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School board votes to trim budget amid tumultuous economic climate

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Union school district trustees adopted a lean fiscal year 2011-2012 budget June 28. While the district plans to spend approximately $46 million, that figure is down nearly $4 million from the previous year despite steady enrollment.
District officials are prepared to increase class size, scale back on employee training programs and eliminate jobs in order to cut the costs of operating nine elementary schools in the city and southern Carlsbad. Yet, officials expect to spend $1 million more than last year.
In order to make up for the gap, trustees agreed to dip into the district’s reserve accounts of $7 million, which made some parents uneasy.
“I think they have to do what they have to do,” said Patina Novales, who has two children in the district. “But in the long run it doesn’t make sense to drain your savings.”
Without a certain direction from the state government on education funding and instability at the federal level, local school districts are making tough decisions on how to spend their money. “This is a tough time for everyone,” said Peggy Conroe, a local resident. “I think the district should make necessary cuts but try not to impact the students as much as possible.”
The trustees agreed. Abby Saadat, assistant superintendent of business services, said the budget limits the effect of budget cuts on student services. However, student services did not go unscathed in the new budget that began July 1, with the number of classroom teachers being reduced by 13, according to Saadat.
As a result, class size will increase in kindergarten through third grade. Currently, the ratio for kindergarten classes is 20 students for every teacher and for first grade it’s 22 students for every teacher. The current budget will require that ratio to increase to 23 students for every teacher in kindergarten through third grade.
The 2011-2012 district budget is proportionally similar to last year’s with the lion’s share of the funds — $30 million — paying for salaries; teacher salaries account for $23.6 million.
“There is going to be some deferral in the budget, that means if some revenue (from the state budget) aren’t realized then we’ll have to make some cuts,” Saadat said. “Our fear is that the governor may call an emergency session and call for more cuts.
“We are very uncertain in this process,” he said. If further cuts are triggered at the state level then Saadat said the district might be forced to dip further into reserves.