School Board Budget Decision

The Menifee Union School District, this evening, voted to close down Menifee Elementary School for the 2008/09 school year, as well as cutting elementary counseling and elementary busing, in response to the Governor's proposal to reduce public school spending.

The decision came after last week's Board meeting where district staff announced that the reduction of state funds would translate to a $10 million deficit for our district. To make up that $10 million, the district was able to trim $5.68 million from various funds, including the elimination of several unfilled positions. In addition, they found they qualified for a $2 million grant from the State for being a multi-track school.

That still left the district with another $2.32 million to make up.

In last week's meeting (link), the district staff listed several services that could be cut to make up that deficit, but would require discussion from the Board, as well as public input.

This evening, the Board voted to cut the following...

  1. Close Menifee Elementary for 2008/09 ($509,557)

  2. Elimination of elementary counseling ($310,000)

  3. Eliminate elementary school busing ($1,600,000)

This totals up to $2,419,557.

The district also voted to offer limited elementary busing just for those students of Menifee Elementary that would have to be moved to Chester W Morrison. This would add $60,000 back on to the budget, reducing the savings to $2,359,557

Add that to the $5.68 million they already cut, and the $2 million in state grants, that gives us a total of $10,039,557. The exact figure is actually $10,035,293.

The Meeting

The Multi-Purpose Room of Menifee Middle School was about filled to capacity, and many more parents attended. The meeting spent about 90 minutes hearing comments from the public.

Quite a few parents, and children themselves, stepped up the podium, and implored the Board to keep Menifee Elementary School (MES) open. One girl wore a t-shirt with the words, "Save MES" painted in red. Other parents belted out the point that it made no sense to close MES after voters passed Measure B, raising taxes to build three more schools. Other parents pointed out that MES was recently nominated for California Distinguished School, and it would send the wrong message to shut it down.

The Board's decision to close down MES was made possible because of their decision to open up both Quail Valley and Southshore Elementaries. Students living Quail Valley currently attend MES, and therefore opening up Quail Valley would drop MES' enrollment low enough that it didn't warrant keeping it open. Other students now attending MES would be moved to Chester W Morrison Elementary.

Eliminating elementary busing was also made possible by the opening of Quail Valley and Southshore. A large chunk of busing expenses comes from transporting Quail Valley students to MES, and by opening up Quail Valley Elementary it makes a lot easier to eliminate busing altogether.

But because moving other MES students over to Chester W Morrison would create a transportation hardship for some families, the Board decided to offer elementary busing just for these students. Assistant Superintendent Dan Wood said that it would cost $60,000 over the 2008-2010 school years to offer this limited service.

The decision to cut elementary counseling appeared to have been an easy one. Even though the Board decided not to cut it last week, all five Board members were singing a different tune this week. Trustee Giardinelli said he had attended four elementary schools this past week, and spoke to several teachers who said that counseling was not well utilized, and that there's a heavy turn-over of counselors. Elementary counselors are currently provided by a contractor.

The District Administration added that they could delay their salary increases for the 2008/09 year, which would result in a savings of $90,000. However, it wasn't needed. But the Board voted to keep that on the table, for future considerations.

The issue of the reserves was frequently discussed. Trustee Twyman explained to the audience that the 15% reserve figure was something that existed before the District finalized its recent contract negotiations with the Menifee Teachers Association. That cut the reserves down to about 10.5%. That still left the District with 7.5% of reserves above the state minimum of 3%. He explained that the district administration already raided that 7.5% to come up with the $5.68 million of cost cutting. By law, they can't use the 3% to pay for normal operating costs.

Several parents and teachers suggested the "Golden Handshake", which is offering older teachers an early retirement. The district said that they already studied this at length, and that it would not result in cost savings. Assistant Superintendent Gil Compton said that he met with a consultant that offers these types of retirement packages, and they advised it would not make fiscal sense. It short, to encourage older teachers to retire early, they would have to offer large enough sums of money, that it would negate any cost savings.

