Templeton School District looks at $300K in cuts


TEMPLETON — Some $300,000 in budget cuts expected to be enacted in the 2019-20 and 2020-21 budget years have been a long time coming, said Templeton Unified School District Superintendent Joe Koski.

That doesn’t mean they’re happy about having to make the reductions, he added, but it does eliminate the appearance of a crisis, which other nearby districts have recently experienced.

Sheldon Smith, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services for San Luis Obispo County’s Department of Education concurred noting his department was, “Confident that Templeton will be able to make required cuts and meet their obligations,” as they’ve been checking in with the TUSD’s budget progress five times a year.

He characterized what they’ve experienced as, “a squeeze and flattening revenue coupled with increased expenses,” with retirement benefits a key cost.

“They’ve seen it coming for a year and a half,” he said. “All the district’s are feeling the squeeze of [climbing retirement contributions].”

With 58 oversight agencies in the state, one for each county, all of them have at least one district in similar circumstances, Smith noted. That’s especially true if, like Templeton, the district is reliant on money from the state per student and are experiencing declining enrollment or, Koski added, the enrollment demographics warrant less funding per capita.

Koski was diplomatic in raising the point, noting that he believes the state does have their priorities straight in allocating more funding to districts with different educational challenges to Templeton, but that they do receive fewer dollars per student than some similarly sized districts in other regions. They also can’t rely on property tax revenue as does San Luis Obispo, which would be a different funding mechanism and present its own challenges.

Unlike private sector businesses which have been known to sell off or dismantle unprofitable divisions as retirement obligations arise, “This [education] is a long-term commitment. We don’t get the option to close our doors,” Koski said, adding that their budget committee includes representatives from administration, labor and the community.

They’ll be tasked with determining where to make cuts, with the first hope being to defray the impact by simply not refilling positions as vacancies occur, then exploring hourly cuts across departments or classes of employee. The budget reductions are expected to be implemented in what’s being called a “combination of staffing and programs,” although the granular details have yet to be addressed.

“We don’t expect you to take work home,” he said for employees concerned about managing the same load in fewer hours. “We want an honest measure of the impact.”

Hopefully, he said, such strategies would avoid the burden falling on one position.

Programs which might take a hit before classroom impacts might be food services or maintenance, Koski said.

“We’re actually closer to holding 8 percent in reserve for one month’s operations, which exceeds the state minimums,” he said, “We’re working on this proactively so that we don’t wind up with sudden and dramatic cuts in the $1-2 million range.”

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