Stephanie Lai and Paisley Trent
Temecula Valley Unified School District released a budget update in January forewarning that the district is heading toward a budget deficit of $14.3 million in two years. First confirmed at the Dec. 13, Board Meeting and based on the first interim budget report, the district will need to cut approximately $7 million per year from the budget over the next two years to end deficit spending.
Currently, 88 percent of the district’s operating budget funds 3,016 employees which equates to $247.3 million. Materials, supplies, services and other operating expenses cost about $32.5 million.
The district claims that changes made to the Local Control Funding Formula and Governor Brown’s general funding plan caused $13.8 million to be reallocated. Money previously slated as “Categoricals” – covering class size reduction, textbook, economic impact aid and deferred maintenance costs – were rolled into the District’s LCFF structured budget.
The state allocated budget is determined by unduplicated pupil percentage and according to the TVUSD website, “The UPP counts students for supplemental and concentration grants based on these factors: low income status, foster youth status and English language learner status. Districts with higher counts of students who qualify based on these factors receive more money through the LCFF.”
LCFF funding was cut for TVUSD because they have a smaller number of students that have low income, foster youth or English language learner statuses in comparison to the rest of California school district, placing them as the lowest priority for funding.
Such changes in budget structure also affected mandated requirements for school districts on items such as new textbook adoptions. The updated math textbook adoption itself is predicted to cost $5 million. In a newsletter sent out Jan. 9, the district explained that no new funding was provided for the textbooks but in order to keep pace with requirements, TVUSD utilized one-time funding received in the amount of $14 million to cover items such as textbook adoptions, common core implementation and technology.
However, funding cannot sustain future mandates. In a correspondence obtained by Valley News from the district to TVUSD employees, efforts to minimize impacts will entail suspending and reducing adoption of textbooks.
Some of the biggest increases in the coming years are due to pensions mandated by Governor Jerry Brown in the form of CalSTRS and CalPERS. Employee and employer contribution has skyrocketed in recent years, making up most the deficit, with the new costs outpacing new revenue being created in the district.
Within the next two school years, CalPERS employer contribution rates will increase over $2 million approximating a 4.8 percent increase in the budget from the current year. CalSTRS contribution rates will increase by $9.83 million with the 2018-2019 school year and is projected to increase to $41.6 million by 2020-2021.
Other factors such as Average Daily Attendance are also considered in the district budget. Coupled with TVUSD’s general education enrollment decline since the 2012-2013 school year, there are approximately 100 students less per year due to trends of fewer families entering the elementary schools. An absent student costs the district $55 per day, and as district effort, advertisements are broadcast to parents and students encouraging attendance as a cost-saving measure.
Another major contributor to the deficit is the Grade Span Adjustment, a state mandated program that works toward having a grade level average of 24:1 student teacher ratio in grades TK-3 by 2020-2021. This program costs the district about $1.2 million annually since 2012/13.
“We have very tight language that comes from the state from the LCFF in how we staff our TK to third grade classrooms, but you can bypass that requirement if you have language in your contract that states otherwise,” explained TVUSD Superintendent Timothy Ritter. “Many districts have language in their contracts that says that their TK-third grade classrooms can have as many as 32 students.”
The district has proposed a to cap of 26:1 with flexibility to 28 with extra compensation for those teachers. However, no additional changes will be made to class size, employee pay, compensation or benefits after negotiations with the Temecula Valley Educators Association did not reach a consensus.
Ritter said, on behalf of the District and School Board that “any changes made are done with a positive culture.”
Though TVEA claims that teachers are not opposed to buyback or furlough days, they want negotiations to be separate from ones that impact only the elementary school teachers. The potential measure of adding two furlough days or “buy back” days, in which teachers will be paid if they choose to attend staff development meetings, could save the district up to $1.2 million per day. While negotiations did not reach a consensus on furlough days, both parties, represented though TVEA President Jeff Kingsberg and Ritter, are open to revisiting the measure in the future.
In order sustain solvency, the District is working on reductions that don’t require negotiations to move forward. Listed in an email correspondence to all TVUSD employees March 3, these will involve notices to individuals with temporary certificated contracts, management, certificated and classified staff reduction, as necessary, 10 percent reductions in all department and school site budgets, certification and classifies staff attrition, leaves of absence, retirements, vacant positions remain unfilled, suspension of reduction of textbook adoptions and relations in professional development offerings and conference attendance.
Staff members impacted by any potential layoffs as a legal and precautionary measure, will be noticed March 15, with the District “hoping to rescind as many as possible, as quickly as possible” after March 30 through staff leaving by natural attrition, retirement and other vacancies.
At the Feb. 21 TVUSD Board meeting, various members from TVEA addressed their concerns during public comments. Kingsberg introduced the slated public speakers and questioned district actions.
“Most district fingers continue to point north at Sacramento for our crisis,” he said. “The facts are that increased STS costs apply to all California districts. Eighty-five percent or more of the budget comes from daily student attendance, clearly known to be flat or declining in this district, yet the number of TVUSD positions and employees have increased in the past few years.”
Lauren Davis argued for more transparency within the district.
“None of these reasons were unforeseen when determining the budget in past and future years, and thus should not be used to explain why we are in a budget shortfall moving forward,” she said. “It is simply unfair to ask teachers to work harder for more periods a day for less pay, furlough days due to poor decisions.”
Ritter said that no negotiations have been met as of the current time so no changes will currently be made to the structure of class sizes and number of classes as well as staff pay, benefit and compensation.
Lynn Breen, a 23-year educator with TVUSD, referenced the 5-0 school board vote for increasing management salaries by creating a six-step salary schedule.
“In April 2016, Management was placed on a step of their new salary schedule and then before waiting a year for a raise, management moved to the next step in July 2016, giving them another bump in salary,” Breen said. “For some an additional 4 percent, for Mr. Ritter this equated an additional $8,000 in just three months. At the Superintendent budget meeting Feb. 2, I asked was TVUSD aware of the budget shortfall of $14 million when they asked the district to go out and look at surrounding district salaries.”
Laura Boss, a spokeswoman for the district said the Board has a commitment to attracting and retaining the best employees at all levels of the organization.
“Last year, consistent with that commitment, a study was performed among like surrounding districts. The goal was to bring all employees to within 3 percent of the average among like districts. Our teachers are currently within 1 percent. The study realigned about 50 administrative positions including principals, high school AP’s, coordinators, directors and executive cabinet members. The total annual cost to realign these positions is approximately $250,000,” she said.
According to Ritter, the salary increases which are for all TVUSD employees and will automatically occur regardless of the situation, account for a $1.7 million annual expenditure for both classified and certificated staff members. The district’s current plan is trying to minimize the impact on staff and students alike.
“The District needs to be more clear, specific and transparent and able to lead by example with what they’re willing to do,” Kingsberg said.
The District has until June to finalize their operating budget for the following school year.