Mark McDermott

School board looks for money

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by Mark McDermott

The hunt has begun.

The Redondo Beach Unified School District leaders over the next two months face an impossible task as they prepare for another round of state education cuts: trimming an estimated $3.6 million from the district budget in a way that doesn’t damage the education delivered to its students.

At Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, the board discussed a few creative ways to save some dollars.

Assistant Superintendent Frank DeSena told the board that one possible area of savings would be to bring special education high school students currently categorized as “emotionally disturbed” and educated by a county program back to Redondo Union High School. The district currently pays the county for this special program, and DeSena estimated $200,000 could be saved by bringing the program in-house.

“LA County ends up sending us something, and that is a bill for how much it costs them to educate our students,” DeSena said. “We think we can to that for a significantly lesser amount. And without hurting any feelings, we think we can do a better job, too.”

Chief Business Official Janet Redella said that the district could also use $425,000 from the so-called Aviation Fund – money derived from the sale of the former high school – for the purchase of books. Such reserve funds are restricted, generally for capital outlays, but the state has loosened those restrictions. Redella said this creates a “window of opportunity” to use Aviation funds on such one-time costs as textbook acquisition, thus freeing up a corresponding general fund amount.

The district hopes to save as much as $1 million through an early retirement program being offered to 70 teachers. The deadline for teachers to accept the offer is March 5.

Board member Arlene Staich said that by her calculations, the district has found ways to save $1.9 million without layoffs. But the rest of the amount would almost certainly need to come through personnel cuts.

“So that is a lot of people,” Staich said.

Board member Carl Clark said that if every district parent met the goal set forth by the Redondo Beach Education Foundation the entire budget problem would be solved.

“Roughly speaking, if every parent of every student contributed $350, as the RBEF is suggesting, then we wouldn’t have a budget problem, period. So encourage your parents to contribute for every student.”

Superintendent Steven Keller, in conjunction with the Redondo Beach PTA, is hosting a budget information night beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Parras Middle School on March 3. ER

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