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Budget Cuts Inevitable
Susan Miller | Oakridge Cove

Graphic Art Olson

The possible closure of Del Mar Hills Academy, an award-winning and beloved local elementary school, has been a difficult topic for many parents. It is understandable that the community is upset about this-–after all, many of us love the unique, intimate school setting where our children thrive each day.

However, we’re losing sight of the larger issue at stake in this debate, which is not simply whether to close Del Mar Hills or any other school in the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD). It is that, as community members, we need to recognize the budget trouble we face as a district and make our voices heard in decisions regarding overall educational priorities, helping determine how DMUSD should spend its entire budget and thereby shape its future. Becoming involved in the solution is more critical now than ever before, given the rapid erosion of our district’s revenue and resulting dwindling resources.

DMUSD has recently been hit by two major economic factors providing a clear warning of significant deficit spending during the next several years:
1) Property tax revenues, which make up about 80% of the district’s revenue, are dramatically reduced due to the lack of new development in Carmel Valley, rapidly declining home sales, and property tax reassessments requested by residents, which result in lower assessed values.

2) DMUSD needs to return $2.5 million (not an insignificant chunk of its approximately $40 million budget) to the State (a so-called “fairshare giveback”), lest it risk losing its favored “Basic Aid” district status in the future.

Some have dismissed the current financial warnings as a district scare tactic and joined forces, focused on preventing school closure. Others, acknowledging the inevitability of future budget cuts, have begun to ask, what else is at risk if we don’t consider all options? Is it really such a bad thing to consider combining the Hills and the Heights, two schools with sterling reputations, yet excess capacity, located in the same general neighborhood? It’s no one’s first choice, but this difficult option must be at least included in the discussion in these exceedingly tough economic times. Better to face the ongoing reality of the local and state budget crisis and help shape a successful solution to ensure what we value most – preserving Del Mar’s educational excellence.

Some complain that school closure is unfair to the west of I-5 community, but as district representatives confirmed, there is no reason that those of us west of I-5 should feel singled out. The pain will be felt district-wide through likely program cuts in science, art, music, and P.E., class size increases, staff reductions, and more.
Let’s put all cost-savings ideas into the mix, weigh in with what we value most, and move forward as an entire community of neighboring families making difficult choices together. We - and most importantly - our children, will be better for it.

 

 
 

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