members said it might take another $44-million cut to fully balance the
The Huntington Beach Union High School District is expecting to trim
nearly $4 million from its budget by laying off more than 30 employees,
closing two summer schools and cutting back on the program for disabled
And in January, the Irvine Unified School District voted to close an
elementary school and made severe cuts to compensate for a projected
Newport-Mesa Unified School District's sunny financial outlook is
based on moves taken over the last four years to pay off debt and align
the budget with its strategic plan.
"We're very conscientious about the process," trustee Dana Black said.
"We're aligned so every dollar is accounted for."
It wasn't always that way.
The district suffered its share of ups and downs throughout the last
decade as the economy fluctuated between recessions and boom times.
After the county bankruptcy, however, Supt. Robert Barbot worked with
teacher groups and parents to identify ways the district could steel
itself against lean financial times.
The result was the creation of a strategic plan and the alignment of
the budget to that plan, making sure to ferret out any frills, Barbot
The strategic plan also helped the district focus on its priorities,
such as raising test scores, and gave it a leg up in competing for
grants, Barbot explained.
Another top priority was paying off more than $10 million in debt,
Barbot said. The district used money it got back from the bankruptcy to
achieve the goal.
Paying off the debt in turn enabled the district to improve teacher
Another factor working in the district's favor is a trend of
slow-growth over the past few years, trustee Wendy Leece said.
"We've been pretty constant, and the projections have been pretty
accurate," Leece said.
While the district has made it this far without breaking out the
budget ax, Barbot said he is concerned about next year's state budget
because of potential cuts and timing.
"I think it's going to be a late budget, and that worries us," Barbot
A late budget means the board must adopt a district budget based on
guesswork, without knowing how much revenue it actually will have to work
with from the state. The board then must reshuffle its debt when the
state budget is finally adopted, Barbot said.
Gov. Gray Davis' proposed budget called for $487 million in education
program cuts statewide.
* Deirdre Newman covers education. She may be reached at (949)
574-4221 or by e-mail at o7 firstname.lastname@example.org .