The financial strain and instability of Calaveras Unified School District (CUSD) was recently confirmed at the board meeting on Sept. 25.
The budget for CUSD was not approved by the County Office of Education. The district cited several major problem areas, including the cost of declining enrollment, salary and pension increases and special education costs.
It was confirmed on a presentation given at the board meeting that a revised adopted budget and reduction plan to target these trouble areas was required to be submitted to the Board of Trustees by Oct. 8. The final plan to repair the budget, called the Multi Year Reduction Plan (MYP), was submitted on Sept. 25.
The budget review included required commitments, which include the salary increases that came as a result of the teacher’s strike in 2017. In addition to the $1.3 million deficit from the 2017-18 school year in the unrestricted fund balance budget, the revenue deficit shows an additional negative amount of $361,294, even with additional district revenue from the 2017-18 school year.
In an email sent out to parents by Mark Campbell, superintendent of CUSD, it was confirmed that this reduction plan will include the following eliminations: 11 teaching positions, 15 paraprofessional/support positions, a move of Gold Strike High School to the Calaveras High School campus, in addition to multiple other budget cuts that will impact administration, teaching staff, custodial and transportation staff. The reduction will also include individual site and department budgets.
Since the budget was not approved by the Calaveras County Office of Education (CCOE), which oversees CUSD, a Fiscal Health Risk Analysis (FHRA) has begun. This process will include a review of 20 key fiscal indicators “that measure an LEA’s risk of insolvency in the current and two subsequent fiscal years,” according to the presentation from the school district meeting on Sept. 25. This process will also review the Multi-Year Reduction Plan (MYP) using software designed for the purpose named “Projection-Pro.” After this process is completed, the Board of Trustees will receive a report and presentation of the results and recommendations, moving forward.
“The majority of the reductions will be at the middle school and high school, but specific positions have not (been) identified yet,” according to Kassandra Booth, director of Fiscal Services for CUSD. “The cuts will be effective as of July 1, 2019. The Fiscal Health Risk Analysis should be completed around December.”
Booth also confirmed that the cuts will be based on seniority, but also credential.
The district cited declining attendance as one of the major factors for the revenue deficit, including a total five-year loss of $3.2 million. The 2017-18 school year had the highest decrease of average daily attendance, at a loss of 103.26 percent, totaling a loss of $960,938 in revenue for the school district.
The district also cited an increase in pension rates through 2023-24, which includes $2.53 million in 2017-18 and $3.58 million in 2020-21.
The cost of special education expenditures was also cited, which has increased altogether (including contracted services, benefits, classified and certificated staff costs) from $3.4 million in the 2014-15 school year to $5.8 million for the 2018-19 school year, totaling an increase of $2.3 million.
The general fund revenue was stated as $31.5 million, while the general fund expenditures exceeded this amount at $33.2 million. After total financing sources and uses, the expenditures will leave a deficit of $1.7 million in the general fund.
For the 2019-20 school year, the projected deficit is negative 2.39 percent; and for 2020-21, it is negative 12.53 percent.
The MYP includes a reduction of $2.3 million for 2019-20 and $344,981 in reductions for 2020-21, including cuts to multiple areas and positions in the district.
“However, as has been the situation since the early 2000s, we have continuing and significant budget issues to address. Consistently declining enrollment, increasing costs of Special Education services, increasing costs of our state-mandated retirement contribution (STRS and PERS) and just the escalating costs of operating our district overall are all major factors in the reality of our fiscal situation – the simplistic reality is that we spend more money than we receive each year, now and projected,” Campbell wrote in the email he sent out to the district. “We have been making cuts to people and programs most every year as well, trying to balance budget and program but the revenue we receive continues to be outpaced by the increase in expenditures. We will continue to navigate the challenging domain of budget management, monitoring fiscal conditions and making necessary adjustments based upon the nature of the changing conditions at the local, state and federal levels.”