BARSTOW • Since California passed a budget Friday, Barstow school district officials say the district looks to receive $1.5 million in additional revenue this year.

But after months of discussing where to make cuts to close an anticipated budget gap of $1.5 million a year for three years, the Barstow Unified School District board will likely be cautious when deciding on the district's final 2010-2011 budget. District officials are also worried that the state may later reduce the money it has currently allocated to school districts.

"We believe the numbers projected by the state in the building of the budget are not realistic," said Tony Wardell, BUSD's assistant superintendent of business. "We have our concerns and we believe it's better for the board to be prepared to address those concerns."

According to Wardell, the state's budget increases the funding districts receive based on average daily attendence and a cost of living adjustment. About 6,262 students attend BUSD schools currently.

Wardell gave a presentation on the state's final budget to the school board Tuesday, but said the numbers were preliminary. District officials are currently working on what the budget specifically means for Barstow. The board will discuss the state's budget and district's budget at a workshop Oct. 19.

Wardell said $3 million in cuts were needed to truly balance the district's budget, but the board and administration realized that such a drastic cut would be devastating. Even though BUSD looks to receive $1.5 million from the state, district officials are still recommending cutting $1.5 million from the district's budget.

Superintendent Susan Levine told board members Tuesday that the anticipated revenue is a perfect opportunity to curtail the district's deficit spending.

"We are not getting as much cut as we expected," she said.  

Barbara Rose, the school board's vice president, said rather than taking the additional revenue and cutting $1.5 million from the district's budget, the board should weigh all of its options.

"If we don't make the cuts and get the revenue back the cuts would have been unnecessary," she said. "If there's a single parent out there and their position is on the cutting block because we're trying to get out of deficit spending, how fair is that to the single parent?"

Board President Julie Clemmer said the district should still be prudent with its money.
"We've learned over the years that you can't count on the state," she said. "We have to be very cautious and conservative and I think because we've been that way we're in a lot better shape than other districts."

At the board's Sept. 28 meeting, Wardell presented the board with a plan that would use the district's share of the $26 billion federal jobs bill passed in August — about $1.2 million — to supplement its budget.

The board had discussed closing the budget gap this year with $600,000 in federal job funding and was looking at ways to save an additional $600,000. Options included cutting adult education for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, leaving employee positions vacant and sweeping restricted funds to the district's general fund. The board also discussed closing two elementary schools.

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