Community expresses concern over budget crisis

March 16, 2010 — by Rebecca Nguyen and Anna Shen

The Saratoga community expressed its concern over the district’s budget crisis during the Feb. 25 town hall meeting at the SHS library. Several dozen parents, students and teachers all voiced their worries over the future quality of education at SHS and proposed possible solutions, such as community donations and a parcel tax.

“I believe that the SHS parents, staff, and community will do whatever is necessary to uphold the quality of education at our school,” said parent Shinku Sharma, who is also co-president of the PTSO. “We all value good education for our kids and that has to continue.”

The meeting was led by superintendent Cary Matsuoka, who explained the causes of the worst budget crisis in Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District’s (LGSUHSD’s) history.

Although the district’s worries for the 2010-11 year are slowly decreasing because of a salary freeze, employee layoffs, larger class sizes and pulling money from an emergency fund, its worries for the 2011-12 year are increasing. If property values remain the same, the deficit is projected to be $2 million for 2011-12, and the district would have to consider cutting more deeply into school programs.

This is the first time the district has seriously considered a parcel tax to support programs rather than facilities. This proposal could appear on the November 2010 ballot and would need a two-thirds majority to pass.

“A parcel tax spreads the solution over the whole community, and I think that’s fair,” said principal Jeff Anderson. “People might ask, ‘If we don’t have a kid going to school there, then why should we pay?’ but a good school helps the whole community. People want to live and pay the extra money to live in a community where the schools are well-funded. So [a parcel tax] trickles down to being a very real value for someone in this community, even if they don’t have a kid in this school.”

After the superintendent asked the community for suggestions, parents proposed fund-raising, local donations through a foundation and alternate energy sources.

Despite being in the worst budget crisis in LGSUHSD’s history, many parents continue to remain optimistic and said they want to preserve the education at Saratoga and Los Gatos.

“Parents give their time and talent for the benefit of the school,” said Sharma. “They do their best to support and will continue to do [so].”

However, the parents’ major concerns lie mainly in maintaining a high-quality education for the students. According to Sharma, parents want to “keep cuts away from the classroom” by looking for “other areas that cuts can be made” that do not impact the classrooms.

The district is also trying to further parental involvement by recruiting parents to join a budget advisory committee, which is a committee solely focused on tackling the budget crisis.

“The main reaction [of the parents] was one of concern about what budget deficits might mean as far as their children’s education and class size reduction,” said Anderson. “I think there’s a willingness on a part of the school community, meaning the parents, to tackle the problem and figure out a way to solve it; that is a very positive thing.

The most recent district board meeting is going to be in the SHS library at 6:30 p.m. on March 16.

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