The June 30 Deadline Factor

Trustee Twyman spoke to the audience to explain that the Governor's recommendation to cut back public school spending by 10% is simply a recommendation. It's ultimately up to the State Legislature to decide if they want to accept that recommendation. The Legislature is required by law to adopt a new budget by July 1, and it could very well be that they'll vote to make no cuts at all.

Trustee Giardinelli addressed the audience by saying that even though the State is required to have a budget in place by July 1, they'll likely not have one in place until months later, perhaps September, or even December. However, the School District does not have the luxury of postponing its budget.

Giardinelli went on to point out that if the State postpones its budget, the District is still required to move forward on its recommended budget cuts, as of July 1.

Trustee Twyman used this fact to argue that any cuts they make ought to be ones that can be quickly and easily reversed, should the State vote to make no school budget cuts. Therefore, he had recommended they keep MES open, on the grounds that once kids are moved over to Chester W Morrison, it would be logistically difficult (and expensive) to move them back over to MES. So he instead voted to cut middle school counseling, arguing that they could quickly reinstate it. Ultimately, he was outvoted.

The Next Step

Last night's meeting was pretty much it. All eyes are now on the State Legislature to see if they'll adopt the Governor's recommendations.

The School District is asking everyone to write or telephone our local state legislators and implore them not to make any cuts in school funding. You can contact them here...

State Senator, 36th District - Dennis Hollingsworth
27555 Ynez Road, Suite 204, Temecula CA 92591
Phone: (951) 676 1020
Fax: (951) 676 1030

State Assemblyman, 66th District - Kevin Jeffries
27555 Ynez Road, Suite 205, Temecula CA 92591
Phone: (951) 699 1113
Fax: (951) 694 1039

School District Budget Cuts Discussed

This evening, the Menifee Union School District discussed budget cuts, and talked about which services will be getting axed in the coming years.

Parents are going to want to read this.

It was a well-attended meeting, but mostly attended by teachers and faculty.

Among those services discussed: busing, counseling, music, class size reduction, and even shutting down one of the schools entirely.

Some decisions were made by the Board of Trustees at this meeting, but overall, no final decision will be made until next week's meeting.

Included in the presentation, were recommendations from the district administration on what services could be cut, and how much money could be saved by making those cuts.

Eliminating "class size reduction" for grades K, 1, 2, and 3, could result in savings of $1.7 million during the 2008/09 and 2009/10 school years. Class size reduction refers to attempts made by the district in previous years to reduce class sizes, resulting in better education for kids, and making teachers' jobs more easier. By undoing these attempts, class sizes would grow larger, but would result in cost savings for the district.

Many teachers in the audience walked up to the podium to voice their displeasure for eliminating class size reduction, and urged the Board to not make budget cuts in the classrooms. The Board made a decision not to eliminate class size reduction for all grades K, 1, 2, and 3 combined, but left the possibility to eliminate it for just K or 3, or both.

Also discussed quite seriously was to completely eliminate school busing, either for elementary, middle school, or both. Cutting elementary busing would result in a savings of $1.5 million over the 2008/09 and 2009/10 school years, while cutting middle school busing would result in $1.6 million. Dan Wood, assistant superintendent, said that eliminating both would result in only $1.8 million savings, because buses and staffing are shared between the two school levels.

It's also worth noting that the district administration said that eliminating school busing has the adverse effect of lowering school attendance. This was an interesting point because it would lower the district's "average daily attendance", and would result in lower state contributions.

Trustee Irey asked Dan Wood if they could find more money by raising the school bus fees. Wood answered that he already studied it, and raising the fee from $190 a year to $220 a year would result in extra income of $40,000 a year tops.

Closing down Menifee Elementary School for the 2008/09 school year was also seriously considered, and would result in a savings of $590,557. Students and teachers would be absorbed into other schools. The Board decided they would leave this option open, and won't make a decision until next week.

Another serious budget cutting move was to delay the opening of the new Quail Valley and Southshore Elementary Schools for one year, resulting in a savings of $1.1 million. The teachers in the audience were very supportive of this option, giving applause every time it was mentioned. However, Trustee Giardinelli made a case for taking this option off the table, citing the fact that they already promised the parents new school boundaries for the 2008/09 school year. However, it's still being left open as an option.

