Berkeley school district cuts to tackle $3M deficit

BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett: looking to balance the budget

Berkeley school district Superintendent Bill Huyett published an open letter yesterday outlining the BUSD budget for the next school year. Specifically he addressed the district’s need to find savings to make up for a $3 million deficit.

Below is the letter which precedes a public budget forum to be held Thursday March 29 at 5:30pm at the City Council chambers.

Dear Berkeley Schools Community Members,

For yet another year I am writing to you about significant cuts to Berkeley Unified and all California public schools. The Governor’s proposed reductions for the next school year, coupled with the loss of $1.7 million in federal stimulus funds and our increasing costs, leave us with a structural deficit of $3.0 million. This figure may increase depending on factors like enrollment and certain reimbursements, which are yet to be finalized.

The district is holding a budget forum, Thursday, March 29 at 5:30pm in the Council Chambers at the school district headquarters, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Deputy Superintendent Javetta Cleveland and I will be presenting and answering questions. The forum will be broadcast live on cable 33 and posted with a link from our website for viewing after the event.

In February I asked staff to make a preliminary list of budget reductions. This list is currently being reviewed by the Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committee, which is deliberating on its own set of recommendations. The committee is comprised of an equal number of employees (including all four unions) and community members. I will review all the suggestions before making my own recommendation to the School Board. The School Board will make all final decisions and must pass a balanced budget by the end of June. The staff proposed the following reductions to cover the projected $3 million deficit:

  • Set fees for Adult School classes so they are self-sustaining: $315,000
  • Eliminate extra staff above the BSEP Measure requirements in middle and high school; the district would meet the BSEP mandated class size averages of 28 for secondary classrooms, without going appreciably below 28 as happened in past years: $542,000
  • Fund part of the cost of academic intervention teachers at middle schools in BSEP (while maintaining programs currently funded): $475,000
  • Reduce Worker’s Comp payments, reduce Summer School, reduce discretionary funding in the high school and overtime budgets, and sweep $300,000 additional state funding previously allocated for Adult School: total $918,000
  • Draw on reserves for approximately $750,000 — more if reductions grow beyond the projected $3 million.

The Governor and other groups are seeking signatures for an initiative on the November 2012 ballot. The proposal funds education and other state programs, through income tax and sales tax increases. If that initiative fails, there would be severe cuts to education after the election, about $4 million for Berkeley Unified. For budget planning purposes, staff is assuming that if the initiative fails, reserve funds would cover the 2012-13 school year mid-year cuts, and significant reductions would be felt in the 2013-14 school year budget.

Each of the five years I have been Berkeley’s Superintendent, the state has required budget reductions. These reductions are demoralizing for our hard-working teachers and staff, especially those who are receiving notices of possible layoff. Teachers and other staff feel the effect of increasing health care premiums as the district has not been able to increase health care contributions for several years. The community’s support of teachers, staff, and administrators is vital, so I want to continue to keep you informed about these budget reductions. You can sign up for email updates by entering your email address in the Subscribe box in the left column of this webpage or attend the budget forum on March 29.

William Huyett
Superintendent of Schools

School gardening and cooking program may face cuts [03.23.12]
48 Berkeley teachers get preliminary layoff notices [03.19.12]

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  • The Sharkey

    How much would we save if we got rid of the Adult School altogether?

  • Anonymous

    Quite a bit cheaper I’d guess since it would free up Franklin for, you know, educating kids and things like that.

  • EBGuy

    BUSD is one of the few entities that did not release salary data to the Mercury News for their public employee salaries database.

  • berkopinionator

    The City of Berkeley should grant the old Bingo franchise to the BUSD. The BUSD should receive all Bingo profits in Berkeley.

  • Grrrrrrrrraaaaaahahhhhhhhhhhgggghhh.

    That is all I can say about this.

  • Julie

    They are spending a small fortune on football fields, new gyms, demolishing the warm water pool, and they will have no more classroom space then before measure H and I passed. They have their own swimming pool, and right now they are testing lower in most subjects then other schools. Who audits all of this, and are they doing a good job. In the past the answer was no. I don’t know about now. 

  • CLL

    If Franklin became an Elementary School again, that would also save money on building a new building at Jefferson Elementary that is intended to accommodate projected increases in enrollment.

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. Hyuet himself said reopening Franklin was out of the question, even though they’ve estimated that they will have an additional 250 students in the north zone in the next few years, because “they” see BAS as crucial to the district’s mission. The mission that includes offering cheap Zumba and hat making classes.

  • busdfamilia

    So, if there will be an additional 250 students in the North Zone why is BUSD saying they will only increase enrollment at Jefferson by 40? And why are we spending $8 million to build 5 new classroom for only 40 students?

  • Anonymous

    Hopefully this will change soon:
    Please sign up and help collect signatures to get its ordinance on the November ballot.

  • BUSD Parent

    And why are we spending $8 million to build 5 new classroom for only 40 students?

    Yarg. Haven’t we been through this before?It’s not $8 million for 5 new classrooms for 40 students. The cost is $5.4 million, for up to 80 students. The project includes a new Library, a new learning center, staff offices, 4-5 classrooms and modernization of the existing faculties. A new Library is good. A new Learning Center is good because it means that the school can handle children with a wider variety of special needs.

    Why? Because Jefferson is long in need of an update. Thousand Oaks, Rosa Parks, Craigmont, etc. have been upgraded, and now it’s Jefferson’s turn. We have professionals working out of janitors closets, children learning art in an elevator lobby, and special needs kids who are shoved into the only spare space on campus. They deserve better.

    Do we really need 4-5 new classrooms? I don’t know. Can BUSD simply shut down BAS and fold it into Berkeley City College? Not without a fight. 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think anybody is debating whether Jefferson needs serious remodeling, a new library, a learning center, etc.  The facilities are a disgrace and the district is probably lucky it hasn’t been sued for ADA reasons.

    All of that is completely independent of whether more classrooms need to be added versus reopening Franklin or some other solution.

  • Anonymous

     “So, if there will be an additional 250 students in the North Zone why is
    BUSD saying they will only increase enrollment at Jefferson by 40?”

    All I know is what Hyuett said at the Jefferson meeting last week, I never claimed it made sense.  They probably think they’ll just slap some portables onto the already too small playground. By the time all this happens he’ll be too busy spending the payout from his accrued “sick days” and all of the the other legal graft the Berkeley taxpayers are going to pay for.

  • The Sharkey

    I wish they’d bring the continued existence of the Berkeley Adult School up for a vote.

    In a climate where the budget is being slashed left and right, the mostly-redundant Berkeley Adult School ought to be up on the chopping block before we start drawing on reserves and cutting things from our K-12 schools.

  • Athena

    Huyett gets $200K/year. for what? don’t tell me he can do something that another person with similar abilities cannot do for 3 times less. shame on all of us who just sit there and let this happen.