Also, trustees approve $522K for design services and planning for new pool

The Atascadero Unified School District board of trustees revealed the proposed budget cuts for the upcoming school year as well as approving $522,000 for the architectural planning and design services for a new pool.

AUSD announced, based on the Governor’s May revised budget proposal, the District is facing over $4 million in reductions for the 2020-2021 school year. A majority of the cuts will be to classified personnel. Even with the modifications, the District will likely dip into reserves and be deficit spending.

The District stated it could not identify $4 million in cuts but did outline reducing what amounts to nine full-time certificated employees and 29 full-time classified personnel.

The District is taking a worst-case scenario approach to its budget process, realizing that everything is fluid due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We do know that the state will adopt the budget here in a couple weeks, and we’ve been told that there will probably be a state budget revision in August or early September due to the tax receipts that have been delayed due to COVID-19. The board could adopt this budget today, and it could change tomorrow, and we do hope this is a worst-case scenario,” AUSD Assistant Superintendent Jackie Martin. “We have the reserves, excess reserves above our required 3 percent, because of COVID-19 we have been doing our best to save. We basically did a hiring freeze. We froze all costs once we did close schools to capture as many savings as possible in anticipation of the economy being hurt because of the closure, and that will help us get through 2021 and potentially 2022.”

The certificated cuts include four elementary teachers and two high school teachers. The majority of the classified employee reductions will be instructional assistants and special circumstances instructional aids.

In addition to the reductions, the District eliminated all one-time expenditures, reduced textbook and device allocations, reduced Special Ed Extended School Year expenditures, and left eight teaching positions vacant to start the next school year.

As of now, the District will fill those positions with substitute teachers, alluding to them as “vacant but budgeted” positions with the reasoning behind the method being that this will avoid a wave of lay-offs when the school year begins in August if AUSD is over budget.

“Unfortunately, we anticipate, at this time, to use substitutes to fill those vacancies, but there won’t be any kind of lay-off window once school starts if we are overstaffed,” Martin said to the board. “If we have to turn around and fly and hire, we can do that in late August because they are multi-subject positions, and we are not the only district being this conservative right now.”

Once schools moved to distance learning and closed locations, the District began a hiring freeze in an attempt to save some money but noted that while they might have been expecting a recession in the future, they did not expect it to hit this fast.

The June 9 meeting opened with a contentious discussion surrounding the architectural designs regarding the new pool but ended in a unanimous vote to approve the funding of $522,000 to PJHM architecture firm.

The primary source of confusion between trustees and the District came regarding where the money for the pool was coming from and what exactly was being paid for, which Martin covered, stating, “We have set aside funds in developer fees to fund the architectural services. Those are monies that are secured. We don’t have money completely secured for construction; this is just the first phase of determining the best location and what the final cost potentially could be so that when we do have funds secured, we are ready to go.”

Martin elaborated on the nature of developer fees explaining they can only be used for construction and reconstruction of facilities within the District and cannot be spent elsewhere.

This was the school board’s final meeting of the 2019-2020 school year. It will meet again on Aug. 11.

Getting through this together, Atascadero