This was in the wake of legislators signing off on the state budget the week before and figures coming in regarding how much Walnut Creek schools would receive in federal stimulus money. In fact, Wool said these numbers were so hot off the presses, they came across her desk as recently as last Monday, and there was still much finessing to work out.
Essentially, she expects that the 3,200-student school district will have to send out layoff notices to 15-23 of the district’s 175 teachers by March 15. Wool hopes to bring back a fair share of those teachers once budget and enrollment numbers are finalized this summer; it’s just that the district, legally, is required to give teachers notice by March 15.
As for the projected spending cuts, the district, which serves five elementary and one middle school, will look at cutting back on spending anywhere this year from $500,000 to $1 million.
The $1 million figure has to do with what the district should possibly cut in order to be conservative over the next two to three years, what with the uncertainty over the state budget and the national economy, and about whether the district can renew its $82 parcel tax, which expires June 2011. The big question is whether the district should attempt to raise the amount of that parcel tax, or keep it as it is and go for a renewal.
Would voters owning property in the district go along with the parcel tax as it, or even agree to an increase, enough to give it a two-thirds majority vote, as required by law.
In the 2007-08 school year, the district had to trim $1.6 million from its $26 million budget. For the 2008-09 year, the district expected to lose up to $800,000 in state funding, but that number has been reduced to $600,000, 3 percent less than the expected 16 percent. “I’ll take all of the sunshine we’re going to get,” Wool said. “It’s not as horrible as we thought.”
As for federal money, the district will receive total of $749,000over the next two years. That money must be directed to students eligible for Title 1A benefits and for special education. Although this money is directed to certain students and programs, it helps the district overall because it means the district has less it needs to shift from its general fund to cover Title 1A and special education expenses, Wool said.
As part of making the cuts, the district will look at the possibility of increasing class sizes in the kindergarten through third grades, but not by too many children per grade. The district also hopes to maintain the number of classes available for the fifth grades and keep the number of students in the core classes at Walnut Creek Intermediate at 26 students.