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School district expects cash crunch

More budget cuts loom in the coming months

Posted: November 19, 2008 9:52 p.m.
Updated: November 20, 2008 4:30 a.m.

Hart district officials expect to slash $6.6 million from their already-approved 2008-09 budget due to state financial woes, a Hart official said Wednesday.

William S. Hart Union High School District officials hope that what could be a second year of massive state-inflicted budget cuts isn't as painful as the nearly $10 million retroactive cut they made to the 2007-08 budget.

Sue Guthrie, district chief financial officer, circulated a district-wide employee memo Monday reassuring them that despite the generally weak economy, the school district is fiscally sound.

Guthrie circulated a second memo Wednesday asking staff members who make district purchases to think twice before pulling the trigger on major buys.

"The e-mail was meant to be reassuring," said district Public Information Officer Pat Willet.

District finance officials do not recommend laying off any of the district's 2,300 employees, Guthrie said.

"In January when (the state's) revised budget is complete we will have to look at cutbacks, but we are not looking at layoffs," Guthrie said. "What we're trying to tell our employees is that currently, we don't know what's happening with the state budget and we want them to make cutbacks in other areas so we don't have to make cutbacks on staff or decrease salaries."

The more money the district can save now, the more unrestricted funds will be available when it is time to make cuts, Guthrie said.

What needs to happen at this point involves the community, said Santa Clarita Valley Teachers Association President Leslie Littman.

"What needs to happen is that people need to start pressuring the legislature to pass a realistic budget that includes (increasing) state revenues as well as cuts," Littman said. "If you just keep cutting education our schools aren't going to make it in this valley."

When final revisions of the state budget are completed in January, the Hart district will face a $6.6 million cut, which represents $300 per student or 3.5 percent of the district's annual budget, Guthrie said.

The cuts are expected to come in the form of reduced student cost-of-living adjustments for the 2008-09 school year.

Littleman also said district employees don't have to worry about layoffs.

"There is a timeline and if (the district) were going to do that, they would have to do it fast," she said.

In the 2007-08 school year, Hart district hired 100 new teachers, Littleman said. This year it hired fewer than 50.

Littman warned that the larger two-year-old teacher hire number reflects community growth and new school site openings in 2007-08.

"Cutting teachers is not an option right now that the district wants to look at right out of the gate," Littman said. "That is really a last-resort option. What you have to do is look everywhere else first and come back to it if you have to."


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