It's early in the school year, but the Pleasanton Unified School District is already talking about budget cuts.
In the regular board meeting Tuesday night, the trustees looked over the 2009-10 budget that will soon be looked over by independent auditors and then passed on to the county and state for review and approval.
This budget was approved in June, but shortly afterward a revision from the state led to a $350,000 deficit. This resulted in the school district having less than the required 3 percent reserves.
With the standard rollover from year to year being about $2 million, including increases such as payroll and utilities, and likely no increased cost of living adjustment funding from the state, it looks as if there will be at least $2.3 million in reductions to the 2010-11 school budget. The financial picture over the next couple of years doesn't look too rosy either, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Luz Cazares.
This amount could be increased to $3.6 million if the board would hope to continue to fund the reading specialists, counselors and vice principals that were spared late in the school year. These positions were funded by various one-time sources, such as management givebacks, a delayed payment and the I Love Pleasanton Schools fundraising campaign.
Using the fiscal year 2008-09 as a guide, Cazares said mid-year reductions from the state could be likely.
She added that while only 20 percent of the promised federal stimulus for special education has been received, it is all earmarked and is therefore not "new money." Another federal funding source, Race to the Top, could be headed towards California, but Cazares said the qualification progress is stalled at the state level.
In closing out the 2008-09 school year, there were two funds that did not meet the required levels. The board voted unanimously to borrow from the Sycamore Property Fund. As of January of this year, it had $5.6 million from the sale of a potential high school site near Happy Valley and typically funds technology for the schools.
The first loan, which is to be paid in four years but would likely come in earlier, would cover the $103,117 not made up in the Cafeteria Fund. Cazares cited the need for more free/reduced cost lunches and the state only funding 2 cents for instead of 22 cents that was projected last year.
The board also voted to approve a $1,106,972 loan after that amount wasn't received through the Capital Facilities Fund. This was expected, Cazares said, as these usually are funded through developer fees. These haven't been collected because of the lack of new development in Pleasanton, which has been blamed on the economy.
Superintendent John Casey mentioned a loan source that was offered by the city last school year, but said the district would prefer to use its own resources first.
Board to move on finding new superintendent
Last month, Casey announced his plans to retire at the end of the school year. On Tuesday night he described the general process to finding a replacement, which could include hiring a firm for about $25,000.
The ideal firm, Casey said, would gauge the community and involve stakeholders in the initial interviewing process, in addition to advertising and finding qualified candidates. The goal would be for the board to choose a replacement in May.
Board president Chris Grant said the board should look ahead about 10 years from now and decide "what characteristics of that superintendent that will set the right tone, the right culture and have the right hiring criteria and discipline" to achieve the district's goals.