Pasco School Board debates budget cuts
The Pasco School Board spent 3 hours Friday reviewing how it wants to balance its budget for 2012-13. The district finance team projected a budget shortfall of $24.7 million, but even after all that talk the board did not arrive at a consensus for covering the gap.
It came up with $8.8 million in spending reductions, with the big items of a three-day furlough for all employees and the elimination of 87 positions (mostly noninstructional). It also agreed to move $12.8 million in nonrecurring funds into the operating side, with the caveat that after next year, that won't be possible again.
That still left the board with another $3.1 million to cut. Members asked the staff to investigate several ideas, including a 1 percent salary cut for all employees and monthly employee contributions to health benefits. It rejected some other possibilities outright, such as the elimination of art and music courses, the removal of all school resource officers and the closing of the Schwettman and Irvin alternative education centers.
They set a few other ideas aside for future years, knowing that they will have to replace the $12.8 million in nonrecurring funds and that the ideas couldn't be implemented quickly enough for 2012-13, anyway. Those included having secondary teachers instruct six periods of six daily, consolidating some elementary schools, and eliminating health insurance benefits for retirees hired after a set date.
"I hate to do this," superintendent Heather Fiorentino said after the workshop. "This is five years in a row. It is affecting our morale. They work hard every day and have a passion for what they are doing. ... These are very difficult cuts."
The board is scheduled to act on employee allocations — the biggest line item in the operating budget — at its June 5 meeting.
The district sent the following e-mail to employees Friday afternoon:
The Board held a budget workshop today to discuss how it will balance the $25.6 million shortfall facing the District for the 2012-2013 school year. The Board reviewed the feedback that was provided through the town hall meetings this week, and expressed great appreciation for the public's input on this important topic. The Board discussed concern regarding their limited options, all of which are less than desirable. Further, they reiterated their goal of protecting students and employees as much as possible throughout this process. It is important to note that no decisions on the budget are final, and that several items being considered by the Board will require negotiations with the Union.
The Board tentatively agreed to move forward with the following options. Please note that the bolded items are from non-recurring sources of revenue, which will create a deficit for the 2013-2014 school year:
• Shift positions to utilize fewer allocations for meeting class size – $1,081,060 (will only need 107.32 units instead of the projected 126
• Cut District and School allocations – a minimum of 87.64 total allocations- $3,641,685 (Some of these positions have already been identified and staff has been notified. Additional employees being impacted will receive notification from their direct Supervisor within the next two weeks)
• Reduction of additional days for High School Band Director and High School Football Coach (maintaining band camp) - $35,903
• Continued Reduction of District Department Budgets - a minimum of another $125,000
• Use of Capital Funds to Pay for Property Insurance - $8,940,000
• Removal of excess reserve funds beyond the required 5% - $3,864,900
• Implementation of three (3) furlough days for all employees- $5,010,480
These suggestions have the potential to generate $22,699,000 in savings. This will still require the Board to make further reductions in order to balance the budget. Therefore, the Board also directed the continued exploration of the following items as possible considerations for balancing the remaining portion of the deficit for the 2012- 2013 school year:
• Implement a tiered system to require employees' contribution toward their benefits package. The amount of the contribution would be based upon the employee's salary (this generates between $899,000 and $8,990,400 depending on the required contribution amount )
• Reduce salaries of all employees (this generates between $3.5 million and $10.6 million depending on the percentage reduction)
• Reduce a percentage of all supplements (this amount is still being calculated)
• Review additional district positions for elimination (this amount is still being calculated and would be beyond those already identified above)
• Start a fund through which businesses and individuals can contribute to the District for earmarked purposes
• Review potential transportation efficiencies for additional savings
• Explore the possibility of using volunteers as substitutes
The Board also requested that staff begin considering items for the 2013-2014 school year, including the possibility of implementing a 6/6 teaching schedule, school closures, energy performance contracts and further transportation efficiencies.
Again, none of these budget decisions discussed above have been finalized. The staff allocations will be presented to the Board on June 5, 2012. While the staff allocations represent 86% of the entire operating budget, the Board and Superintendent will continue to work on balancing the budget throughout the month of June. Regular updates will be shared with all staff and the public. We recognize that this is a very sensitive subject and will continue to work as quickly as possible to communicate these important decisions in a timely manner.