Burlingame schools may lose funds

The Burlingame Elementary School District may cut roughly half a million dollars from its budget next year after spending much of its reserve this year to avoid funding reductions.

Recent meetings with Superintendent Sonny Da Marto and the district’s Budget Advisory Committee indicated the district would need to spend about $500,000 to $1 million more for the 2008-09 school year than the $19 million it spent this year, said committee member and Board of Education trustee Marc Friedman.

But because the district’s budget will remain similar and it has left little in its previously $2 million reserve, it will likely cut an estimated $525,000 from the budget next year, Da Marto said.

“Next year we will have to spend at different levels than we are this year,” Friedman said. “We’re trying to identify all areas we might be able to spend less than we did this year.”

The district is trying to keep the cuts out of the classrooms, Friedman and Da Marto said. But it will be tough to avoid noticeable differences with 2.6 percent of total expenses gone next year.

“Of course it will have an effect [on the quality of education],” said Jennifer Frankl, committee member and parent of three students at Franklin Elementary School. “You can’t cut $500,000 out of the budget without affecting education.”

The district simply overspent this year, and this budget correction should help alleviate further cuts and reserve dipping, Da Marto said.

“The idea is to make the reductions now and to live within our budgets from now on,” he said. “So the hope is, no, we won’t be revisiting this.”

Another cause of the increased spending projected for next year is the raises teachers received earlier this year, which were offset this school year by the district dipping into its reserves.

The reason for the early identification of the problem is for the public to identify areas they would prefer to get cut, through a variety of meetings and surveys, Frankl said. Eventually, the board would vote on the budget before it takes effect in July 2008. By then the board will have a better idea of what services will be reduced.

The district cut $700,000 from its budget last school year but was able to avoid budget reductions this year by dipping into its reserve. Budget reductions were not an issue for the district until about the 2004-2005 school year, Friedman said.

Gloomy budget outlook

2007-08 expenses/budget: $19,000,000

Expected 2008-09 expenses: $19,500,000 to $20,000,000

Expected 2008-09 cuts: $525,000

Reserve entering 2007-08: $2,000,000

2006-07 cuts: $700,000

*Source: Budget Advisory Committee, Superintendent’s office

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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