Clock Running Out for Decisions on $10 Million in Cuts at Pasadena Unified

The measures are severe, but so are the circumstances the necessitate them, officials have said

Published : Tuesday, October 23, 2018 | 4:40 AM

The Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education has three weeks to make some difficult and consequential decisions as it confronts finding ways to save more than $10 million over the next 3 years to meet state requirements.

The Board will review District staff’s latest proposed cuts at its upcoming meeting Thursday. They include three school closures and reductions to school programs district-wide.

The suggested budget cuts amount to roughly $11 million in savings. The Board must approve a final list of cuts by Nov. 15 in order to meet deadlines, according to the staff report.

The measures are severe, but so are the circumstances the necessitate them, officials have said.

If the Pasadena School Board fails to meet its state-mandated obligation to maintain a 3-percent budget reserve, they risk losing all budgetary control over the District to Los Angeles County Office of Education, which has warned that it’s ready to step in.

“If this were to occur, the Board would no longer retain its decision-making authority,” the report notes.

The list of cuts prepared by staff is meant to help prevent that fate. But officials pointed out that they are only suggestions, and that while time is short, changes are still possible.

“This list is intended to be options for the Board to consider. It is anticipated that, as the conversation evolves in the work study session, items will ultimately be removed and added,” the report states.

 

The suggestions before the council include:

• The closures of Cleveland Elementary, Franklin Elementary and Wilson Middle schools. Cleveland students would be consolidated into Washington Accelerated School, Franklin students would go to Altadena Elementary School and Wilson students would go to Washington STEAM Middle School and Blair Middle School.

• The elimination of CIF athletics at Blair High School

• The elimination of dedicated art programs at elementary schools, with art instruction to instead be provided by regular classroom teachers

•The elimination of the Family and Community Engagement Center

• The elimination of the Families in Transition program, which aids students affected by homelessness

• A freeze on the hiring of nurses

• Reductions in STEAM teachers

• Reductions in dual language coaches

•The elimination of more than half a dozen administrative positions

 

The current financial forecasts and suggested budget cuts do not reflect several predicted future increases in revenue for the District, such as expected results from an attendance campaign, possible income from property exchange arrangements or the potential $7 million that could be generated for the PUSD if Pasadena voters approve Measure’s I and J in the November election. Measure I is the city’s proposed three-quarter-cent sales tax increase, and Measure J would advise the City Council to allocate a third of that income to the PUSD.

“Our Fiscal Stability Plan must be based on items that are within the District’s control and it must be completed and incorporated into the First Interim Report that will be on the Dec. 13 agenda,” according to the staff report.

If the ballot measures do pass, the City Council would still need to take action to allocate the revenue to the PUSD before the District can count it toward its budget.

“Since the measure is ‘advisory,’ these funds may not be included in the Fiscal Stability Plan until there is a vote of the City Council confirming the funds will be allocated to the District,” the staff report says. “The vote would need to occur prior to the Dec. 13, 2018, Board of Education Meeting to be considered in the Fiscal Stabilization Plan.”