Lindbergh board to focus on 2012-’13 budget

District eyes balanced budget with no personnel reductions

By Mike Anthony

The Lindbergh Board of Education will focus on the district’s budget for the coming school year during a workshop session Saturday morning.

The special workshop meeting will begin at 8 a.m. in the Professional Development Rooms of the Administration Building, 4900 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

During a budget workshop earlier this year, Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane told the board cuts ranging from $700,000 to $1 million would need to be made to achieve a balanced budget for the 2012-2013 school year.

Superintendent Jim Simpson told the Call during a recent interview that cuts totaling slightly more than $700,000 will have to be made for the coming school year. But he said district officials believe those cuts can be made without any personnel reductions.

“… We have been working on that and our goal on that was to try to make those cuts without losing any more personnel because we have shed personnel due to economic necessity for years now, and we are so lean, it’s a little bit disconcerting,” he said. “I mean, we have taken major leaders in reading and math and things like that, and we’ve had to move forward without them.

“And we want to preserve the things that make Lindbergh the No. 1 school district in K-12 performance in the state,” Simpson added. “We have found still painful cuts, but not people cuts to do that … We’re going to avoid textbook purchasing for a year and that’s not a good omen. But at least you don’t have to lay off classroom teachers. I’d rather delay a textbook purchase than lay off classroom teachers.”

During the previous budget workshop in February, board members were adamant about having a balanced budget for the 2012-2013 school year, and that goal will be achieved, according to the superintendent.

“… We’re doing all we can to get this lifeboat through this recession in the present state. It’s not easy …,” he said.

Since the 2007-2008 school year, Lindbergh sustained a cumulative loss of revenue totaling $18 million.

A 65-cent tax-rate increase approved by voters in November 2010 is projected to generate nearly $8.4 million for the current school year. Revenue from Prop L allowed the board to approve a balanced budget last year for the first time since 2002.

Had Prop L not been approved, 80 additional teaching positions would have had to be eliminated.

Eventually, property values will begin to increase and the recession will come to an end, Simpson said.

“… We know it’s going to happen,” he said, noting Lindbergh has been holding its own. “We’ve got it in great shape in terms of riding out the recession — not growing … We have no extra money. But we’re just trying to ride it out until our property-tax base begins to increase, which just means that people’s homes start regaining their value.

“We are a one-egg-in-the-basket district …,” he said, noting that more than 90 percent of Lindbergh’s revenue comes from local property and personal property taxes. “How our homes go is also exactly how the revenue of the school district goes.

“The state revenue is a trivial part of our budget and federal even less. We have been a master of the one-egg scenario and have done great things. Lindbergh is close to a private-funded school district — as close as you can possibly get, almost.”

Some have questioned why the district is facing cuts for the coming school year given the passage of Prop L, and Simpson said, “… The answer is simple in one way, but it’s hard to grasp another way, and that is the recession — because we are a one-egg-in-the-basket district — the recession, we just didn’t catch flu. We caught financial pneumonia. And hold harmless, which is one of those words that confuses everyone, that’s one of their risk factors. Hold harmless is another way of saying you’re basically privately funded or locally funded. That’s another way of saying you’re going to be in really bad shape if your one source of revenue gets in trouble.”

Regarding the loss of $18 million since the 2007-2008 school year, he said, “… It was a sledgehammer effect. So when somebody says, ‘We passed this thing,’ well, actually what you passed was saving 80 teaching jobs. So it’s kind of a different way of looking at it. A lot of times things are passed and you say, ‘Well, we’re getting upgrades. We’re getting new stuff. Bond issue — there’s going to be a new building right there in that field.’

“Well, Prop L was actually a savings of jobs. We sometimes — I certainly do — think not infrequently, I don’t even want to contemplate what Lindbergh would have been like losing 80 teachers … So Prop L, we are so thankful to our community because they did not force us to go through that fate …,” Simpson said.