Budget planning for San Bruno schools will most likely mean revisiting the controversial topic of school closure — a conversation that divided the district last year.
Without new revenue, the San Bruno Park Elementary School District faces a deficit this school year — a problem that will soon need to be addressed. In the first interim budget update, San Bruno's plan recognized it would most likely need to make $335,000 to $400,000 in ongoing budget reductions this year along with an additional $1.4 million in cuts in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. On Wednesday, the board will start discussing the parameters like the budget development calendar and school closure, which is agendized as school consolidation.
In November, a report by the Fiscal Sustainability Task Force put out some possible options for cuts. For example, 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 report shows 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 a community uproar 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.
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.
Talks about school closure had two results: a parcel tax effort and a "no confidence” online petition asking for Superintendent David Hutt to be replaced.
The district's 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. Without it, the district is back to talking about cuts this spring.
Also on Wednesday, the board will consider formally ratifying a four-year contract with Hutt from July, 1 2013 through June 30, 2017. The contract calls for a base salary of $132,138 with $8,000 in stipends recognizing his doctorate, time with the district, for life insurance, and for a car allowance, according to the staff report.
At the same meeting, the board will again discuss the plans to convert El Crystal Elementary into a magnet school this fall. In November, the board approved the proposal to allow the school to focus on science, technical engineering and mathematics (known as STEM) in the 2013-14 school year.
The board meets 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16 at the District Office, 500 Acacia Ave., San Bruno.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.