Revised budget prepared

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Robert Katz, co-web editor-in-chief

The School Board made projections for a potential future budget for the district, designed to provide the schools with an approximately million-dollar surplus, at its May 28 board meeting. The revised budget, which will be sent to the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) to prove the district is financially responsible, may take effect for the 2014-2015 school year.

The budget plan is priority-based, as board members considered and voted on each of the district’s expenses in terms of their significance to the district’s goals. The plan, according to Student Board Member Jason Friedman, was prioritized to reduce spending on services with less emphasis on academics. Items with greater emphasis on educational quality were more often continued or added than those regarding non-academic services.

Existing expenses across the district were analyzed for areas of potential savings, either by reducing expenditures or by eliminating them altogether. Major reductions focused on the custodial and maintenance staffs, and grounds staff were voted to be cut if need be, although the Board plans to “develop a plan for [a] more effective service,” according to the budget’s notes.

Art, music and physical education programs at the elementary schools are likely to undergo changes, according to Beverly Hills Education Association President Stewart Horowitz.

In addition, high school teachers who do not fulfill the required student-to-teacher ratio may face cuts.

Friedman expressed displeasure over the choices the Board was forced to make, but was satisfied by the budget plan’s outcome.

“Going through this budget and making these cuts was a difficult process,” Friedman said. “I don’t think any of the board members enjoyed this. It’s a challenge to see us cutting such basic necessities as custodial staff, counseling staff and athletics. These are things that are inherent to any high school. It’s a shame that we have to reduce them. That being said, we had to prioritize and reductions had to be made.”

The Board also deliberated new expenditures. Members continued to express their devotion to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, as well as the implementation of AP Computer Science and the Medical Science Academy Biotechnology class, and a middle school STEM elective.

French and Spanish courses in middle school, forced two years ago to the eighth grade, were approved to be available for seventh-graders.

To improve foreign language education, third grade and onward would feature Latin in their curriculums.

The final district budget, as noted by Superintendent Dr. Gary Woods, may differ from the board’s current concept.

“We won’t really know what our final numbers are until the end of June, when the budget is passed at the state level. Then we get the numbers and we can plug them in and see if they’re different from the assumptions that we have [about funding provisions].”

Junior Jake Peskin was pleased by the board’s emphasis on STEM.

“I think that really gets kids prepared for careers they wouldn’t be prepared for,” Peskin said, “considering many kids want to go into careers in computer science and other STEM programs, like being a doctor. As of now our school doesn’t really adequately address this need for classes, [and] this increase in STEM really fixes that up.”

However, rejected expenses included district technology replacements and up- grades, as well as a proposal to reintroduce the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program, which previously offered a supplemental curriculum to Beverly students considered to be “high-achieving.”

Sophomore Gabriella Shofet held mixed feelings regarding the projections.

“I’m surprised by the changes in budget cuts,” Shofet said. “I’m pleased by the increase in Medical Science Academy [spending] but I’m slightly shocked by the decrease in money for physical education for elementary students.”

Friedman acknowledged the difficulty of prioritizing expenses but showed a note of optimism about the fate of some cuts.

“Sometimes you have to do things that aren’t necessarily enjoyable, like dental procedures,” Friedman said. “I think we did a good job of responsibly going through and rationalizing the cuts we were making and the things we were keeping. Is it perfect? Probably not. Are there people who are going to be unhappy? Probably yes. But we’ve made budgets like this in the past and we’ve been lucky that some- times these cuts don’t come to fruition.”

A district budget, likely different from the newly-proposed plan, is expected to be approved by July 1. BHEA had its Representative Council meeting on Thursday, June 6 and issues regarding the fate of PE, arts and music in the elementary schools will be decided during a board meeting on June 25.

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