PASO ROBLES — After a couple of adjustments, the Paso Robles Joint Unified School Board of Trustees approved $2.1 million in cuts to the 2019-20 school budget at Tuesday’s night regular meeting, Feb. 26.
On Feb. 12, PRJUSD Chief Business Officer Brad Pawlowski outlined what were then the proposed expenditure reductions to trustees and the public.
With a 6-0 vote on Feb. 26, Trustee Lance Gannon was absent from the meeting, the cuts were made official and will be implemented when the next calendar school year begins July 1.
Interim Superintendent Julian Crocker and Pawloski again reiterated these cuts were needed due to the District’s financial woes and had the least amount of impact to the classrooms.
“It’s not perfect. I certainly have questions, but it is a huge step forward,” Crocker said.
The 19 proposed cuts came from four areas — management ($452,900), programs ($716,502), staff ($646,400) and contracts ($334,204).
The changes involved removing an ed tech supervisor ($18,000) and a full-time certificated music position ($75,000) from the reductions list. With $93,000 added back into the budget, it meant cuts would come from elsewhere, in this instance, it was all from contracts.
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 2019-20 and at least another $800,000 in 2020-21.
The District is also searching for a new superintendent, following the sudden resignation of Chris Williams in December.
After the cuts are made, the District will have a reserve of about 2 percent. Unless the District receives some unexpected money from the state, additional cuts will likely be needed.
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.
Karen Bockelman, who is a long-time teacher in the Paso school district, said the District and trustees should do more now. She sent a letter to each of the trustees outlining her
“I am speaking tonight because I feel strongly that additional reductions should be considered,” she said. “Any management positions that have been added to our District in the last five years should be seriously evaluated to determine if they are essential to providing a good education. Once we have reached solvency then would be the time to consider what positions would enhance the learning of our students. Until we reach that point, we need to focus on what is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, we have added positions we cannot afford.”
Trustees said these were tough decisions and that there is still more cuts that need to be made.
“It’s never what you want to be elected to do, at all. It’s a tough decision to make,” said Board President Joel Peterson, before adding that this was just the first of many to come. “We feel that $2.1 million is a very healthy amount to cut and we’ll be back literally throughout the next weeks and months making more cuts. We are looking at everything we are spending. It is an extremely difficult situation to be in.”
Trustees a resolution that will begin the process to change from voting in its new board members from at-large elections to elections by district in time for the 2022 elections, which saves the District from going through the process now and then having to redo it again following the Census as is required. The City of Paso Robles is currently making the same switch. Currently, board members are elected through an at-large election system.
In other matters trustees:
• Amended resolution to include an additional seven classroom portables for the temporary campus at Flamson Middle School from June 2019-June 2023 during construction at Bauer-Speck and Georgia Brown schools. Measure M funds will cover the costs.
• Held public hearing and approved plan for low performing students block grant.
• Tabled request for EAP (Transitional Bilingual Program) at Virginia Peterson Elementary for 2019-20 school year.
• Approved a comprehensive school safety plan for secondary schools.
• Approved consultant agreement March through June with retired teacher Mark DiMaggio for Field Studies Collaborative.
The next school board meeting is March 12.