22 Aug 2014
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Readers' Turn: You Cut CUSD's Budget

UPDATED WITH THREE POLLS: Get out your pencils and put on your thinking caps. Patch asks how you would balance the budget at Capo Unified.

Readers' Turn: You Cut CUSD's Budget

How would you close a $50-million gap in Capistrano Unified School District’s budget?

Last year, the district offered . This year, however, unless you attend the Board of Trustee meetings – and few do – you don’t have much opportunity to be heard.

So Patch is inviting the public to come up with its own solutions.

“A multiple-prong approach is necessary to address a budget shortfall of this magnitude,” reads a staff report to the Board of Trustees. “This multiple-prong approach will include unilateral reductions in staffing and programs impacting all employee groups, district services and school sites.

“The multiple-prong approach will require regarding salary, work year, class size and other work conditions,” the report continues.

We detail below the building blocks that could chip away at the funding shortfall. They won’t include items that are not possible – such as the wholesale elimination of programs for undocumented students or special education students. The district can’t legally broach those subjects, so while they may lead to a lively discussion, for purposes of this article, they’re off the table.

Because  without having to get various union groups to agree, your task just got lighter. Now, you only have to find $40 million in reductions – still one of the larger cuts the district has ever had to make in one budget year.

However, if there are any items on that list (see ) which you'd like to save, you must find corresponding cuts elsewhere.

All figures come from Capo Unified documents obtained in a California Public Records Act request or from the website of the  Capistrano Unified Education Association, the teachers’ union.

Larger class sizes

Increasing class sizes means laying off teachers. This year, . In addition, . The plan saves the district money as long as some are not replaced.

Adding one student per class for all grades between kindergarten and 12th means eliminating 47 teachers, at a savings of $4.23 million.

Adding two students for every grade means cutting 91 teaching positions, for a savings of $8.2 million. Adding three students per grade means 131 fewer teachers, for a savings of $11.8 million.

The district calculates that each teacher gone from the payroll saves $90,000. In coming up with your plan, you could increase some grades and not other, but you'd have to stay within some parameters – no more than 33 students in grades K-8.

It should be noted that the state has no maximum ceiling for the number of students in a high school class. 

Last year, the trustees asked the state for a by adding as many as three extra students per class. Although class sizes were not increased last year, the waiver – which would permits up to 33 students per class, is good for two school years. Class sizes currently average 30 students in those grades.

This year, . The waiver would also ask permision to up class sizes in those grades to as many as 33 students. Current kindergarten classes average 31 students; grades 1-3 average 30.

Freeze salary advancements until January 2013

Delaying automatic salary advancements by six months could save the district $2.73 million for all employee groups. The savings break down like this:

  • Teachers:  $1.43 million
  • Non-teaching employees:  $933,000
  • Teamsters:  $207,000
  • Management:  $163,000

Furlough Days

Each furlough day saves the district $1.67 million for all employees. It breaks down like this:

  • Teachers:  $1.2 million
  • Non-teaching employees:  $338,000
  • Teamsters:  $43,000
  • Management:  $100,000

It should be noted that teachers already have three furlough days a year under their current contract. Non-teaching employees (members of the California School Employees Association’s local chapter 224) don’t have any furlough days, the Teamsters have four and management has six.

Salary cutbacks

Every 1 percent reduction in pay saves the district almost $2.9 million. Here’s the breakdown of savings on a 1 percent rollback:

  • Teacher:  $2.03 million
  • Non-teaching employees:  $589,000
  • Teamsters:  $69,000
  • Management:  $194,000

So a 5 percent salary reduction for all employees would save $14.4 million.

One example

Those are the puzzle pieces. In a report to the trustees, Superintendent Joseph Farley illustrated an example of how the district could negotiate cutting just under $40 million. It was for reference and example only:

Cut   SavingsIncrease Class Size by 2 $8.2 million Freeze Salary Advancements $2.7 million 8 Furlough Days $9 million Teachers 3 current + 5 new Non-teachers 0 current + 8 new Teamsters 4 current + 4 new Management 6 current + 2 new 8% Salary Rollback $19.8 mil Teachers 1.2% current + 6.8% Non-teachers 0% current + 8% Teamsters 1% current + 7% Management 3.7% current +4.3% Unilateral Reductions $11 million Grand Total $50.7 mil

The chart is "just one example of how a $50 million reduction could be reached, and should not be viewed as anything more than that," states a report to the trustees.

Should the voters in November pass an initiative Gov. Brown proposes which would temporarily increase taxes on the rich and purchases made by everyone, CUSD would be able to reverse $18 million worth of cuts.

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