Pasadena Unified’s Financial Outlook Transformed in Stunning Improvement

Shortfall eliminated in 19-20, reduced dramatically in 20-21

Published : Tuesday, August 21, 2018 | 5:19 AM

[Updated] Last-minute changes in the state budget, updated accounting figures and significant savings on special education have helped the Pasadena Unified School District wipe out more than two-thirds of its multi-million-dollar budget shortfall.

The Board of Education is scheduled to review revised budget figures Thursday. While previously the district was projected to end the 2019-2020 school year $3.1 million below the state mandated 3% reserve, the updated data shows that the district is now projected to end the 2019-20 school year $2.6 million above the state mandated 3% reserve. And what was formerly predicted to be a $12 million shortfall in the 2020-2021 year has been reduced to just over $4 million.

“There’s been a very large positive change in our budget,” PUSD Board Member Scott Phelps said. “We’ve dramatically changed our outlook for ’19, ’20 and 2021.”

The improved situation comes from three main sources, he explained.

The District’s budget was adopted before legislators finalized the state budget, Phelps said. But a lot happened in the interim.

A move championed by State Senator Anthony Portantino (D-Glendale), who represents Pasadena, will remove a one-time grant of $2.6 million, but increase annual base funding by $1 million. Phelps said that will be a boon to the District’s long-term goals for financial stability.

Another significant chunk of money was found when staff realized there were eight teaching positions erroneously included in the budget calculations, according to a staff report recommending the Board approve the revised budget.

Five positions have since been vacated, Phelps said. “They’ve eliminated those, but they didn’t get taken out of the budget.”

Three more teachers were miscategorized as being funded by unrestricted funds, rather than restricted funds, further closing the budget gap.

The eight teaching positions, coupled with the elimination of a maintenance supervisor and a maintenance director, will save $1.35 million per year, according to District documents.

And nearly $3 million in savings was found in the special education budget, Phelps said. Cost-cutting efforts brought expenditures down to $1.9 million less than expected, and revenues were nearly $1 million higher.

L.A. County Office of Education ordered the PUSD to make massive cuts earlier this year, warning the District was on the brink of financial collapse.

The Pasadena Board of Education has since drafted austerity measures known as its “Fiscal Stabilization Plan” to reign in the red ink.

But the plan isn’t only about cutting.

“We’re actively trying for more revenue, too,” Phelps said. Leases and permitted use of District properties generate about $5 million annually, and the District recently approved a plan to pursue a land-swap arrangement.

“We are actively looking for ways to increase revenue,” Phelps said. “But at the same time, we are cutting expenses wherever we can.”

blog comments powered by Disqus