CONCORD -- After reviewing nearly $32.2 million in budget reductions that could cut deeply into school staffs, Mt. Diablo district trustees offered their own ideas during a contentious meeting Tuesday.

"We're certainly asking our school sites to operate at staffing levels that are well beneath the level that's required to accomplish all the tasks and make sure that students are safe," board President Gary Eberhart said.

"So, if we're going to be making reductions that are going to stress positions, I'd rather have that happen at the district office and not stress hundreds of students at our sites."

Trustees suggested budget cuts that included trimming district administration, reducing student testing, selling property, closing more campuses, freezing overnight travel and exploring electronic textbooks.

Superintendent Steven Lawrence's reduction ideas included $18.7 million that he hoped to achieve through furlough days and other union concessions this year and next year, and about $13.4 million in cuts that could reduce school office and custodial staffs and virtually wipe out libraries, elementary vocal music and student services coordinators at middle and high schools.

The board expects to vote March 15 on nearly $22 million in cuts in its 2011-12 budget of $280.6 million, based on the assumption that Gov. Jerry Brown's tax extensions will not make it onto a June ballot or will fail.

The cuts would amount to roughly $350 per student.


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However, some experts have predicted that the Legislature might suspend Proposition 98 state education funding guarantees if the taxes fail, which could mean cuts as high as $780 per student, Lawrence said.

If voters approve the tax extensions, the district would need to cut about $2 million from next year's budget.

The board voted 3-2 to approve preliminary layoff notices for about 180 credentialed teachers and administrators, including nearly 34 music teachers, 32 elementary teachers, 20 librarians and 35 adult-education teachers.

Eberhart and trustee Cheryl Hansen voted against the layoffs.

Eberhart said they didn't go far enough and would require unacceptable cuts in nonteaching staff such as custodians and secretaries.

Hansen said they included many cuts that have to be negotiated, such as eliminating elementary physical education and vocal music prep periods.

The board also rejected two school closure plans proposed by Hansen because the district already is moving forward with similar plans. Finally, the board reaffirmed its approval of a Clayton easement at Diablo View Middle School for the city of Clayton.

ONLINE
Information about proposed Mt. Diablo district budget cuts is available by calling 925-682-8000, ext. 4000, or by going to http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on March 8. More details about the district's budget are in the On Assignment blog at IBAbuzz.com/onassignment.