District’s could cut field trips, close Inverness and Bodega Bay Schools

David Briggs
Closing the Inverness School and halving funds for the district’s groundskeeping are just two of 40 proposals to balance the budget at Shoreline Unified School District.  

An ad hoc committee tasked with trimming $1.2 million from Shoreline’s three-year budget projections is reviewing suggestions for nearly 40 possible cuts or revenue generators, including closing schools, laying off teachers, reducing work days, eliminating benefits, cutting funding for athletics or food and ending summer school.

None of the possible reductions have been decided, but they are being prioritized by the budget committee members—administrators, teachers, secretaries and other classified staff, parents and community members representing all the schools—as recommendations for the principals and superintendent to consider before making final recommendations to the school board.

“This should have happened sooner, but it didn’t,” Superintendent Tom Stubbs said at the start of the meeting Monday afternoon. “I wouldn’t say we are in dire straits, but yes, we are in crisis mode. Every decision we make going forward needs to be in this lens. Things have changed and we all need to have our eyes open to the situation going forward.”

Many wondered how the district was losing money so quickly, with projected losses of $1.6 million each year from 2016 onwards. For years, Shoreline’s finances have relied on haphazard funding from the federal government to make up lost property taxes from the Point Reyes National Seashore and to subsidize the children of Coast Guard and other government employees. But after a final huge windfall last school year of $3.97 million in federal impact aid, the government caught up on its payments and will only provide $1.7 million annually. Now, the school district is expected to run through $6.18 million in reserves into the red by the start of the 2016-17 school year.

Susan Skipp, the district’s chief business official, presented a few scenarios that could keep the district solvent. A wave of 14 expected teacher retirements and a reconfiguration of instructional assistants could eliminate the need for 10 new hires, saving $1.01 million annually by the end of the decade. Yet even that scenario that would still put the district $314,000 in debt by 2016, not fast enough to meet state requirements.

Closing Bodega Bay School and Inverness Schools and combining some classes at West Marin School would stave off bankruptcy over the long term by saving nearly $500,000 from Bodega Bay—expecting 25 students in the 2015-16 school year—and $225,000 from Inverness—expecting 31 students. But the district would lose three teachers to layoffs, likely the newest hires under provisions of state law, in addition to the wave of retirements.

Revising contracts in collective bargaining with the unions to end health benefits for families, meaning only employees would be insured, could save between $800,000 and $950,000.

Other smaller cuts were considered. Slashing the athletic budget by 10 percent would save $15,500, and eliminating busing to games would keep $28,000 in the bank. Eliminating funding for the Walker Creek program and field trips would save $38,500. Ending summer school would preserve $45,000.