The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District is no longer facing a deficit, forecasted in December to be as large as $3 million dollars, according to interim superintendent Julian Crocker.
California law requires public school districts to maintain a three percent reserve, and in Paso Robles, those reserves had dwindled “considerably under that,” Crocker said, due to overspending on staffing.
“There were more personnel in the district than the revenue could support,” Crocker said.
By freezing any new hires, offering early retirement incentive packages to 39 certificated and classified staff and other cost cutting, Crocker said that deficit is largely erased.
“That was kind of a pall hanging over everything,” Crocker said. “People were concerned about losing their jobs, of course, and programs being cut. We are going to make some reductions, there's no question about it, but we're not having massive layoffs.”
On the list of proposed spending cuts for the 2019-2020 budget are a few position eliminations, like the director of schools and district athletic director, and closing the district’s Community School. And getting rid of expensive software, reducing stipends and downsizing the music program all add up to $2.1 million.
Crocker has been filling in since former superintendent Chris Williams resigned in December. Crocker is technically employed by the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, headed by the county's superintendent of schools, Jim Brescia. California law requires county superintendents to approve local school district budgets, and empowers the superintendent to provide fiscal oversight of districts in the case of financial problems.
In an interview on February 7, Crocker also said the district has halted progress on the construction of an aquatic center project, expected to be funded by a 2016 bond measure—Measure M—passed by local voters. But bids for the project came in at almost twice the amount than had originally been budgeted.
“I've heard [people say] the district is not going to go forward with it—that's not the issue at all,” Crocker said. “We're simply putting it on hold until a permanent superintendent can be employed, and then that person can work with the board and the community about how to hopefully get the aquatic center back on track.”
Meanwhile, a Measure M oversight committee has been “rejuvenated,” Crocker said.