Even an increase to a parcel tax already the highest in the county may not be enough to spare the Orinda Union School District from cuts, thanks to the state budget crisis.
On Monday, the district's Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on a prioritized list of potential cuts. District staff has prepared a preliminary list based on the board's study sessions on the budget, with custodians and librarians the first in line to be cut and full-time teachers the last.
How far down the list the cuts will go will depends on the outcome of the state budget process and whether voters approve a $124 increase to the district's $385 parcel tax in a March 3 election. If the tax fails, teachers would probably have to be laid off, according to the list proposed by the district's staff.
The cuts and proposed tax increase come because of the state's budget deficit, which is projected to hit $42 million in the next 18 months. Both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrats in the Legislature have proposed deep cuts to education.
Orinda will be the first Lamorinda district to decide on potential cuts, but all face budget shortfalls. The Moraga School District will discuss potential cuts at its Tuesday meeting, making a final decision later in the month. The Acalanes and Lafayette districts will decide on cuts later in the month.
"We cannot afford to miss the parcel tax, or it's hell to pay for the school budget," said Orinda Trustee Jack Bontemps.
The tax needs to make up for state cuts and cover the inflation that has occurred since the district passed its $385 tax in 2003, he said.
Between cuts that have already taken place and the governor's proposed reductions, the district is looking at a deficit of about $900,000, Bontemps said. The parcel tax would cover almost all of that — about $870,000.
But it's not clear exactly what form cuts will take, or how much money parents' clubs and the Educational Foundation of Orinda will donate. So the district must be prepared with a list of cuts, he said.
The district will need that list if voters like Clyde Vaughn prevail. He co-wrote the argument against the tax in the voter information pamphlet, and in recent years he has opposed other local taxes in Orinda
"I think our schools without the tax will continue to be good," Vaughn said. "I don't think we have to have the best schools; we have to have good schools, and we will have them with or without the tax."
Reach Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.