With school districts facing intense scrutiny and high standards — not to mention a slew of federally and state-mandated cost increases — administrators aiming to create spending plans that maintain educational programs, while holding the line on taxes, face a daunting challenge.
We believe that the Long Beach school district has done its best to maintain quality programs for students while limiting the cost to taxpayers in its $130 million 2014-15 budget.
The tax levy increase is 3.24 percent, well under the 3.75 percent allowable under the state tax cap. This will mean a $182 tax increase for the average homeowner, but the spending plan maintains all programs for students, which is crucial at a time when learning is being so harshly evaluated.
District officials faced a guaranteed $7 million increase over this year’s budget due to the increased cost of contractual obligations and the debt service on a $98 million bond that was approved by voters in 2009 to fund the district’s school preservation plan.
But even after accounting for state aid, the tax levy and other revenue, and making additional cuts, a $4.7 million gap remained, which the board opted to cover with reserves. While we applaud the effort to avoid a higher tax levy, we would caution the trustees not to become reliant on reserve funds to balance the budget, as they are quickly depleting.
We also believe the board waited too long to propose cuts to a budget that had been discussed since October. The $660,000 in reductions should have been broached far earlier in the process, not two weeks before the document was to be adopted.
A rejection of the spending plan by voters would mean the adoption of a contingency budget and force administrators to cut an additional $3 million, which could eliminate programs or further deplete reserves. A “yes” vote is crucial on Tuesday.
For trustee, Ryan, Vrona
With two seats on the Board of Education contested by four candidates, the Herald urges residents to re-elect board Vice President Dr. Dennis Ryan and elect newcomer Maureen Vrona.