School Board Will Discuss Budget Cuts By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday April 05, 2005

With Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Michele Lawrence calling the district’s budget situation “precarious,” the Berkeley public will get its first look at the possibility of a slightly leaner face of public education in the city when the district directors consider “Anticipated Budget Reductions and Program Modifications” at the school board’s meeting Wednesday night. 

The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

BUSD is in the midst of contract negotiations with the Berkeley Federation of Teachers union, which is holding a “work to rule” action in the schools in a demand for increased compensation. Union representatives plan to make a presentation to the Board Directors at the meeting. 

In addition—like every other school district in the state—Berkeley is facing cutbacks in state school funding. 

To meet those competing fiscal demands, as well as to bring the district up from its present “qualified” budget status, Superintendent Michele Lawrence says that “another round of budget cuts are inevitable.” 

Lawrence has planned a board discussion Wednesday night on possible “reductions in services or cuts in programs to [BUSD] students or schools.” Lawrence has not yet made a recommendation on areas for cuts, but included in the budget-balancing discussions will be the possibility of: 

• Reduction in the high school athletic program; 

• One year closure of the Community Theater to outside users during an assessment of costs; 

• Expanding the school walking zone beyond its present one mile; 

• Eliminating the hiring of substitute classified workers until the second or third day that a classified worker is off the job; 

• Reducing the number of classroom instructional assistants and high school campus security officers; 

• Assigning one principal to two small schools; 

• Increasing the cost of student and teacher daily lunch meals. 

In her message to the board calling for the discussion, Lawrence said that the listed budget cut suggestions “each require greater analysis in order to assess the true on-going savings and the strategies to implement the reductions.”