Budget cuts not expected for school district; college aims to increase enrollment, add classes

Despite the feelings of a majority of Del Norte County voters, local education officials are breathing a huge sigh of relief following the statewide passage of Proposition 30.

Both Del Norte County Unified School District and College of the Redwoods dodged mid-year budget cuts because Proposition 30 passed. CR may experience an increase in funding and may be adding more classes.

But even though it won't experience a mid-year cut, Del Norte County Unified School District will still have to contend with a $2 million to $2.5 million budget gap in the next fiscal year, according to Deputy Superintendent Rodney Jahn.

"Even with Prop 30 passing, we're receiving only about 80 percent of what we're supposed to be receiving," Jahn said. "All Prop 30 did was to make sure the state government didn't reduce us even further this year."

Proposition 30, which was proposed by California Governor Jerry Brown, increases the state sales tax by one-quarter cent for every dollar for four years. It also increases personal income tax rates for upper-income taxpayers for seven years.

Proposition 30 narrowly passed on Election Day with 54.5 percent of California voters approving it. In Del Norte County, however, 53.5 percent of the voters went against the proposition.

Proposition 30 was one of two tax initiatives on the 2012 ballot. Proposition 38, also known as the Molly Munger initiative, failed statewide with a 72.3 percent no vote.

If Proposition 30 had failed, Del Norte County Unified School District's budget may have been cut by $1.4 million. That could have resulted in a shorter school year, said Superintendent Don Olson. Jahn said the district's staff size along with salaries could also have been cut if the tax initiative had failed.

"We would have been calling both (staff) groups to talk about mid-year reductions," Jahn said. "There were a few things already targeted in the way of operational changes, but then it also may have been a reduction in days, it may have been the laying off of a certain number of people, increasing class sizes - there were a number of things we were having to look at. As it is right now, we're hoping with Prop 30 passing we can at least finish out this year with pretty much status quo."

As the district approaches the 2013andndash;14 budget process, officials will work with classified and teaching staff to address the expected budget deficit for next fiscal year. According to Olson, the district budget has been cut by $8 million over the last seven years. It has been using one-time federal funds and its reserves to stay afloat, but those funds have run out.

In 2004 class sizes at the elementary level were at 20 students to one teacher, Olson said. As the district's state funding has decreased, class sizes has increased to 30 and 32 students per class in grades four through 12.

"We've had to increase class sizes to accommodate less revenue," Olson said. "That's affected every student."

Jahn added that it's too soon to say what measures the district will take to reduce its expected budget deficit.

College of the Redwoods

CR, on the other hand, could gain an additional $456,400 in funding based on the number of its full-time equivalent students, said college spokesman Paul DeMark. Because Proposition 30 passed, the California Community College chancellor is estimating that CR's full-time equivalent student funding could increase by 100 students. According to DeMark, the school receives $4,564 for each full-time equivalent student.

CR may also receive roughly $3.7 million in deferred state funding. According to DeMark, since the state has been in fiscal crisis, it has delayed making payments to community colleges. Many community colleges have had to take out temporary loans to meet their financial obligations, he said. Governor Brown has proposed paying community colleges back those deferred payments, DeMark said.

"That will put our cash flow in a much healthier situation," he said. "It's estimated from the state chancellor's office this year we could get $3,737,000 paid back from our deferral."

Five additional classes are already planned for the spring semester at CR's Del Norte campus, Dean Anita Janis said. This includes a book-of-the-year course, a painting class, and a running and walking course that's open to the community. As a result, Janis said, the college is looking for more faculty members.

"These are marvelous opportunities," she said. "We really love to have the public involved. Not just students, but people in the community."

CR is currently enrolling for the spring semester. Janis said nine placement test dates have been scheduled and people should already be looking into financial aid opportunities because it can take six to eight weeks for paperwork to be processed.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com.