Las Virgenes Unified School District Budget Concerns – Calabasas Real Estate Info

By Stephanie Bertholdo

Las Virgenes Unified School District began the new year worried about its shrunken budget, but encouraged by new superintendent Dan Stepenosky’s plan to maintain the district’s high level of achievement.

School started Aug. 22 with student enrollment at 11,300 and 180 days of instruction, numbers that are equal to last year. Stepenosky said nine teaching positions were to be cut until T.H.E. Foundation, a school district fundraising group, gave $200,000 toward saving the jobs. The donation was also used to maintain class sizes in kindergarten through third grades as well as lower class sizes in the middle and high schools, Stepenosky said.

But the real issue for school districts throughout California is what happens in the November election.

“The budget is all about Prop. 30 and 38 on the November ballot,” Stepenosky said. “If they don’t pass, public education is in a new world of hurt. LVUSD would lose $457 per child, or $5 million.”

The district’s budget is down $1.7 million going into the school year compared to the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, the superintendent said.

Prop. 30, the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act, will increase the personal income tax on people who make more than $250,000 a year. The increase would be in effect for seven years starting in 2012. Currently, the personal income tax rate is 9.3 percent, but if the proposition passes, the rate for individuals making $250,000 will jump to 10.3 percent and 12.3 percent for couples making $500,000 or more.

The proposition would also increase the state sales tax by .25 percent, to 7.5 percent for four years.

Proposition 38 would raise all personal income taxes using a sliding scale from 0.4 percent to 2.2 percent, except for the lowest tax bracket. The new tax rate would be effective from 2013 through 2024.

The state is looking at a potential $10-billion jump in tax revenue if Prop. 30 passes and an $11 billion boost if Prop. 38 succeeds. The money would mostly be earmarked for K-12 education.

Karen Kimmel, LVUSD’s chief business official, said if neither proposition passes, the district will have to make mid-year cuts, starting with an up to eight day reduction in the school year.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, Stepenosky’s goals for the next year include five focus areas. Topping the list are student achievement and making the most of resources, including parentfaculty groups, foundations, cityschool partnerships and the new performing arts centers at Agoura and Calabasas high schools.

Teacher and staff development is also a goal, and Stepenosky hopes to create a new position— Director of Classified—to facilitate the work between the district office, schools and support staff.

Another goal is to have more collaboration among the district leaders. Stepenosky wants communication to be strengthened and the focus of board meetings to be evaluated. He’s also hoping to improve communication with task forces and public relations efforts.

At Calabasas High School, Principal C.J. Foss was pleased with the opening week of school.

“ The seniors stormed the campus, claiming it the year of the Class of 2013,” she said.

“Over the summer, the track and lockers were refurbished, and the windows and roofs of the performing arts education centers were completed,” Foss said.

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