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'Three Huge Steps Backward'

Posted: March 4, 2008 8:30 a.m.
Updated: May 5, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Increasing class sizes, shuttering The Learning Post independent-study center, and handing out pink slips to classified employees are some of the options being considered by the Hart district in the face of a proposed $4 billion statewide cut in education, an official said Monday.

"It's especially hard when we're making such strides in meeting the needs of lower-performing students - this is going to give us three huge steps backwards," said Sue Guthrie, chief financial officer for the district. "It's very trying, and we're certainly hoping that the state comes up with an alternative rather than cutting education."

The William S. Hart Union High School District must cut about $10 million from next year's budget to accommodate the state cuts - if those cuts are actually implemented. However, because local governments must pass their budgets before the state is required to approve its, the situation remains uncertain.

Actions that may be taken to reduce the district's budget include increasing class size, reducing the size of the budget reserve and reducing the independent study program, which would require the elimination of The Learning Post in Valencia.

"These are all things that are being talked about, but not implemented. The board will decide what the actual cuts will be," Guthrie said. "Some things need to be negotiated, so we can't just assume that we can do all of these things."

Some of the cuts being discussed, such as reducing the number of resource special assistants and reducing the custodial staff, would require elimination of jobs at the district.

"Most of these things will be taken care of through attrition, but we may have to send out some notices to classified staff to let them know that their job may not be there next fall," Guthrie said.

The district, which includes all junior- and senior-high schools in the Santa Clarita Valley, cuts currently being discussed would accommodate the 2 percent salary increase for all employees, which had been approved before the governor's proposed state cuts were announced.

"We already have a tentative agreement for a 2 percent raise. Without that raise, we would still have to cut over $4 million," Guthrie said.

Two budget workshops were held last week, with the general mood one of "despair," Guthrie said.

Another special budget workshop will be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, before the regularly scheduled meeting of the governing board at 7:30 p.m. at the district office. The special meeting is open to the public, and comments from the public will be welcomed.

"We still have to come up with more cuts, so we're still looking," Guthrie said. "Once we get the direction of where we're going, from there we'll prepare the interim report to present to the board on March 19."


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