Note: This article is an updated version of a June 20 article.

County schools received some good news this week, as the 8% cut to kindergarten through 12th-grade schools proposed in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May budget revision will not be enacted.

On Monday, Newsom and the legislature came to an agreement on the 2020-21 budget, which provides K-12 schools across the state with a relatively normal level of funding, though the full details have yet to be released.

Only last week, county schools had feared that large cuts to public education would find their way into local budgets.

At a meeting on June 18, the Mark Twain Union Elementary School District (MTUESD) Board of Education voted to approve the laying off of four classified special education paraprofessional employees. The cuts came following a June 9 meeting in which the board approved laying off nine full-time equivalent (FTE) certificated teachers and one administrator.

“We’re creating a budget under the assumption of the worst-case scenario, which is the governor’s May revision to his budget, which stated that there will be a 10% reduction (which includes no cost of living adjustment [COLA]),” Superintendent Julia Tidball said. “We had individual meetings with all of these staff members. They understand that our goal is to come back to the board with much happier news once the state budget has been passed, but until then we have to move forward.”

The board also voted to discontinue the administrative assistant/accounts clerk position for the next school year.

“We are looking across the board and trying to make reductions, and also trying to increase revenue whenever we can,” Tidball said. “This is a position that’s currently filled by Kathy Six, and she is retiring at the end of August. The recommendation is at this time to not continue with that position.”

In an effort to expand revenues, the board voted to increase transportation fees. The fees had not been raised in 10 years, Director of Business Services Roy Blair said.

“We’ve asked the board to increase the fees from $110 annually to about $130,” Blair said. “It’s an increase of 11 cents a day, as far as the actual cost.”

During the meeting, the board heard a presentation from Blair on the district’s proposed annual budget for the upcoming school year.

“It’s always difficult to put numbers together that require that people lose their source of income,” Blair said. “We’re following the governor’s guidelines at this point – not that that’s the most likely – it just means that that’s the most authoritative at this point in time.”

The district stood to lose from $600,000 to $700,000 in funding if the governor’s budget went through, Blair said. The district’s multi-year projections showed deficit spending from 2019 through 2023.

“These projections show that the district has budgeted to deficit spend $232,290 in the current year,” the 2020-21 budget read. “The 2020-21 adopted budget reflects a deficit of $179,683 and projected deficits in 2021-22 and 2022-23 of $324,415 and $599,116, respectively.”

Based on the governor’s guidelines and the district’s projections, MTUESD would not meet its 4% reserve requirement for 2022-23, resulting in a “qualified” certification, Blair said.

“Based on this budget, which may only last until next week, we will not meet the 4% requirement unless the state provides us with an additional amount of money,” he said.

Blair said that the district was able to save some money this year due to reduced transportation costs during distance learning, and also saw increased income from its meal program due to expanded use. The district will also likely receive about $123,000 in CARES Act ESSER funds next year, he said.

“We have to take the action of the layoffs strictly to meet the legality of the whole situation,” Blair said. “Hopefully, the state will agree to a budget and we’ll have a better idea of what the impact is going to be on our people.”

The board approved the proposed budget in a unanimous vote.

Tidball said on Tuesday that while she is relieved that the cuts proposed by the governor won’t be enacted, decisions regarding layoffs will have to wait until the full details of the state budget are made available. Along with more information on funding, the final budget will also contain provisions regarding which layoffs will be allowable.

“At this point, we believe that the certificated layoffs will be revoked,” she said. “From what I’m reading right now, (the classified) layoffs will still be allowable.”

While the budget agreement provides a relatively normal level of funding to K-12 schools, school districts will not receive an increase in funding through a COLA this year. In addition, some funds will come in the form of deferrals to be paid next fiscal year.

“We don’t yet know enough about this budget and its impact on our district,” Tidball said. “Public education got put in a really horrible spot this year, and that’s not how it should be if it’s our priority.”

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Reporter

Noah Berner has lived in Calaveras County most of his life, and graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in history.

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