MUSD asks staff for budget cut recommendations

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez Unified School District Board of Education reluctantly asked district staff Monday to provide options for a round of budget cuts that likely would include reducing employees.

However, instead of the $500,000 in trims the Board anticipated making when it approved its current budget, the panel learned Monday that smaller cuts would still allow the District to maintain the mandatory 3 percent in reserves its needs to remain certified.

If the District cuts $300,000 from the budget, it would have 9.13 percent in reserves at the end of the fiscal year. Fiscal Year 2019-20 would end with 7.1 percent in reserves and at the end of 2020-21, reserves would be 5.02 percent.

The results would be only slightly better if the full $500,000 in cuts were made, with reserves of 9:13 percent again at the end of this year, and 7.71 percent and 6.18 percent in the next two.

District Superintendent C.J Cammack also introduced the option of deeper cuts, to $600,000, but the three-year reserves would be 9.13 percent this year, and 7.96 percent and 6.65 percent respectively in the next two years.

“State funding has not kept pace,” Cammack said, explaining that while California has the fifth largest world economy, it ranks in the 40s among the rest of the states in terms of the taxable income it spends on education, the amount it spends on pupils and its pupil to teacher and pupil to staff ratios.

Clerk Jonathan Wright said he preferred the Board didn’t have to deal with cuts at all, and disagreed with all but the lowest trims. “Unfortunately, it falls to us” to determine which employees might get pink-slipped as a result.

Vice President Bobbi Horack reminded the audience and the Board that during her years on the panel, it had never made any frivolous cuts, and looks at other options before it cuts employees. Boardmember Kathi McLaughlin said she would be comfortable making cuts from $300,000 to $500,000.

President Deidre Siguenza said she wanted the cuts to be as shallow as possible, but Boardmember John Fuller suggested the opposite – plan to cut as much as $500,000, but reduce that as much as possible.

Wright promised he could not support such a high number, and preferred a $300,000 limit.

Cammack promised to give the Board options at a future meeting, when the topic will be presented for further refinement and action.

Also to be presented at a future meeting is Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget. According to Assistant Superintendent Helen Rossi, the picture is a little brighter for schools, but additional state money would not prevent the Board from having to make cuts.

Director of Educational Services Tom Doppe received Board approval of a plan to obtain money from the Low-Performing Students Block Grant, a state education funding program that helps districts who serve pupils identified as low-performing on the Smarter Balance tests for English language and mathematics, but who aren’t receiving other supplemental grant funding under the local control funding formula.

The Board also agreed to his request to authorize an advance placement environmental science course.

David Wildy was confirmed as the District’s coordinator of technology services.

The District presented Awards of Excellence to classified employees, including Janice Tacconi, of John Swett Elementary School, the classified employee of the year. Also honored were Christen Billecci of Alhambra High School, Michelle West of Vicente/Briones Schools; Jessica Robinson of Martinez Junior High School, Tracey Yearick of Las Juntas Elementary School, Diane Ferreira of Morello Park Elementary School and Sue Casey of the District Office.

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