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Santa Monica-Malibu School Board Tackles Budget Deficit
By Jason Islas
July 3, 2012 -- Classes will get bigger and funds for special education programs smaller after the Santa Monica-Malibu School Board approved a budget last week that includes some $2.5 million in cuts.
Even with the cuts, the district is anticipating an operational deficit of more than $5 million for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
The cuts -- which will also siphon funds from some administrative departments -- are a result of rising personnel and utility costs and cutbacks by the State, whioch is facing a $16 billion budget deficit.
“All those things go up every year,” said School Board member Jose Escarce. “Health benefits always go up, as do utility costs,” he added.
In addition, every year, SMMUSD personnel get “step-and-column” salary increases, required by their contracts, Escarce noted.
“Each employee is on a column” based on education, special training and experience, he said. Increasing those criteria can move an employee up that column -- which means pay increases -- until they hit the top.
There are two tax initiatives on the November ballot that could alleviate financial pressure on schools.
The California Sales and Income Tax Increase Initiative -- a combination of Governor Jerry Brown’s tax proposal and the so-called “Millionaire’s Tax” backed by the California Federation of Teachers -- would levy temporary taxes on people earning $250,000 or more annual taxable income to fund K-12 schools.
An alternative California State Income Tax Increase to Support Public Education Initiative is also on the ballot. The initiative, put forward by attorney Molly Munger, would raise taxes on most Californians for an estimated increase of $10 billion a year.
Most of that money would be earmarked for public schools.
If neither passes, SMMUSD could double its annual operational deficit, Escarce said.
To help with the funding crunch, the Board will have to decide whether to put a parcel tax or a bond on this year’s ballot.
Recently, a 15-member committee voted to recommend that the Board favor the bond measure because it would be more likely to meet voter approval.
The bond measure would require 55 percent of the vote and could generate $385 million to help facilities throughout the district
A parcel tax requires two-thirds majority.
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