Dear Lagunitas School District Community,
I want to publicly thank our Board of Trustees and the members of the Ad Hoc Budget Committee for their courageous work over the last several months. We are now very close to our legally mandated goal of maintaining an 8% reserve three years from now.
The committee (comprised of members of all stakeholder groups and the full board) was able to submit a recommendation that was approved unanimously by the Board of Trustees at their April meeting.
The committee met 6 times to face the daunting task of putting together a slate of cost-cutting ideas aimed at saving a minimum of $157,000 from future budgets. In addition, the committee recommended re-thinking budget development in the future with an eye toward creating sustainable fiscal practices.
Thanks to the diligence and creativity of the committee and board, it looks like we will be able to accomplish our financial goals without any layoffs and may even be able to consider a modest pay increases in the near future.
Here is a list of what was recommended:
Administration reduction (Part time Special Ed Director)
Eliminate District-Paid healthcare for board members
One secretarial position through retirement
Partial decrease in counseling budget
Decrease of parcel tax contribution to program funds (contribution to be eliminated over two years)
Changes in staffing practices in the future.
Perhaps the most difficult choice was reducing and eventually eliminating the district’s contribution of parcel tax dollars to parent/ program directed funds.
Some parents and community members may be unaware that the program budgets commonly referred to as “parent money” or “program money” are granted a substantial amount from the local parcel tax. That money is combined with parent and LEAP donations and is allocated by parent groups as they wish.
So the term “parent money” can be misleading because it encourages the perception that the money is provided by the parents rather than partially provided and spent by parents.
The main concern is that “parent money” is used to provide for valued personnel and programs and discontinuing the parcel tax contribution would put those at risk. While that reality is undeniable, there is an upside to the situation:
1. Parent/ Program funds will now truly be what their name implies and will no longer rely on the parcel tax.
2. There will be a new incentive for greater parent donations because the tax-enhanced funds have created a false perception of financial strength in the programs.
3. The program reserves (which may have discouraged people from making donations) will likely be spent down, providing more of an incentive for fundraising.
4. The tax reduction has already encouraged more creative thinking about fund raising including a plan to re-start eScrip that could completely replace those funds if every parent were to participate.
As with every challenge, the worst thing we can do is worry. We clearly have the capacity to live within our means as a school and our community is famously creative and resilient. We are entering an era that will ask us to use our funds in a manner that will support our unique programs while developing healthy budgets every year. Now that these initial difficult decisions have been made, we will be asked to bring our creativity to the table and work together to make the Lagunitas School District the best possible place for our children to learn and grow. I know that we will do that.