Cabrillo Unified School District has received the hard numbers indicating how much it must cut by December. The numbers are still contingent upon whether the parcel tax passes, whether the state pitches in one-time funding as it has before, and a few pending expenditures.
At a school board meeting on Sept. 12, Superintendent Sean McPhetridge presented a timeline for plans to decide on and implement anywhere from $2.6 to $4.2 million in cuts to stabilize the budget for the next school year. With 82 percent of Cabrillo’s funding going toward employee salaries and benefits, McPhetridge said staffing reductions and school consolidation have to be considered.
“Ultimately, and I think this is the most important thing, everybody has got to come to understand that our expenses exceed our revenues and it has caught up to the district,” McPhetridge told the board. “We must make these cuts by December or risk losing control of the district.”
School officials are continuing to meet with site administrators, local groups and stakeholders to explain the financial situation. Although some have speculated Kings Mountain Elementary School will close, McPhetridge confirmed that no decisions have been made regarding specific cuts at this point.
Currently, the district is assessing what are essential needs for district operations and gathering information for possible budget cuts to present to the board.
After the parcel tax vote in November, the district plans to have a preliminary report on short-term budget cuts. After the board decides on how to restructure the budget in December, McPhetridge told the board, he expects to see pink slips for employees going out in March.
Denise Porterfield, who is the deputy superintendent of business services for the county’s office of education, is serving as the fiscal adviser. Porterfield said she would continue to advise the district until it achieves positive certification. That means the district would be able to cover the current year’s expenses and the following two year’s expenses.
“The target funding for districts is not adequate to support the needs of students or to support the increases of the costs of education,” Porterfield wrote in an email. “The cost of living, the cost of goods and services, and infrastructure costs are escalating faster than the cost of living allowance applied to the formula.”
Cabrillo Unified School District finances
The numbers: Cabrillo Unified reported last month it expects a $9.8 million budget gap by the 2022-23 school year. To move the district into “positive” status, $4,209,661 must be cut from the budget for the 2020-21 school year. If the parcel tax passes in November, that amount will be reduced by almost half.
The fund: CUSD’s financial problems stem from the unrestricted side of its general fund. Unrestricted money can be used on anything in the district, and, because it’s the most flexible, that’s where cuts will be made. Restricted dollars are often grants dedicated for specific uses. Bond money is in a separate building fund and only used for facilities.
The biggest costs: Declining enrollment has resulted in a $400,000 loss for CUSD. A lack of one-time state money the district previously received also means $567,000 less for the district. Other factors include increasing costs for staff benefits and special education rates.