Cabrillo Unified School District board members announced on Monday they will ask voters to approve a $150 parcel tax in November. Regardless of whether the measure passes, there are dark financial clouds looming over the district that, if not addressed, will cause the district to slip into insolvency.

The district, which serves 3,200 students in schools from Half Moon Bay to Montara, is facing a $9.8 million budget gap by the 2022-23 school year. The parcel tax — which would replace a similar tax set to expire in 2020 — would cut the deficit in half, but Cabrillo officials would still be facing $4.9 million in cuts.

The exact deficit is contingent on final state funding. Another update on actual funding numbers is expected in September.

New Superintendent Sean McPhetridge faced the budget crunch at his first board meeting. “...This is a result of being inadequately funded at the state level,” he said of the deficit. “I think there are moves in the year ahead that we can make to reach fiscal solvency.”

At a special meeting on Aug. 5, the board voted to approve putting a parcel tax on the ballot this November. If passed, it would decrease the projected budget deficits.

To put the scope of the problem in perspective, one full-time position costs the district about $100,000. While that does not mean the district would necessarily have to layoff 40 employees, it would have to find a way to make such drastic cuts. The board has not yet made any decisions regarding the reductions, however, district officials say they could include layoffs, the elimination of programs and even school consolidation.

“Hopefully, the state will deliver more money, but we can’t count on it,” McPhetridge said on Wednesday. “We will have to make cuts.”

The San Mateo County Office of Education has conditionally approved the district’s budget, which means the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team and a fiscal adviser will now work with the district to come up with recommendations for cuts. Denise Porterfield, deputy superintendent with the San Mateo County Office of Education, has been appointed as the fiscal adviser.

“If you were negative and you were going insolvent, which is where you’re headed if you don’t do these actions, (the county) would come in and do a takeover,” Porterfield said at Monday’s meeting. “They don’t care about the programs. And at the point where the county office has to come in, we do care about the programs, but we do have to get you to fiscal solvency.”

If the measure does not pass, Cabrillo Unified will have to find a way to cut another $2.6 million by 2022–23. The fiscal situation would only worsen from there, unless officials find more money or make reductions.

“It’s absolutely essential, imperative that we stabilize our budget in the short-term and work through longer-term strategy with lots of community input ... and come up with the best plan that’s going to help us best serve our community,” board President Sophia Layne said.

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