Pasadena School Board to Hold Special Meeting, Will Vote on County Mandated Fiscal Stabilization Plan

Published : Wednesday, February 7, 2018 | 6:48 AM

Pasadena School Board to Hold Special Meeting

The Pasadena Unified Board of Education is reportedly scheduled to convene a Special Meeting on Thursday to address and vote on a Fiscal Stabilization Plan about two weeks before a deadline mandated by Los Angeles County Office of Education.

In a letter sent last month to Board of Education’s President Roy Boulghourjian, the County Office of Education said, after noting its concerns with the District’s financial health, that Pasadena Unified has until February 26 to submit and get Board approval of a Fiscal Stabilization Plan.

School Board member Scott Phelps confirmed the Special Meeting, which as of this morning still does not appear on the District’s webpage listing upcoming meetings.

Earlier this week, Pasadena Unified Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald mass emailed a letter to the District’s community discussing the financial future.

“The path ahead is challenging: we must simultaneously be more efficient with the resources we have and more effective in the way we spend,” McDonald said in his email. “We must develop greater accountability for spending that makes the most of our resources. Together, we must take courageous, strong, and consequential actions that right-size our district and deliver excellent educational programs for all students.”

McDonald said that “Our district is confronting a tough fiscal reality: flat or decreasing revenue in the midst of rising costs, long-term unsustainable structures that increase spending automatically, and a higher bar for student learning and serving the greater needs of our students. We began the 2017-2018 year with a $5.7 million deficit and $10-12 million in anticipated cuts in the next two years.”

A draft of the Fiscal Stabilization Plan was presented to the board during a Special Meeting last Thursday. As outlined in the draft, Pasadena Unified is proposing to make $6,936,572 in budgetary cuts in the 2017-2018 school year, and $11,732,185 in the 2018-2019 school year to meet the state’s requirements.

McDonald gave the District’s community some insights into process by which the Fiscal Stabilization Plan was created.

“During days of intense planning, we reviewed central office administrative and management staffing. Operational division chiefs presented their budgets to us with recommended cuts. Finally, we determined site-level cuts and pulled together a list of suggested reductions that are part of the draft Fiscal Stabilization Plan that was presented to the Board of Education on February 1 for discussion,” he said.

The cuts would be accomplished by reductions in areas such as staffing — 109.4 full-time equivalents will be reduced from the current 988 full-time equivalent positions at various Pasadena Unified schools and the central office through the 2018-19 school year..

A majority of these positions are classroom teachers — a total of 63, according to the draft — but the proposed reductions also include 12.5 security officers, and 11.5 instructional coaches/resource teachers.

These cuts, according to the Fiscal Stabilization Plan, “are due to a projected decline in student enrollment (and) estimated according to base staffing ratio and the average salary for 2018-19.”

In her letter sent to the School Board, the County Board of education’s Chief Financial Officer Dr. Candi Clark said the district’s spending has so exceeded plans that it no longer meets the state-required minimum reserve funds level for the current school year.

As a result of that “negative certification,” Clark wrote, “the district must take immediate steps to restore the current year REU [Reserve for Economic Uncertainties] to the state required minimum level.”

McDonald, addressing the timelines said, “In February, the Board of Education will take action on a Fiscal Stabilization Plan of $6.9 million in estimated savings, reductions (including $2.47 million in central office cuts) and new revenue for 2017-2018, and over $12 million in reductions for the 2018-2019 school year.”

McDonald also went on to say, “These reductions are detailed in the draft Fiscal Stabilization Plan that will be updated once further cuts are identified. Reductions for 2018-2019 include the implementation of staffing ratios previously negotiated with our labor partners. With these actions, we anticipate filing the district’s 2017-2018 Second Interim Report with a “qualified” certification that returns us to fiscal stability.”

In an op-ed article published in December, Pasadena Unified Board member Phelps said the district needs to accomplish about $6.3 million in reductions in the current year to restore its mandated three percent reserves. Another $15-20 million in cuts are required for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2018, he said.

Phelps also explained how Pasadena Unified came to be in “a newer reality” with its budget being certified in the negative for the first time in history.

“Unrestricted revenue and special education revenue have decreased over the last two years due to declining enrollment and the lack of significant increases in state funding, from $192,201,544 to $191,638,837, a decline of $562,707,” Phelps wrote.

“This is unusual, as state funding must increase about four to five percent a year to keep up with costs that increase each year that have their origin in inflation. These include annual increases in salary that are built into collective bargaining agreements, increased health care market costs, increased costs of special education service providers such as non-public schools and agencies who serve our neediest children, etc. Added to this in recent years have been state-mandated increases in retirement contributions, which are in the midst of tripling in size over several years. In addition, Pasadena Unified has added staff even while enrollment has declined, as the superintendent has staffed up to improve services.”

McDonald braced the District community for the effects of the Plan.

“There is no doubt that the next few weeks will be a difficult and anxious time for some of our colleagues,” he wrote. “The Board and I are committed to treating employees affected by these decisions with respect, dignity, and a deep and abiding gratitude for their service.”

“To this end, on February 1, the Board adopted a retirement incentive plan that encourages eligible employees to retire early in order to reduce the need for layoffs.” McDonald continued, “We are currently negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding with United Teachers of Pasadena to formally begin the process.

Concluding, McDonald said, “We have put in place a process to prioritize the use of our limited funds, build greater accountability that aligns with the State’s goals, and continually improves the way we plan and budget.”

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