By Emily West
In order to balance its budget, the Pleasanton Unified School District will need to cut at least $6.9 million in reductions for the upcoming fiscal year.
The announcement of further cuts as a result of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's updated budget, released last Friday, was hardly a surprise. At a recent community forum regarding the budget, district staff said they knew there would be at least a $3.6-million deficit as the result of funding positions last year with one-time dollars as well as rollover costs for positions and programs.
With the latest figures, PUSD will now also have to make up for a negative cost of living adjustment and a reduction of $2.9 million in revenue from the state. It may not be the final number, as the governor's budget includes "risky assumptions," according to PUSD, including $6.9 billion of the $19.9 billion deficit to be covered by additional federal funding.
Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services for the district, said this is just the beginning of the budget process. She also pointed out that the cabinet-identified list of possible reductions was solely done in an effort to reach fiscal solvency, not as a way to improve quality of services.
The board was presented a list of possible cuts at its regular meeting Tuesday night, but was not scheduled to take any action. Several members of the community in attendance appeared to urge the board not to cut the Barton Reading Program, one of several programs facing cuts.
An updated list of reductions totals just under $6.9 million, but would also include flexing the state-deferred maintenance allowance, which would likely include borrowing from the Sycamore fund. The potential solution also includes delaying a $670,000 OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) payment as they did last year. Doing this, however, would likely look bad to potential investors and hinder PUSD's ability to issue debt service.
Programs saved from last summer's fundraising effort, management givebacks and a delayed OPEB payment would not be refunded in 2010-11: 4.5 reading specialists, elementary strings and band, 6.1 counselors, three positions in technology support and library, 1.5 middle school vice principals, management assistant, half of Barton reading support and off-site counseling. The total for these programs is $1.3 million.
Other outlined solutions could be $659,000 in categorical programs such as school/library improvement plans, art and music, class-size reduction in ninth grade, and gifted and talented education. Counseling services would be cut by $256,000. This is in addition to those lost by way of the one-time fundraising, meaning the district would move from 27.9 counseling positions in the current year to 15.5 next year. It would also eliminate class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade, with ratios at 30 students per teacher for a savings of $1.3 million.
Additional options could lead to the reduction of the elementary school day, resulting in the loss of specialists, such as physical education, science and music. Doing this could lead to $1.9 million in savings and the reduction of 23.7 full-time positions.
Rounding out the list of possible reductions: reducing summer school offerings ($200,000 savings), eliminating remaining reading specialists ($360,000 for 4.5 full-time positions), eliminating the other half of the Barton support ($45,000), reducing supplemental remediation hours ($45,000), and reducing site funds ($150,000).
Over the next few months, there are several meetings scheduled to address the budget that are in addition to the regular board meetings. The next is from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Amador Valley High School's multipurpose room. It's designed to be a casual environment, with people encouraged to give feedback by direct questioning or through cards read by the facilitator. The board will have their next regular meeting Jan. 26, followed by the meeting of the Budget Advisory Committee Jan. 27.
Meeting details and budget resources can be found on the school district's website, www.pleasanton.k12.ca.us or by calling 462-5500.