Eliminating music from the school curriculum was discussed, and a few teachers voiced their displeasure for cutting it out. Cutting it out would result in a savings of $600,000. However, the Board decided it would not cut music.

It was also decided not to cut counseling at all. A proposal called for cutting out counseling completely from elementary, and reducing it 50% from middle schools, would result in a combined savings of $730,000. However, both teachers and counselors made emotional pleas to leave it alone. The Board agreed.

One teacher addressed the Board by suggesting that they delay the adoption of new text books, and that this could save the district some money. However, assistant superintendent, Karen Valdes responded that the State has certain laws in effect that require school districts to maintain certain standards in textbooks, and that where the district is at right now, there simply is no way they can delay new adoptions.

One parent addressed the Board by saying that the presentation didn't include salary cuts from the school administration, which resulted in a loud applause from the audience.

Gil Compton, another assistant superintendent, pointed out that across the school district, they spend approximately $400,000 a year making photocopies. Compare that to the $590,000 the district would save by shutting down Menifee Elementary for one year.

The Budget Shortfall

Today's budget meeting resulted from last January when the Governor announced a $14.5 billion shortfall of state income, and recommended a 10% cutback on public school spending. The Governor issued guidelines to all school districts on what to expect, so that they could determine how this 10% cutback would translate to each district.

Menifee Union used this guideline, and determined that they would realize a $10 million loss in state contributions over three years, beginning with the current year (2007/08).

To make up for this projected $10 million in losses, the district administration was able to identify $5.68 million in savings by eliminating several teaching positions, most of which are unfilled, as well administrative positions. It also included reduced spending in various places, like safety, operations, technology, furniture, and facilities maintenance.

They also found that they could apply for a special State grant of $2 million just because the district is currently on a multi-track schedule. By obtaining that $2 million, it raises the savings up to $7.68 million.

The district still needs another $2.32 million in cost cutting to nullify the $10 million in projected state losses. To achieve this, the school district suggested cutting some services, but because these services have a direct impact on students, it necessitated discussion by the Board, and public input.

These services I already discussed above, but here they are again (with savings in parentheses)...

  1. Elimination of Class Size Reduction for grades K and 3 ($848,000)

  2. Elimination of Class Size Reduction for grades K, 1, 2, and 3 ($1,708,856)

  3. Elimination of elementary counseling ($310,000)

  4. Reduce middle school counseling by 50% ($420,000)

  5. Elimination of elementary music ($600,000)

  6. Eliminate elementary school busing ($1,500,000)

  7. Close Menifee Elementary for 2008/09 ($590,557)

  8. Delay opening of Quail Valley and Southshore Elementaries until 2009/10 ($1,106,290)

The Board voted to remove items 2, 3, 4, and 5 from discussion, meaning that they were not an option for cost cutting, but also note that this still leaves item #1 open for discussion.

The Board also discussed another option, to go ahead and open up Quail Valley Elementary, but convert it into a K-8 school, meaning combining both elementary and middle schools into one. The reason for this is because a huge chunk of the school busing costs involves transporting Quail Valley students. So, if the new Quail Valley school could accomodate both elementary and middle school, the district could completely eliminate busing from Quail Valley.

Assistant superintendent Gil Compton remarked that it's not a given there would be any cost savings by combining two school levels into one school, and that any savings from eliminating busing could be negated by the higher school operating costs.

Assistant superintendent Dan Wood remarked that not only are losing money due to the State income shortfall, but we're also getting less per-student spending because student enrollments are down. The foreclosure problem, and the rising unemployment rates have dropped student enrollment by 300 at the beginning of the school year, though the district has recovered much of that since then.

Trustee Giardinelli commented that the district could stop watering and mowing the lawns. But Trustee Irey responded that it would cost them a lot more to restore the lawns once economy gets back into shape.

Next Meeting

The Board of Trustees is expected to make a final decision on eliminating busing, eliminating class size reduction for kindergarten and/or 3rd grade, closing down Menifee Elementary, delaying the opening of Quail Valley and Southshore Elementaries, and the rest of the budget nightmare, next week, on February 26, at Menifee Valley Middle School, 4:00pm.

