San Mateo schools look for ways to cut budget

With the goal of reaching a 3 percent budgetary reserve mandated by the county, San Mateo Union High School District officials will weigh a number of cuts at a special study session designed to steer the district toward fiscal recovery.

“We’ll have to make some cuts to get back to the 3 percent reserve,” said board trustee Peter Hanley, who sits on budget committee meetings. “We’re going to look at what kinds of choices and options we have.”

Some possibilities for making cuts in the budget include terminating a health aide worker. The seven-period day, adopted by the district last year to provide added electives to students, may also be on the chopping block since it requires more teachers, raising payroll costs.

Deficit spending by the district was the subject of ridicule by a civil grand jury report released last month. One cause of the deficit is from shortfalls in projected revenue from property taxes, according to the report. In 2005, revenue projections were short $1.6 million. The following year, that figure was $222,000.

The task of fiscal recovery has largely rested on the shoulders of Liz McManus, the district superintendent of business who was hired last summer. She says property tax revenue will shoot up 4.5 percent next year, which translates into more than $800,000 more toward the reserve.

In March, the board agreed to consolidate about $73 million in loans, which were taken out by the district since 2002 to mend its debt.

Board trustee Marcia Cohn-Lyle supports the seven-period day and said she has received about 75 e-mails over the past three weeks from parents who want it preserved.

Meanwhile, the district and teachers union reached a tentative deal over a new contract, which may be approved by teachers, the district board and the county office of education next month.

The two-year contract would provide no raise but would restore medical payments. Craig Childress, the district’s teachers association president, said the union agreed to a 0 percent raise early in negotiations, but that district negotiators were still seeking concessions.

McManus did not return phone calls Tuesday.

The budget meeting will take place 7 p.m. Thursday at the San Mateo Adult Resource and Technology Center, 789 East Poplar Ave.

bfoley@examiner.com

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