PRJUSD lays out plan to cut $2.1M

Trustees expected to finalize reductions at meeting on Feb. 26

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District laid out its plan to cut $2.1 million from the 2019-20 budget and for now, it does not include teacher layoffs.

PRJUSD Chief Business Officer Brad Pawlowski conveyed the information to trustees and the public during Tuesday’s, Feb. 12, regular school board meeting.

“This is just the first step on our road to recovery,” Pawlowski said. “The list that is presented, we have focused on areas that have minimal impact to the classrooms. We continue to stay focused on protecting the core academic programs.”

The 19 proposed cuts came from four areas — management ($470,900), programs ($791,502), staff ($646,400) and contracts ($240,000).

Trustees did not make changes or vote on the proposed cuts as this was just an informational item on the agenda. Alterations to the plan and a vote of approval are expected to come at the Feb. 26 meeting.

San Luis Obispo County Superintendent Jim Brescia made the task at hand clear to everyone in the room.

“I need to restate again from the County’s perspective, something comes off (the proposed list of cuts) something else goes on,” Brescia said with emphasis. “You cannot continue to table this. You have to make decisions in the next two board meetings. Not negotiable.”

The District is in the midst of a financial crisis after reserves fell to .96 percent at the end of the 2017-18 budget cycle. The state requires districts the size of Paso Robles to maintain a 3 percent reserve. Trustees voted on Dec. 11 to cut $2.9 million from the next two budgets — $2.1 million in 19-20 and at least another $800,000 in 20-21.

The District is also searching for a new superintendent, following the sudden resignation of Chris Williams in December.

After the cuts are officially put in place, the District will have a reserve of about 2 percent, according to the SLO County Office of Education financial adviser. Unless the District receives some unexpected money from the state, additional cuts will likely be needed.

“This is going to be an ongoing process,” Pawlowski said. “Once we hit those target numbers doesn’t mean we just get to kind of wipe our hands and we get to move on. There are more things that are on the road to recovery for us. There are a lot of things on the horizon that have to be addressed that are not at this point. The work will continue past the $800,000.”

Two of the largest cuts in management were the result of two positions being eliminated — Director of Schools and District Athletic Director, with salaries of $167,000 and $160,000 respectively.

From programs, closing the Community Day School would save the District $260,000.

The largest single cut overall, $490,000, was due to 30 teachers, or certificated employees, and nine classified employees taking early retirement. All but four of the teaching positions will be filled for the 2019-20 school year. The savings will be seen in the job cuts and hiring of new teachers at lower salaries than their predecessors.

The District’s music and dance programs will see $300,000 in cuts.

Four people from the public spoke, including longtime PRJUSD teacher Terri Pearl, about the cuts and their impacts.

“I don’t see much cuts going to high school or middle school here,” Pearl said. “I would implore you to go out to our elementary school sites and talk with us. We are at our breaking. We are stressed. I don’t know how much more a lot of us can take. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I don’t know how many more cuts we can take at that level.”

District elections coming

During closed session, trustees directed legal counsel to draft a resolution in accordance with the California Voting Rights Act. Translation, the District will begin the process to change from voting in its new board members from at-large elections to elections by district. The City of Paso Robles is currently making the same switch. Currently, board members are elected through an at-large election system.

In the most recent election, November of 2018, Tim Gearhart retained his seat, while new members Stephanie Ulibarri, Chris Arend and Lance Gannon won their seats.

Remove District cabinet?

Near the end of the meeting, during board member reports and correspondence, Trustee Chris Bausch used part of his time to read an email he received from Berkley Baker with the subject line “Notice of reassignment for District Office Cabinet” in which he called for the removal of anyone holding a cabinet-level position with the District.

In the roughly 200 word email, Berkely stated, “I believe the individuals hold cabinet level positions should be given notice of potential position change or termination as required by contract agreements. This will give the incoming Superintendent the ability to quickly setup their cabinet level team and not be saddled with the mistakes from the past administration.”

Bausch made two notes on the printed email that was presented to school board president Joel Peterson. Point No. 1 stated, “Not just cabinet but all new hires (Dept. Heads) during the past 4 years.” And Point No. 2 stated, ”Agendize as an action item at our next board meeting a discussion to direct staff to issue pink slips to all (except Brad P.) cabinet level employees, management, department heads, etc.”

Interim Superintendent Julian Crocker was taken aback by the proposal, saying it would be highly unusual.

The next school board meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 26.


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