Bassett prepares for proposed budget cuts

With Governor Schwarzenneger’s proposed budget cuts looming over school districts throughout the state, talks of preparing for them have begun in many local valley districts. One of them is Bassett Unified School District which serves a large unincorporated area in Los Angeles County with portions of the City of Industry, La Puente and Whittier.

Though the district is doing well now, if the proposed 10 percent budget cuts go through legislature, the district is expected to be at a deficit within the next two to three years. A public meeting is scheduled next month to discuss options and possibilites if they are faced with these cuts that are expected to continue over the next few years.

The following is from a press release sent on Feb. 8 by Jeff Schenkel, South Coast Media Services, (626) 339-8824, jeffschenkel@verizon.net:


Bassett school board begins $1.7 million budget cut review process prompted by proposed state budget cuts, declining enrollment

The Board of the Bassett Unified School District last night in a special meeting to convene an open Board study session on the District budget initiated a lengthy review process that will consider as much as $1.7 million in budget cuts for next year due to the likelihood of the elimination of $4 billion to education in the state budget coupled with on-going declining enrollment at Bassett.

Budget-reducing tactics presented to the Board were wide-ranging and included literally every aspect of the Districts operation from the elimination of individual positions and programs to the closure of an entire school.

The Boards review process is leading up to a “town hall” meeting to receive comments, input and suggestions from residents, teachers and staff scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday, March 15 at Edgewood Academy, 14135 Fairgrove Avenue, La Puente.

Jim Ballard, the Districts Assistant Superintendent for Business, told the Board that a single school closure alone which could be justified based on the loss of some 1,000 students over the past four years would save the District between $800,000 and $1 million per year.

He explained that even if a school were closed, the District would recommend designating the facility for alternative education uses.

Superintendent Robert I. Watanabe told the Board that Bassett, which serves a population area of roughly 45,000, is in sound financial condition, received a positive budget review from the Los Angeles County Office of Education, and maintains more than its legally mandated 3 percent of its budget in reserve funds. However, he said declining enrollment and resulting loss of “per student” funding is a problem throughout California and across the country, leading to layoffs and school closures everywhere.

He added that literally every school district in California is working non-stop on contingency plans in the event the governors total $15 billion budget-cutting proposal makes its way through the legislature.

The governors proposal, he said, includes a 10 percent budget cut throughout the state, the early release of some 22,000 prison inmates, the elimination of probation officers serving some 19,000 probationers, and the closure of 46 to 47 state parks and beaches.

“So we know this is serious,” Watanabe said.

Even so, he said that “anything can happen” and that the District simply is “hoping for the best and planning for the worst.”

Ballard told the Board that without any correction at all, he would expect the District to be operating at a deficit of more than $300,000 a year by the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

He also pointed out that the District has received inquiries from developers interested in purchasing the old Flanner Elementary School campus which was closed in June 1989 but has been used since for Adult School Education programs and Adult School administrative offices. The District may be able to sell the property for as much as $10 million.

“If the Board did decide to sell that school, then they would have a variety of options . . . (and with) the impact of $10 million in our budget over a period of time wed be able to ride out whatever storm were having . . . and it could vastly change the landscape of our financial picture here for the future,” Ballard said.

He also said the latest information from the state indicates that the proposed state cuts could be expected to continue over a two to three year period, resulting in a total loss to the District of as much as $12 million.

The District is reviewing all options at this point due to statutory requirements to notify teachers by March 15 and classified employees by April 15 of possible layoffs in the 2008-2009 school year.

Bassett serves about 5,200 students in four elementary schools, a K-8 school, one grades 6 – 8 middle school, one comprehensive high school, a continuation high school, and an adult education program serving about 7,500 full and part-time students.

For more information, contact the District office at (626) 931-3000 or visit the Bassett Unified School District web site at http://www.bassett.k12.ca.us.

- We will keep an eye on Bassett and other districts during these proposed budget cuts and keep you posted. Check back for updates.