With the defeat of Measure E, Alameda school district trustees now are getting ready to close schools to save money. But last month's tight election result has also led them to ask Superintendent Kirsten Vital to look at placing another parcel tax before voters in the spring.
Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to ask Vital to develop cost-saving recommendations — including shuttering some campuses at the end of the next school year — for them to begin considering in September.
The district is facing $7.2 million in overall cuts this school year alone due to shrinking state funding and the defeat of Measure E, which would have generated $14 million annually for the district over eight years.
On Tuesday, Vital warned the projected shortfall could go even higher as a result of the uncertainty in Sacramento, which provides most of the district's budget.
"These are moving targets," she said.
Closing a high school would save about $1.1 million, according to district officials. Closing a middle school would save about $575,000.
Trustee Mike McMahon said he wants to put off closing any school "as late as humanly possible" in light of the uncertainty of state funding. But Vital said she did not know if current budget constraints would allow much flexibility.
Public hearings also will not provide enough community consensus given the depth of potential cuts, which next year also include increasing some class sizes and
"We are going to need to have different ways of collecting that feedback from people (as we go forward)," she told trustees.
Measure E needed a two-thirds majority to pass. The mail-in ballot secured 65.62 percent, which supporters told trustees Tuesday underscored that most residents want schools funded.
An economic turnaround by next spring could help push another parcel tax over the top, Board President Ron Mooney said.
Maintaining neighborhood schools — which could be the first on the chopping block due to their smaller size — is essential for the district, McMahon said.
"The integrity of this community is based on the ability to walk our kids to school and not ship them off to factories," McMahon said, adding that he would support putting another parcel tax before voters.
A future tax likely would go on the ballot in March. No dollar amount was discussed Tuesday.
State lawmakers have cut public school funding by $17 billion over the last two budget years, which has forced districts such as Alameda to eliminate jobs and programs. Despite the cuts, local school officials are still required to show they have a balanced budget for three years and could face state sanctions if they cannot.
The Alameda school district's current parcel taxes, known as Measures A and H, generate $7.3 million annually. They will sunset in two years.
As a result, the district's projected shortfall for the 2012-2013 school year totals about $11.3 million.
Among the possible cuts on the table are closing up to four elementary schools, which would save $1.2 million, and a salary rollback among all employees to save $4.2 million, according to district officials.
Any change in salaries, however, must first be negotiated with the unions that represent teachers and other district workers.
Tom Lynch, president of the PTA at Bay Farm Elementary School, said trustees should look at floating a bond measure for the construction of new schools as a way to provide more long-term stability.
"You got a lot of people who are burned out," Lynch said. "Give us a vision and give us new schools."
Trustees said the bond idea was worth exploring.
But they also said it would not help now as they wrestle with money problems.
"That, in my opinion, is a five-year process," said Mooney, who noted that even a site for a new school must be worked out under a bond proposal.