There will be a public comment session before the Board makes it final decision.

In the meantime, the Board would love to hear comments from the public on cost-cutting ideas and sources for untapped revenue.

Join the 3rd Annual Menifee Cancer Relay for Life-

Have you or a family member been affected by Cancer? If so, join the Menifee Community for the 3rd Annual Menifee Relay for Life. Start your own team or join an existing team. Last year, the Menifee Relay had 24 teams and raised more than $15,000 to help the American Cancer Society raise money for cancer research. This year, our goal is $30,000 minimum! The life you help save may be your own!

When? Saturday May 10th, 9AM
Where? Paloma Valley High School

Teams should consist of 12 or more members. Each member will walk about 2 hours or less so that each team will have a member on the track during the 24 hour relay. Teams can consist or friends, family members, co-workers or neighbors! Start your team today.

To view a video from last year's relay, Click Here.

Menifee School Budget Meeting

The Menifee Union School District Board of Trustees is holding a public meeting to discuss possible sources for additional revenue as well as budget cuts in response to the Governor's recommendation of making a 10% cutback in State spending.

The district staff will be making a presentation on their proposed cuts and revenue sources. The board will not make a final decision at this meeting.

The meeting will be held this Tuesday, February 19, in the Multi-purpose Room of Menifee Valley Middle School, at 4:00pm.

The public will be allowed make comments. There will be a comment session before the presentation, and another after the presentation.

View Larger Map

Movies in the Park - Vendors Wanted

Due to last year's huge success of the Movies in the Park events, which were organized by the Riverside County Economic Development Agency, the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce is jumping on board to sell vendor booths.

Local area businesses are being sought to purchase a vendor space on site.

There will be four movie events this year, all being hosted at La Ladera Park. Businesses and organizations interested in purchasing a vendor space must commit to buying a space at all four events.

Dates for the movie events are: May 23, June 27, July 25, August 22. These are all Fridays.

A 10ft by 10ft space is going for $50.00 per movie event, or $35.00 if your business is a member of the Chamber. You can also purchase a banner at the event for $25.00

Food vendor booths have higher fees, $75.00, or $50.00 for Chamber members.

Non-profit organizations can get booths for $35.00, or $25.00 for Chamber members.

Vendors must provide their own tables and equipment. No electricity provided.

If interested, click on the link below to download the application form, print it out, fill it out, and send it in.

Canyon Hills Elementary Students

Canyon Hills is the community on the far-eastern reaches of Lake Elsinore. It's most visible from Railroad Canyon Rd and Canyon Hills Rd, where the Longs Drug Store is.

Most of that community is served by the Lake Elsinore Unified School District, with students attending Cottonwood Canyon Elementary School. However a chuck of those homes at the far-eastern edge is within the Menifee Union School District, served by Evans Ranch Elementary.

Just last week, a family from Mission Viejo, located in Orange County, moved into the Canyon Hills community, but in the area served by Menifee Union. The mother of the family attended the Menifee Union School Board meeting this evening and addressed the Board of Trustees asking if her child could leave the district and attend Cottonwood Canyon.

Her argument, basically, is that several other kids living in the same neighborhood, about 10-12 others, including her nephew, all attend Cottonwood Canyon. All of these kids live inside the Menifee Union School District, but their parents mistakenly applied them to Lake Elsinore Unified. What's worse is that Lake Elsinore Unified didn't catch this.

canyon hills map
Click map to see a larger size

In the map above, the red line is the border between Menifee Union School District and Lake Elsinore Unified School District. The darker gray shaded area is the City of Lake Elsinore. The light red shaded area is where the 10-12 kids reside. They're now attending Cottonwood Canyon, but should be attending Evans Ranch.

Trustee Peters noted that each child brings in state money. I don't know specifically how much, but I do know it's between $5,000 and $10,000 per year. If 10-12 Menifee Union kids are attending Lake Elsinore Unified, then that means our district has lost anywhere from $50,000 to $120,000 a year because of this convenience. If we had those students in Menifee schools, that extra money could pay for staffing and facilities.

