ATASCADERO — “We’re very tight right now, and we have been for a long time,” the Atascadero Unified School District (AUSD)’s assistant superintendent of business services, Jackie Martin, told the Board of Trustees during a budget update on June 4
The school board was getting ready for a round of celebrations to end the week, starting with the Atascadero High School Graduation, June 5. They first wanted to give recognition to graduating seniors joining the armed forces, with a ceremony for the eight seniors kicking off the meeting, then placing their official stamp of approval on service contracts taking effect with the next school year.
The business report was, Martin said, her 15th budget year update and she’d witnessed the growing costs of the State Teachers Retirement System and Public Employees Retirement System on the budget. But, she noted, if it weren’t for recent state actions to address those costs in advance, this budget cycle would be worse for the AUSD.
While complimenting staff for the thoroughness of their reports and keeping the trustees appraised, some members of the board appeared surprised at just how small the district’s reserves were as a percentage compared to other area districts, the subject of a recent letter received from the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education.
The AUSD’s General Fund revenues are expected to shift from $52.29 million estimated in 2018-19 to $51.22 million in 2019-20.
According to the staff report, “The Districts Reserve for Economic Uncertainties is just above the state’s minimum requirement of 3%; it is currently projected at 3.04% ($1,600,000) for fiscal year 2018-19.”
Trustee Ray Buban noted that if there were a crisis current reserve levels may not cover payroll for a month.
In 2021 they should emerge from deficit spending if projections hold, Martin reassured, noting that higher reserve levels are usually a policy matter set by district boards. The consensus among the board receiving the report was that it was preferable for the moment to continue delivery of services to children rather than make cuts to beef up a reserve fund. Regardless of how they felt about the information, the item was for edification purposes and not direct action at the current meeting.
Something they were able to act on directly was how to spend some of the funds discussed, with $76,105 going to new "6th/7th Grade World History and 8th Grade American History" textbooks.
Quite literally, not your granddaddy’s textbooks, the curriculum supplied under the contract is designed to interest students in a career in the field, putting them in touch with subject matter experts directly, and readying them for college-level courses under guidelines developed in 2016.
The books have more of a magazine or scientific journal format and use “FaceTime” digital communication in the classroom to supplement coursework, with applications on the computer as well.
The three subject areas explored follow ancient world history in sixth grade, medieval and “early modern times” in the seventh and “American Stories” in the eighth.