-2013 school year, in which about 4,531 students enrolled. In contrast, approximately $6,449 was spent per student during the 2007-2008 year. Should the mid-year slashes have been allowed, expenses would have plummeted to about $5,311 a student, a decrease of around $450 per student.

BHUSD Superintendent Dr. Gary Woods expressed some frustration with state legislation’s continued reduction of funding for education, noting that the state can still submit additional cuts to a district if state revenues are less than expected.

“The state can come back at us almost any time they choose to do so,” Woods said. “Part of Proposition 30 was to provide money so they didn’t have to. I’m taking them at their word at this point. But we’ve cut so much over 10 years that all of us are becoming increasingly frustrated with trying to put our district back together after we continue to get one cut after another.”

Multiple channels of revenue are available for the district to recover funds, such as a potential parcel tax, which would send local money directly to the school district; the increase of property values, which would contribute to Basic Aid funding; and support from organizations such as the Beverly Hills Education Foundation, the district’s PTAs and PTSAs and the Beverly Hills Athletic Alumni Association.

BHEF began a fundraiser effort on Nov. 15 that may last until the final decision on May 15. BHEF will submit letters to members of the community requesting donations to support the district’s schools.

“This marks the beginning of what we hope will be a culture of philanthropy,” BHEF Executive Director Matthew Zarcufksy said at Nov. 27’s Board of Education meeting.

The PTSA, which offers Beverly support such as supplying classroom equipment, organizing school events and funding campus renovations, will continue its annual fundraiser for the school.

PTSA Executive Vice President Franny Rennie stressed the necessity of community support for Beverly’s funding.

“It is imperative that families understand that given the state of California’s consistent reductions in education funding, every family needs to find a way to contribute every year,” Rennie said. “Although public education is free, a great education costs money.”

Woods was enthusiastic about the prospect of harnessing that revenue to replenish trimmed costs. “To me, that’s the most important concept of all,” Woods said. “We want to spend our energies on restoring each and every position on the list.”

Paysinger shared similar hopes.

“We want to put ourselves in a position where we don’t have to make any cuts and we can offer the programs for our students that we’ve offered in the past and that have been succesful programs,” Paysinger said.

The budget plan will officially be made public in January or February. The Board of Education will finalize its choice of affected staff members on May 15, after which the cuts to the 2013-2014 school year will be fully established.

BHEF was contacted but could not comment in time for press.

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