After weeks of deliberation, and with some reservations, the Long Beach Board of Education came to an agreement Tuesday, voting to adopt the school district’s proposed $122.1 million budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
The board essentially agreed to preserve the same budget as the current operating plan, and will add the $3.5 million debt service principal to the current total allocations.
“We went at the budget to maintain programs ... as well as maintaining our academic initiatives to improve the district in it’s academic standing,” Superintendent David Weiss said. “We don't want to stand still just because we are in difficult budget times.”
Weiss announced to the board that the district received an additional $183,000 in state aid, to which the board agreed to apply towards reducing the tax levy from 3.9 to 3.74 percent ($92.5 to $92.3 million).
Several trustees, including Darlene Tangney and Gina Guma, concerned about cuts to first-grade teaching assistants in the proposed budget, asked the district’s chief operating officer, Michael DeVito, for possible alternatives to cutting the seven positions.
DeVito explained that there is available funding in the district’s $500,000 reserve fund for tax certiorari payments, and suggested using $70,000 of the fund to save the positions.
“Now that were getting more state aid, we’re proposing we keep the budget as it is,” DeVito said. “We need to keep a considerable amount of money in there, but I think, in terms of if you want to restore the first grade aids, I think it would be okay.”
Although residents and board members continued to show concern for staff reductions, there was hardly any wiggle room available to save positions, district officials said. Weiss chose his words carefully while addressing consolidation in the guidance and administrative departments, explaining that no administrative responsibilities will be lost in either department due to cuts.
“The high school restructuring takes responsibilities that are currently in the hands of the director of guidance, and moves administrative responsibilities of that department to a vice principal, who in essence would become the vice principal of guidance counseling,” Weiss explained. “We're not proposing the elimination of any administrative functions.”
He explained that the consolidation is vital to maintaining the budget, and the move will save more than $300,000.
The Board of Education will hold their final budget hearing on May 8 and the district’s vote on the spending plan and school board elections is May 15.