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San Bruno schools face $3 million deficit
November 14, 2012, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

Without new revenue, San Bruno schools face a $3 million deficit in this school year — a problem that will soon need to be addressed.

The San Bruno Park Elementary School Board of Trustees hoped to curb the deficit with Measure G, a five-year, $199 annual parcel tax that failed on the Nov. 6 ballot. The measure would have generated an estimated $2 million annually. Tonight, the board will hear a presentation of the fiscal situation developed by the Fiscal Sustainability Task Force.

Superintendent David Hutt explained tonight is simply a start to the conversation about the budget and how to proceed.

The board approved a budget with $19.68 million in revenue and $21.24 million in expenditures. Revised budget numbers show the revenue and expenditures both increased to $21.62 million and $24.88 million respectively, according to the Task Force report. As a result, the projected deficit is expected to increase to $3.26 million. The presentation calls for a $980,000 transfer from a special savings account and for more than $500,000 in either cuts or increased revenue.

What those cuts are or how the district would increase revenue is not yet known. The task force did, however, look at a variety of options and possible savings in recent meetings.

In terms of cuts, closing a school could save $236,000; eliminating contracted physical education in fourth and fifth grades would save $110,000; moving a special education class back to the district would save an estimated $450,000; and furloughs could save hundreds of thousands. Raising revenue is also an option. Most notably, the Task Force notes show renting a closed school could generate more than $600,000 annually.

How to proceed will be a difficult conversation for the district.

In April, the board voted against a proposal to close two schools — El Crystal and Crestmoor elementary schools. The conversation caused an uproar in the community and meeting protests featured children speaking about the importance of their teachers and school community. A petition with more than 900 signatures was presented in opposition to the idea of school closure. Another cause for concern was how the talks of school closure had progressed.

In early April, the board met and only one possible school was on the chopping block, Crestmoor. That changed the Friday night before a vote was scheduled when Hutt released a report recommending two schools be closed in the succeeding school year if the district faces a budget deficit of $250,000 or more in October or the neighborhood enrollment dropped by 30 or more students at any of the elementary schools compared to current enrollment.

The committee charged with making a recommendation about which district school to close found there were no overwhelming reasons to close a school, but suggested combining two schools if the board were to move forward.

Enrollment at the elementary schools dropped this year as San Bruno students started attending elementary school through fifth grade and start at Parkside Intermediate in sixth grade. Changing which school serves sixth grade shifted about 280 students from the elementary schools. In addition, the district has seen an overall drop in enrollment.

As a district, San Bruno has previously tackled the possibility of closing a school during the 2006-07 school year due to a drop in enrollment. An uptick for the following school year caused the district to drop the discussion. Declining enrollment forced the closure of two schools in the 1970s. Carl Sandburg Elementary School was closed in 1978 and was sold for $30.5 million in 2006. The district leases 20 acres for a driving range operated by VB Golf Inc. on what was once Engvall Middle School at Interstate 280 and Sneath Lane.

The board meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 at El Crystal School, 201 N. Balboa Way, San Bruno.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: heather@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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