2017-08-11 / Front Page

Moorpark Unified continues work on reducing costs

Chief business officer says district is ‘right-sizing’—GATE program suspended
by Jessica Waite

Faced with the ongoing problem of declining enrollment, Moorpark Unified School District officials continue to make budget cuts intended to right-size the district. 

The school board voted unanimously to adopt cost reductions of $305,000 for the upcoming school year at a special budget study session Aug. 2.

The district has suspended its Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) program and won’t be filling over a dozen positions that have been vacated over the last year by staff who’ve moved, budget—it accounted twice for one employee who works at two locations—resulted in $40,000 in savings.

“We have not reduced our workforce by releasing employees,” said Anne Gibson, assistant superintendent of business services. “We’ve been right-sizing the district and we will continue to do so.”

An error discovered in the budgetit accounted twice for one employee who works at two locations—resulted in $40,000 in savings.

Toward the end of the 2016- 17 school year, MUSD was put on notice by the Ventura County Office of Education for dipping into its state-mandated reserves. School districts in California are required to leave at least 3 percent of their budget in reserves.

Superintendent Kelli Hays said the district submitted its board-adopted budget and Local Control Accountability Plan to the VCOE in June. VCOE has until Sept. 15 to approve, conditionally approve or disapprove the district’s budget.

MUSD’s former interim chief business officer Pearl Iizuka said in March she feels the budget is in a “very positive” position. Still, there are challenges.

“Clearly there have been financial issues in the state of California, and every district is struggling with them,” Gibson said. “This is really about budget planning. We can’t wait until next year or the year after to start planning for next year or the year after.”

The adjustments presented at the study session will be applied over the next three school years and total over $1 million in savings.

The cuts will have minimal impact on the quality of education overall, Gibson said.

“We did not increase class size. We did not cut art teachers. We did not cut music programs,” Gibson said. “We do not want to affect the quality of the instruction for our children.”

She said the GATE program was suspended only after careful deliberations by the staff. District officials decided that the benefits of the GATE program are achieved by other existing programs, such as the clustering of high-achieving students at the K-5 level, honors courses at the middle schools, and Advanced Placement classes at the high school.

The district expects to spend about $62.3 million and bring in just over $60 million in revenue. Gibson said the deficit is covered by savings and money carried over from the 2016-17 school year that doesn’t get counted as revenue.

“It’s not just cutting, cutting, cutting. It’s that we’re right-sizing. We’re being prudent. We’re being fiduciarily responsible with the public’s money,” Gibson said.

Enrollment numbers have declined as the population of Moorpark grows older, she said. In addition, utility costs and the cost of living have increased in the area, which make running a school more expensive.

Gibson emphasized that despite cost reductions, the district is still thriving. Four of its schools have been named Gold Ribbon Schools, a designation given by the state of California for adherence to academic standards, and Moorpark High School is one of 23 Exemplary Arts Program Award recipients in the state.

“The adjustments make the school district stronger. The sky is not falling,” Gibson said.

Return to top