• A zoom screengrab of small boxes of people chatting

      A screengrab from PUSD Board Special Meeting on May 28, 2020 (Photo – KLRN)

      On Thursday night, May 28, 2020, the Pasadena Unified School District’s board meeting fell on the last day of school. The main topic on the agenda? You guessed it…to discuss the district’s budget shortfall due to COVID-19. The news was grim.

      By Albert Martin

      The May revision of Pasadena Unified’s budget assumes that the State of California will lose $42.2 billion in revenue compared to January estimates for 2019-20 and 2020-21 combined. This would mean that the State of California will lose $9.1 billion in the Education budget for 2019-20 school year and $32.2 billion for the 2020-21 year. Revenue losses are compounded by additional money that School Districts will have to spend on COVID-19 expenditures. In total the state’s shortfall overall is $54 billion. The impact to the Education budget is $18 billion. This would mean a $15+ million-dollar shortfall for the Pasadena Unified School District alone.

      Deep Cuts in State Education Budget

      This may mean deep cuts. To start off, a 10% reduction to Home-to School Transportation and a 10% reduction to the Targeted Instructional Improvement grant.  The After-School Education & Safety Program will face a reduction of $100 million. The Career Technical Education Incentive Grant will endure a reduction of $77.4 million. The K-12 Strong Workforce Program will have a reduction of $79.4 million in funds. The California Partnership Academies will be cut $10.7 million, and the Career Technical Education Initiative will be slashed $7.7 million.

      The COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) alone will mean that Special Education is cut $88.9 million. The Adult Education Program will face $66.7 million in cuts. The Mandate Block Grant will have a reduction of $5.53 million. The Child Nutrition Program will be cut $3.98 million dollars. And the Foster Youth Programs will face a reduction of $626,000.

      Some good news

      There is some good news. The Federal CARES Act will bring a $9.5 Billion to the governor’s Discretionary Virus Relief (CRF) Fund, and there will be a $335 Million Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. The $1.64 Billion Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund will bring $4.6 million dollars to PUSD.

      Pasadena Unified is asking for district flexibility. The district can apply for a hardship deferral exemption if necessary. PUSD may ask for authority to use proceeds from the sale of surplus property for one-time general fund purposes. There may be increases in the district’s internal inter-fund borrowing limits, subject to a public hearing.

      Strategic hiring freeze

      “The Pasadena Unified budget is customarily a reflection of District values, but it was much more difficult this year”, according to Chief Business Officer, Leslie Barnes. There will be a strategic hiring freeze in PUSD. The Executive Leadership Team (ELT) in PUSD will review all vacant positions. If positions can remain vacant, they will not be filled. If position can remain vacant for a period of months, hiring will be placed on hold until such time indicated. If position is deemed essential for the functioning of a site or department it will be filled. There will be a strategic freeze on overtime.

      Suspending discretionary conference and travel for one year

      The PUSD will suspend discretionary conference and travel for one year. PUSD will allow virtual conferences only. There will be a review of all consultant agreements. If the consultants are not legally required, do not provide overall savings to the district or responding to the needs of COVID-19 PUSD suspend agreement for 1 year.

      In PUSD, there will be a review of all of the district office positions. The ELT will provide functional organization charts. The ELT will have to explain the purpose of each position. How do they support school sites? Are they performing legally mandated job tasks? Recommendations for reductions or re-assignments will be upon review. There will be a functional review of site Administrative positions and office staff as well. PUSD will see how they compare to other districts in terms of how many positions they have. There will be recommendations for reductions or re-assignment.

      PUSD will review its school re-opening plan. PUSD will determine which athletics programs will be allowed due to COVID-19 and if there are any savings that can be made in this area. There will be other areas where savings can be made such as field trips, excursions, gatherings, and community events that may not be able to take place due to health orders related to COVID-19.

      Negotiable Items

      There will be some negotiable Items. Can smaller classes be taught by teachers from another site? Can certain topics be taught by fewer staff? A review of all teaching and support staff options will take place. This may include a reduction in hours, days or months of certificated and classified staff which may include unpaid furlough days.

      Virtual town hall meetings

      The Superintendent, Brian McDonald, and Chief Business Officer, Leslie Barnes will conduct virtual town hall meetings. The meetings will inform the community of State and District budget shortfalls and discuss reduction recommendations. PUSD will gather feedback regarding planned reductions and provide budget reduction recommendations to the Board of Education. Discussion and approval of recommendations will be by the PUSD Board of Education. The decisions PUSD makes will be based on Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) timelines.

      Superintendent Brian McDonald stressed the importance of the community, parents and stakeholders advocating for schools at a state and national level. He was adamant about “keeping the pressure on state senators to lobby for coronavirus relief money that can go directly into district budgets-to backfill some of the revenue loss”. Chief Business Officer, Leslie Barnes added that “most if not all of these reductions can be eliminated if additional federal stimulus funds are approved by Congress and the President.”

      > Watch the full PUSD Board Special Meeting on May 28, 2020.

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