Another round of reductions in schools?
Enrollment drop blamed for threat to staff positions
By Keri Luiz
The passage of Proposition 30 last fall was supposed to mean teachers and other Benicia Unified School District staff didn’t need to worry about layoffs or staff reductions this year.
But because of declining enrollment and what Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Michael Gardner called “the resulting economic uncertainties,” district trustees on Thursday will hear a pair of resolutions to reduce services performed by both certificated (teaching) and classified (non-teaching) staff.
Because of “the need to maintain the District’s fiscal solvency, staff have considered and discussed potential reductions in specific services currently performed by certificated employees for the 2013-14 school year,” Gardner wrote, proposing the elimination of 6.8 full-time-equivalent (FTE) positions.
Impacted would be sections of math and language arts at Benicia High School, among others, and Spanish, history, math and science at Benicia middle School.
In a second request, Gardner added, “With the uncertain funding of categorical funding as well as grants and declining enrollment, Benicia Unified School District needs to reduce classified staffing for the 2013-14 school year to offset the losses in revenue.
“Accordingly, it is necessary that the District reduce expenditures to maintain a positive budget certification with the Solano County Office of Education and the State of California,” he wrote.
Affected classified staff would include one FTE district computer technician and one FTE child development assistant; various other positions would be reduced as well.
Police to schools: Time to share cost of SROs
For 20 years, Benicia Police Department has borne the cost of putting two School Resource Officers in Benicia schools.
Now, following last fall’s passage of Proposition 30, police Chief Andrew Bidou says it’s time the schools shared that cost.
Superintendent of Benicia Schools Janice Adams on Thursday will request district trustees’ approval of a plan to split the costs of staffing SROs beginning in the this fall, at the cost to Benicia Unified School District of $150,000 a year.
SROs are primarily assigned to Benicia High School and Benicia Middle School, but also provide support for Liberty High and provide DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) instruction at the city’s four elementary schools.
“The officers serve our schools four days a week,” Adams wrote in a report to trustees. “Staff of BUSD approached the Benicia Police Department to see if an additional day of coverage could be provided so that our schools could have an SRO five days per week.”
In the meeting with the BPD, she wrote, it was determined that the increase is possible — but Benicia police requested that the city and district enter into the cost-sharing arrangement.
In a letter to Adams, Bidou wrote that the cost to his department since the program began in 1993 is “approximately $4,349,994,” and “(c)onsidering the passage of Proposition 30 and the considerable year-to-date investment by the city, it is time to implement an equitable cost sharing of the program.”
Bidou suggested a 50-percent cost sharing formula; Adams will present that formula to district trustees for approval.
In other business, Adams will request trustees’ approval of a plan to move election years to even-numbered years, mirroring a move under consideration by the city.
“Currently, the elections for Benicia Unified School District Governing Board of Trustees are held in odd-numbered years,” Adams wrote in a report to the board. “Staff is recommending changing the date of these elections to even-numbered years to coincide with the state and national elections.
“The benefits of this proposal are an increase in voter participation and cost savings to the district.”
Just how much would be saved is still an open question, Adams wrote, because the cost of elections is affected by the numbers of entities in Solano County that participate in the even-year cycle.
“Several communities are reviewing the process, including the city of Benicia,” Adams wrote. “If additional entities adopt the even-year cycle, the cost of elections for each entity decreases. If other entities change to an even cycle and Benicia remains in an odd cycle, the current cost of our elections will increase.”
She pointed out that the education code allows for a change in the date of an election as long as it does not increase or decrease a term by 12 months.
The change must be approved by the Solano County Board of Supervisors. The final day to submit a resolution to the board is March 10, 240 days before the election.
If the county Board of Supervisors approves the move, a notification will be made by mail to all registered voters in Benicia, at the expense of the school district. Trustees Dana Dean and Steve Messina, who would have faced re-election this November, would instead serve until November 2014.
Benicia City Council is expected to take up the issue of moving its elections in April. It has a later deadline to submit a resolution to the Board of Supervisors.
If You Go
The Benicia Unified School District Board of Trustees will meet Thursday at 6 p.m. for closed session, and 7 p.m. for open session in the board room of the district office, 350 East K St.