School district leaders proposed closing an elementary school and making several other dramatic cuts at a board meeting on Monday.
Officials in the Millbrae School District project a $2.4 million budget deficit in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, and an additional $780,000 if state voters don’t approve tax extensions in June. As a result, they analyzed further cuts to curtail costs.
“We’re down to core programs only,” said Michelle Dodge, MSD interim chief business officer. “We don’t have a lot to cut.”
In addition to the drastic suggestion of closing a school, district staff proposed eliminating a principal and rotating the others to cover the position; increasing class sizes; cutting more teachers and staff; and cutting a crossing guard, a custodian and other salaried positions.
Shutting a school will not counterbalance all or even most of the deficit.
“Closing a school saves us about $300,000, but you also have to consider potential loss of students,” Dodge said. “Any time in any community you close a school, some parents might take their kids to a private school, so we have to consider that potential loss of [state] funding.”
Board members emphasized that a long-term solution is necessary because perpetual cutbacks undermine Millbrae’s quality education system.
“We cannot function this way,” said School Board Trustee Caroline Shea.
Shea mentioned combining school districts with other towns, similar to the San Mateo High School District. is a part of that district with San Bruno, Burlingame and Foster City.
“We cannot keep having small school districts, you end up just crucifying a program,” she said. “It’s just not realistic to cut what we’re looking at.”
The board intends to approach state legislators to start talks on the benefit of integrating districts.
Members of the public identified other solutions to bring in revenue.
“I’m horrified at the idea of more cuts,” said Patty Koel, Millbrae PTA president and mother of two Millbrae students. “If this isn’t the time to put a parcel tax through with the cuts we’re talking about, I don’t know when we ever could.”
In 2008, a parcel tax lost by 42 votes. Board members on Monday seemed skeptical about the community’s acceptance of a tax now.
Deirdri Gladwin, president of the Millbrae Education Foundation, a nonprofit that raises money for local schools, asked supporters to donate to assuage the deficit.
“To even contemplate what was even put down on paper is truly overwhelming,” she said. “What is the children’s future going to be if they can’t have the kind of education that so many of us have come [to Millbrae] for.”
So far this year MEF has raised $92,000. Gladwin hopes to raise at least $168,000, which is how much the group raised last year.
Gladwin invited concerned residents to attend a function at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at to discuss how to best support Millbrae’s schools.
“Although we have different ideas, we’re certainly united on the desire to have the best possible education for our children,” said Board President D. Don Revelo.