At the Budget committee . . .

Time to start boning up on the budget, so I attended tonight’s Budget and Business Services committee meeting. When I arrived, the committee had already been called to order and was discussing a charter petition by Escuela del Pueblo, which would create a Waldorf-based Spanish immersion charter school (which was forwarded from the Curriculum and Program committee with no recommendation). The report on the petition by district staff seemed to indicate some inconsistencies or unclear aspects to the budget contained in the petition. Commissioners Yee and Maufas indicated they were inclined to vote against the petition in its current state, and recommended one more go-around between the petitioners and district staff. In the end, the petitioners and the Commissioners agreed to postpone a vote on the petition until the next Budget Committee meeting.

That settled, the committee moved on to discussion of several options for cuts in transportation services. Last year, the Board requested that staff find $1 million in reductions to busing costs. Three options were presented that would save between $900,000 and $1.3 million each year. Cuts under discussion include:

  • Eliminating service to all or some high schools;
  • Eliminating service to several middle schools;
  • Eliminating lightly-used service to several elementary schools (one route mentioned serves just one student);
  • Cutting all service beyond basic home to school trips, like high school trips to and from City College (some of these trips could ultimately be added back if they don’t conflict with home to school service);
  • Eliminating stops on longer trips so that no trip would be longer than 40 minutes; routes would be essentially unchanged but some students would have to travel longer distances to get to a bus stop;
  • Changing start times at 4 (unspecified) elementary schools. The majority of elementary schools start at 8:30 a.m.; shifting a few of these to either 7:50 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. could save as much as $200,000.

Members of the Parent Advisory Council stressed the need for keeping parents in the loop and making these decisions (which wouldn’t take effect until the 2009-10 school year) as early as possible to minimize disruptions and give families as much time as possible to make alternative transportation arrangements. Commissioners Yee and Maufas acknowledged these needs; both officials indicated that changing bell times would be a last resort. They asked staff to prepare more detailed versions of two options, including naming schools that could be affected, for the January 13 full Board meeting.

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