Officials hope parents, citizens can mend budget woes 

Faced with slashing between $1.7 million and $2.1 million from the 2007-08 district budget, Redwood City School District officials are hoping parents and residents will help point the way.

This month, Redwood City School District officials are holding two workshops with residents to discuss budget options and take input on where cuts should be made, trustee Shelly Masur said.

The district has struggled with a structural deficit since May 2005, when Redwood City voters rejected Measure V, an $85 parcel tax designed to raise $3 million for the elementary-school system, Masur said.

While the board has continued to make cuts and draw money from district reserves, it also may drop the positions of five teachers scheduled to retire this year and spend special-education funds more efficiently.

In March, the district approved a contract with its teachers union that included a 6.5 percent salary increase starting March 1, and a 4.5 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2006. Administrators could not be reached Monday to estimate how much those increases will cost the district.

However, declining enrollment — not increased salaries — is the reason behind reducing some teacher positions, said Sandy Hoover, president of the Redwood City Teachers Association.

"When we negotiated, we left money on the table for the classified staff," Hoover said. "We didn’t take it all. We don’t want to benefit at somebody else’s expense."

Although some schools in the district, such as Roy Cloud, have experienced overcrowding, districtwide enrollment has declined. Redwood City saw 8,527 students attend its elementary schools in 2006-07, down from 8,837 in 2005-06, according to the California Department of Education. The all-time mark of 9,328 was reached in the 1998-99 school year.

With a 1.5 percent deficit, Redwood City is treading water, unlike the San Mateo Union High School District, which is facing a debt of $74 million, or the San Carlos School District, which has an extra $2 million left from a construction bond approved by voters in 2005.

The Redwood City Education Foundation, an independent fundraising agency for the district, may be able to shoulder some of the financial burden but is prevented from funding teacher salaries or buying textbooks, RCEF president Georgia Jack said. In the last two years, RCEF raised nearly $600,000 for district programs; it aims to raise another $300,000 by July.

Redwood City School District officials will hold two public workshops to discuss budget-reduction options, including one April 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Roosevelt School, and one April 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Taft School.

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Beth Winegarner

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