Modesto City Schools trustees on Thursday received the results of two surveys they conducted this winter seeking suggestions on how they can slice $25 million in spending.
The results: School employees and the public want trustees to cut basic items that have little impact on the classroom, such as eliminating employee business cards, bottled water and mileage stipends.
A majority of respondents among district employees and the public also prioritized cutting school board members' travel and compensation, and holding employee union negotiations after school hours to save on substitute costs.
The surveys told trustees what's important to parents, such as keeping sports and music programs.
But trustees have a long way to go in balancing the budget, and some of those attending a special school board meeting Thursday were concerned that the surveys did not reflect the full range of views among the public.
In January and February, people were encouraged to fill out two online surveys — one for district employees and one for the public. Surveys were open to staff for a week and to the public for a month, with 776 people filling out the staff survey and 1,085 completing the public survey.
Trustee Nancy Cline asked whether the public survey did anything to separate community members who work for the district or have other district ties. The staff said nothing was done. According to the results, 22 percent of respondents said they were community members, 73 percent were parents of students and 5 percent were Modesto City Schools graduates.
"So we don't know how many people with no ties to the district filled this out," Cline said. "I really want to hear tonight from people who are from the public."
No one from the public spoke.
Dana Filippi, a teacher at Tuolumne Elementary School, said the public survey was a small sampling of the city's residents. "You are looking at about 2 percent of the households responded," he said. "There is some value in this, but not a lot."
When it comes to programs the public wants officials to keep, counselors, music, campus supervisors and custodians topped the list.
"The survey indicates many ways that (Modesto City Schools) could be cutting costs that many businesses have already implemented. I believe that sports, dance, the arts and career ed remain very important. Parents need to be focused on assuring our children are attending school and prepared, and value their educational opportunities. We are each adjusting to local and state cuts," one public respondent said in the survey's comment section.
The only question about sports on the public survey asked whether officials should maintain freshman sports — 39.5 percent said "yes." Other items that ranked high with parents and community members were school busing, yard duty, class-size reduction and the Gifted and Talented Education program.
Most staff members favored cuts to field trips, buying new textbooks, consultant contracts for staff training and clerical positions. The majority of respondents favored keeping custodians and counselors.
Trustee Ruben Villalobos said the survey was a good start. He encouraged more input from people through e-mail or the comments section of the district Web site.
View the survey results at www.monet.k12.ca.us under "budget watch."
The next Modesto City Schools board meeting is at 6 p.m. Monday in the district office boardroom, 425 Locust St. However, the location could change if officials think they'll need a site with more room for the public.