Compounding the matter, Governor Schwarzenegger is recommending a 10% cutback in public school spending, which will cause Menifee Union to make cutbacks in services. We need those 10-12 students at Evans Ranch.

The mother, of course, is arguing on the stand point that it's much easier for her to drive her child to Cottonwood Canyon than to Evans Ranch. It's always tough to argue against hardship, but then again, we just recently voted for higher taxes to pay for more schools, and here we find out that some $50,000 to $120,000 that supposed to be ours is leaking out to another district.

In the Board Meeting, Dan Wood, assistant superintendent, explained that he's already been in contact with his counterpart at Lake Elsinore Unified, and it sounds like those students will be allowed to finish out the year at Cottonwood Canyon, but will transfer to Evans Ranch next year.

Menifee Union is planning to build an elementary school within that far-eastern area of Cottonwood Canyon.

Menifee School Boundary Changes

At the MUSD Board Meeting this evening, the board of trustees voted to adopt a modified version of the boundary changes.

Basically, the boundary changes will take effect for all elementary schools except for Ridgemoor Elementary. Ridgemoor's existing boundaries will remain in effect for at least the 2008-2009 school year.

The board chose from a total of four options...

  • Proposal 1 - which has Menifee Hills students living south of Honey Run Rd to attend Quail Valley Elementary School

  • Proposal 2 - which allows Menifee Hills students to stay at Ridgemoor, but move students living behind Stater Bros to Evans Ranch Elementary

  • Proposal 3 - which adopts boundary changes for all schools, except leave Ridgemoor's boundaries unchanged

  • Proposal 4 - postpone boundary changes until after they discuss budget changes this March

All five Trustees voiced their favor for Proposal 3, however Trustee Peters noted that Proposal 4 would be best since the upcoming budget changes could result in a loss of school busing for some students. Trustee Giardinelli responded that he has seen the budget proposals and he doesn't see anything that would change his preference for Proposal 3. Trustees Irey and O'Donnell noted that the heavy turnout and high emotions running at the Jan 14 meeting at Ridgemoor, could not be overlooked.

Trustee Twyman asked Assistant Superintendent Wood about the feasibility of the "attrition plan" that Todd Reed suggested here on Menifee 24/7 (link). Mr. Wood responded that it's not clear that an enrollment reduction by attrition would occur because of some unknown factors, primarily student growth in the community. Trustee Giardinelli responded that Ridgemoor's attendance is pretty much grown out with Sun City and Menifee Hills already being fully built. Mr. Wood noted that there's actually more construction on the way in the north-west sector of Sun City.

It's also worth noting that what the Trustees voted on today are the boundaries for the 2008-2009 school year, and that the year after that it'll probably change again.

At the end of the board meeting, Superintendent Linda Callaway announced that Callie Kirkpatrick and Menifee Elementary Schools have been nominated for "California Distinguished School".

Names Chosen for New Elementary Schools

This evening at the Menifee Union School District Board of Trustees meeting, names were chosen for the two new elementary schools.

"Quail Valley Elementary School" was the name chosen for School #8. They noted that in the voting process, another name "Quail Ridge Elementary School" had actually received the same number of votes, but that "Quail Valley" eventually won the tie breaker. The "Quail Ridge" name came about as a cross between Quail Valley and the canyon ridges that dominated the landscape in Quail Valley.

In my opinion, "Quail Valley" is a better choice since Menifee Cityhood will incorporate Quail Valley, and hence the community of Quail Valley will likely lose its namesake as a result. Thus, Quail Valley Elementary School will be one of the few fixtures that the community will have left to remind itself of its origins.

"Southshore Elementary School" is the name for School #11. The name is derived from the street its located on, Southshore Drive. Lynne Hanke, its new Principal, is apparently already busy incorporating a "Mariners" theme.

Arts Night at Menifee Valley Middle School

February 20th; 6 - 8 PM, A special program to showcase the Arts
You have your opinions and views: "Yes" or "No" on the school bond; teachers overpaid or underpaid; the school curriculum on target or not, etc. What ever your views, kids are our future. Come see what hundreds of our local kids are doing. Their efforts in the Arts will be showcased on this special evening and you are invited. Instrumental Music: Symphonic and Jazz Bands
The Visual Arts, Computer Technology Showcase, The Menifee Eagle Choirs, and more! Menifee Valley Middle School 26255 Garbani Road. See other details on the online student newsletter.

