Lucia Mar Unified School District waits for word on midyear cuts

The Lucia Mar Unified School District’s current general fund budget — which pays for most operations — is about $57 million. It has an additional $15 million in restricted funds, which has to be used for specific programs.

District Superintendent Jim Hogeboom said that Lucia Mar made cuts to its budget earlier than other neighboring districts. As a result, district administrators have avoided more drastic slashing this past year.

The district received $4.5 million in federal stimulus money in the 2009-10 year, which it stretched into this year and has used to pay for some counselors, secretaries, library staff and intervention teachers.

District employees also haven’t had to take any furlough days, Hogeboom said, and the three dozen teachers who took advantage of an early retirement offer over the summer allowed permanent teachers to keep their jobs.

The district has also been able to continue offering summer school and adult education — two programs that other districts have cut.

Paso Robles Public Schools, for example, just faced its most challenging budget crisis in recent history.

Two years of budget cuts totaling $10.6 million have cost that district teachers, special after-school instruction, summer school and an assistant superintendent of curriculum.

Hogeboom said the Lucia Mar district has federal money to pay for intervention teachers to work with students — particularly in grades four through six — to provide additional support and offset the larger class sizes.

District administrators are now looking ahead to January, when they’ll learn whether the state plans any midyear budget cuts.

Hogeboom said the school board will receive an interim budget report on Jan. 11. The board could face some tough cuts in the next few years, after federal funds run out and some state money tied to class-size reduction and flexibility with some state funds ends.

However, Andy Stenson, the district’s assistant superintendent of curriculum, said administrators anticipate having about $800,000 left in federal Jobs Bill funds that could be used next year — though its use largely depends on the severity of midyear cuts this year.

Hogeboom added: “We have proactively tried to put money aside in the ending fund balance, and we’re hoping we can use that to address some hits I know we’re going to take.”

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