Pasadena Unified Misses Interim Budget Target, Overspends by $3.5 Million

Published : Wednesday, December 11, 2019 | 6:09 AM

[Updated] Pasadena’s Board of Education gets the School District’s interim budget numbers Thursday in a report which reveals spending for the beleaguered District has gone over budget by $3,584,979.

One Board Member said the disappointing result shows that even though the School Board changed budget policy to mandate no expenditures be increased in interim budgets without Board approval, staff “just refused to change their practice.”

Pasadena Unified is well into a school year marked by controversies about campus closings to save money after a declining student body shrunk District income.

This followed last year’s epic financial drama when the District was faced with the threat of takeover by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Massive budget cuts and passage of a new city sales tax which helps fund public schools staved off further intervention by LACOE.

“In the middle of the fiscal crisis in January of 2018,  the Board of Education created a policy that mandated that budget plans for future school years build in a “credible cushion” and that no budget increases could occur by staff without Board approval, Board Member Scott Phelps told Pasadena Now in an interview.”

But, Phelps said, “though it was clear from the Board policy that we wanted to change” the budgeting process to avoid financial “surprises,” the District’s staff refused to change their “culture.”

Pasadena Unified Chief Business Officer Dr. Leslie Barnes will present the First Interim Budget to the PUSD Board, as required by the State’s Education code.

Barnes’ presentation notes that 2019-20 expenditure increases reflect expenses not included in the Adopted Budget in the following categories: Alignment to actual costs from the previous year, board approvals, current staffing costs, and anticipated need based on current trends

The Interim budget also assumes increased expenditures of $120,333 for utilities and $910, 466 for transportation.

Additional Contracted Services approved but not accrued are $29,750, and the total in increased expenditures and contracted services is $451,958, according to the budget.

The interim budget also includes adjustments for true staffing costs, including educational Stipends for ten Certificated staff members for $62,618, as well as site staff based on staffing ratios, which is seven full time teachers for $879,568.

Additionally, there are adjustments for Custodians of $172,971 , and two Interim Principals of $110,122.

According to the Budget presentation, any school consolidation savings are not yet included but will be reflected in the Second Interim Report Multi-year projection, once open enrollment is finalized.

Also, no salary increases have been included above those in adopted budget, since the District is awaiting Governor’s Newsom’s budget proposal

In spite of the bad news, Phelps praised the clarity of the report.

“I want to say that this [finacial powerpoint presentation] is much more transparent than we’ve had in the past. It’s not transparent yet. But it’s more transparent. And it’s because I’ve insisted that we have this discussion on Thursday and not approve it [the budget] until Monday,” he said.

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