Measure B Bond Results

Measure B passes.

As of 10;41am, Wednesday, 100.00% of the precinct votes have been tallied, and the count for Measure B...

Yes: 7,095 56.90%
No: 5,375 43.10%

Total 12,470 100.00%

The bond measure needed at least a 55% yes vote to pass.

Kaiser Permanente Gets Hospital in IE

Thousands of Kaiser Permanente subscribers living in Riverside County are finally going to get a Kaiser hospital. They're going to buy Moreno Valley Medical Center from Valley Health System.

According to the Valley Chronicle (link), Select Healthcare, which had tried to buy all three hospitals from VHS, has backed out of its agreement to buy Moreno Valley, which paves the way for Kaiser to buy it...
Cutler said he agreed to allow Kaiser to buy the hospital from VHS for $47.1 million, $14 million of which will go to Select to cover the down payment Select made before the election. Kaiser will also pay $6 million to Select for the purchase option.
Because the sale involves less than 50% of VHS' assets, it does not require a public ballot.

So this means that VHS will be left with two hospitals, one in Hemet and the other in Menifee.

If I'm not mistaken, VHS could then sell off Menifee without requiring a public ballot either, since it would then be less than 50% of total assets. So in end, while voters voted against privatizing VHS' hospitals, it could very well end up that way anyways.

Menifee School Lunch Programs

The Californian reported that Menifee schools removed some beef from its cafeterias, after an animal rights group made claims that abused cows may have diseased meat...
The society claims those actions are not only cruel, but that meat from "downed cows" carries an increased risk of disease. Hallmark supplies Westland Meat Co., which processes the carcasses and supplies meat for school and other government programs.
You can read the full article here...

I still don't know why schools even bother to serve food.

Years ago, I published an article here, where I reported on what some kids in my neighborhood told me, that they just throw away the fruits and vegetables that Ridgemoor Elementary serves up.

Does the school district completely recoup its spending on food service from sales? I guess I don't know that answer.

But in the midst of talking about higher property taxes to pay for more schools, and knowing that a lot of food gets thrown away in schools, I can't helping wondering if we're losing money here.

Menifee School Bond in the Papers

One thing about being in Menifee, is living smack dab in the middle of two newspapers, The Californian and The Press Enterprise.

And on top of that, two editorial pages that seem to disagree with each other more often than not.

Today, The Californian stated its opposition against Measure B, the Menifee School Bond...
With several large housing developments already approved for Menifee, there's little doubt the district will one day need those schools, the question is when. If the housing market turns around within a year or two, it could be sooner than later, but it's fairly clear they aren't needed now and likely won't be for at least five more years, and possibly longer.
But a couple of weeks ago, the Press Enterprise stated is approval for Measure B...
The Menifee Union School District cannot provide enough classrooms for one of the state's fastest-growing regions without more money. That circumstance makes the district's school bond on the Feb. 5 ballot a necessity.
To add more confusion to the mix, the editorials offer up some conflicting numbers...

The Californian - "...the district would have about 9,250 students in two years. The capacity of its 11 schools ---- including the two new schools opening in July ----- is 9,600 on a traditional calendar, but 12,000 if it sticks with its year-round schedule."

The Press Enterprise - "But with more than 8,800 students, facilities are crowded. The district grew by about 1,000 students just in the past year, and projects another 3,100 students in the next five years. Without Measure B, the district will be hard-pressed to find places for those children to learn."

One paper seems to think the situation isn't that dire, the other thinks we're going to burst at the seams. Neither one is really touching the subject of moving to a traditional calendar, though The Californian did say it thinks the district isn't being up front with its intentions for Measure B.

Links to the editorials...

For those of you new to Menifee 24/7 and wanting to learn more about Measure B, I've provided links to all the articles published here. The articles involving school boundary changes are tied into the Measure B debate, you'll want to read them as well.

The vote is scheduled for Feb 5, this Tuesday...