The board voted during its March 5 meeting to hand out 12 preliminary pink slips to employees by the Thursday, March 15, deadline, though trustees held off on approving cuts suggested by administrators and the district’s budget advisory committee at the time.
By the end of the meeting this week at Walnut Grove School, the board had given preliminary approval to nearly $2 million in district administration cuts, with Trustee Ruben Piña absent and Amy Hussar abstaining, which still left the district a half-million dollars short of a balanced budget.
Cuts included proposing one more furlough day for staff members, in addition to the seven already in place, something that must be negotiated with employees. Other proposals include eliminating one classified employee position and one technology director position and slashing travel and conference expenses by half.
Despite all the number crunching of recent months, Hussar said she had concerns.
“We’re short $500,000,” Hussar said. “How much is that going to cost us in interest and payments?”
Steve Menge, assistant superintendent of administrative services, who presented the proposal, said the district could dip into its reserves to cover the shortfall if needed.
The board also voted to authorize a cash-flow loan from the Stanislaus County superintendent of schools as a last resort.
“It doesn’t say we will borrow the money, but we would be given the opportunity if it is needed,” Menge said.
Teachers and parents took turns speaking earlier in the meeting and asked the board not to lay off those who work closely with children, as during other recent meetings. School employees again stood in silent unison when a colleague stepped forward to speak.
Gloria Pinedo, the president of the local chapter of the California School Employees Association, told trustees that the classified staff, which consists of secretaries, custodians and maintenance workers, was worried about the future.
Pinedo said she understood that tough economic times had hit school districts across the state. As a CSEA regional representative, she said, she had assisted other school districts that faced layoffs and furlough days.
“The size of the district has no bearing,” Pinedo said. “The need to survive this budget crisis is on everyone’s mind nevertheless.”
The school district budget must be finalized by June, five months before voters might weigh in on a proposed tax initiative.
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to bridge the California budget gap with a proposal that would approve $6.9 billion in taxes, including a sales tax increase and a tax hike for those in high tax brackets. Before that could happen, the state Legislature would need to approve the initiative to appear on the November ballot.
Without passage of the initiative, Patterson Joint Unified School District expects to lose $1.9 million — $370 in average daily attendance money per student, the amount of money the state gives to school districts each day a student is in class.
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