After months of debate and study, the Saddleback Valley Unified School District is expected to take final action tonight on a $2.3-million reduction plan, including an increase in transportation fees and a controversial proposal to change high school enrollment boundaries.
Officials say most of the issues are tied to the district's bleak budget picture, which includes a shortfall that has unexpectedly grown from $3.2 million to about $8 million. "These are not easy decisions," Board of Trustees President Raghu P. Mathur said.
In an effort to balance next year's $109-million budget, the trustees are considering a $2.3-million reduction plan that would include eliminating possibly two positions and cutbacks in office and equipment costs. Another $5.6 million to cover the shortfall would probably come from the district's $8.1-million reserve.
Last week, board members tentatively decided not to lay off several guidance counselors and librarians as proposed and pledged to save elementary school music and instrumental programs and an elementary school reading program.
But the reduction plan still includes transportation fee increases for bus rides to and from school and to extra-curricular activities, such as sports and marching band events.
At recent meetings, parents have complained about the proposal to raise the cost of bus passes from $150 to $365 per year. With the increase, the district could recover its transportation costs rather than using funds that might otherwise be spent in the classroom, Mathur said.
In another emotional issue, hundreds of parents and students have protested a proposed change in high school boundary lines to cope with growth, especially for crowded Trabuco Hills High School.
"Parents, particularly from Portola Hills, have wanted to send their kids to Trabuco Hills High School," Mathur said. "But the fact of the matter is, in the next nine years, there's just no way we can accommodate all these students."
If boundary changes were not made, more than 4,000 students would be attending Trabuco Hills High School by the end of the century, officials said. The school is only designed to handle about 1,800 students.
About 150 students would immediately be affected by a boundary change, and more than 1,000 students would attend El Toro and Mission Viejo high schools rather than Trabuco Hills High School in the next nine years under the proposal.
Also, the change in boundary lines would save the district about $1.7 million in the next nine years by lessening the need for portable classrooms, according to a business services division report.