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Enrollment, budget challenges ahead

December 20, 2007|By Mary O’Keefe and Valley Sun

The new president of the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board, Susan Boyd, said in an interview this week she plans on continuing conducting the board’s business in the same way her predecessor, outgoing president Scott Tracy, established during his two-year tenure at the helm.

“The board is a consensus group,” Boyd said.

Boyd, elected president Dec. 11 during the annual rotation of officers, said decisions concerning the direction of the district and goals are made together with input from all members.

“Our major challenges will be due to the California budget in the coming year,” Boyd said. “Although we have our goals we have agreed upon, our biggest hurdle is overcoming the financial [problems].”

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The state will reportedly face a $14 billion shortfall in the upcoming budget. This translates to less money for schools, since Proposition 98 allows a percentage of the state’s budget to be used for education instead of an annual, set amount.

“And, if what we have been hearing is true, the state is planning on cutting our funding in the middle of the year. That will wreak havoc on our budget,” Boyd said.

She said the board did vote to increase the district’s reserves from 3% to 3.5% and fears that if the budget is cut, they will have to dip into those funds. And because the La Cañada district is relatively small, any variation in funding can have a major effect on its annual budget. Larger districts with low-income areas receive more state and federal funding than districts like La Cañada Unified, so they will be in a little better shape, Boyd said.

“If they truly cut our budget by 10%, which is what we have heard, I don’t see how we can’t cut into our reserves,” she said.

The threat of less funding, coupled with the district’s declining enrollment, add up to a gloomy financial outlook, Boyd said.

“We are getting a double whammy, with the declining enrollment and the state’s fiscal problems,” Boyd said.

The funding clouds may be darkening but Boyd is confident the district will see through this state budget storm, as they have many others in the past.

“We will always continue to function at the level we are [used to]. We will find a way, we always do,” Boyd said. “The community is supportive.”

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