South City schools dig outside the box for funds 

Finding a home may become as easy as sending the kids to school, as the South San Francisco Unified School District looks to construct and sell houses to boost its budget. The Board of Trustees recently discussed a list of unique ideas to generate revenue for the district’s diminished resources.

Board members expressed interest in developing housing on surplus land at Foxridge Elementary School.

“I think it is an out-of-the box idea that we definitely need to consider,” Trustee Maurice Goodman said. “It will create excitement and generate dialogue about what we should be doing about surplus land.”

While not yet in a budget deficit, the South City school district may be approaching the threshold in the next three years, Trustee Phil Weise said. School districts are required to maintain a 3 percent reserve in general funds.

“With a $15 million budget, it’s hard to think about things that will generate enough revenue to make a difference,” Weise said. “We have to explore and refine some things on the list, but we are looking to do anything we can to save money or generate revenue.”

Creating partnerships with other districts, like the San Mateo County Community College District, and hiring a grant writer to work on commission are among the short-term goals discussed in the July 15 meeting.

The prospect of charging students for summer school and transportation to athletic events was met with mixed remarks from board members. Both Weise and Goodman said they would not support the idea because districts are supposed to offer free public education.

The top priority for the district is energy conservation in its schools. In November, voters could be presented with a $162 million bond measure to upgrade classrooms, libraries and athletic fields, repair roofs and add solar panels.

“The bond is my personal favorite idea,” Weise said. “Schools would switch to solar power, saving about $500,000 a year in general fund expenses for utilities.”

The district has also applied for matching funds that would provide a $550,000 to $700,000 rebate over a five-year period. In total, the general fund could gain about $1 million, Weise said.

“I think every idea is worth a second look,” Goodman said. “The first step is to show the community that we are being responsible by exploring all options.”

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Staff Report

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