MUSD Board makes budget cuts, most in administration

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez Unified School District Board of Education cut nearly $400,000 from its current budget Monday night. Most of the trimming came from the District’s administration rather than the classrooms.

Four para educator positions and one classroom position were eliminated.

The cuts were needed because of rising costs without comparable rise in revenues, District Superintendent C.J. Cammack said.

He illustrated some of the changes by comparing pension costs in Fiscal Year 2011-12 with those of Fiscal Year 2017-18.

Seven years ago, pensions cost a little more than $1.5 million, or $391 from the schools’ Average Daily Attendance (ADA) allocation.

In 2017-18, pension costs had risen 238 percent, to $5,267,347 and $1,323 of the ADA cost.

Revenues, however, have not kept up with those rising costs, he said.

He also spoke of two panels of experienced state teachers and administers who were given three days and the necessary data to answer a question: “How much would it cost to provide all California students the academic knowledge, skills opportunities they’ll need to successfully pursue their plans after high school and participate in civic life?”

The necessary staffing, resources and other elements needed to fund California schools adequately was $91 billion a year, which is $25.6 billion more than districts actually spent in Fiscal Year 2016-17, he said.

There’s just not enough money coming in from the state to meet the needs of California’s schools, according to several analyses.

Martinez Unified’s enrollment is flat, but its expenditures increase because costs are rising, Cammack said. The District’s only alternative, if it is to maintain at least the minimum reserves of 3 percent of revenues in years to come is to look at ways to cut the budget, Cammack said.

In keeping with the Board’s directive, Cammack said his staff did so with the intent of keeping those cuts as far away as possible from classrooms and students. He said he also didn’t want cuts to impact school safety.

Cammack said he wanted the cuts to allow for the greatest flexibility in the budget, and took the administration staffing back to levels similar to the cabinet of 2010-11, although that department’s workload has increased.

As approved by the Board, the District will save $34,258 by eliminating the four Para A positions, two of which either are vacant or will be soon.

The District saves more than $148,000 by eliminating its coordinator of education services, with the work going to the director of education services.

The Human Resources coordinator position will be dropped, saving more than $127,000, although the employee will be placed in a different job in the district office. The shuffling of Human Resources employees will help save another $170,

The District already exchanged the position of its chief technology officer for a technology coordinator, at a savings of $43,056, and reduced one classroom position to save $82,290.

A four-hour clerk-typist job will be eliminated, to save $11,356.

It also will drop $70,000 that would have been transferred to deferred maintenance.

The administration cuts make up nearly 38 percent of the cuts, Cammack said, or nearly $149,000.

Budget transfers bolster the General Fund by more than $115,000, or 29.24 percent of the reductions; the teachers’ labor group as a whole represent nearly 21 percent of the cuts, through the salary and benefits to the eliminated classroom instructor.

The District’s classified employees represent 11.56 percent of the cuts, or nearly $46,000.

Making these cuts will keep reserves at 9.13 percent the current fiscal year; 7.54 percent in 2019-20 and 5.84 percent in Fiscal Year 2020-21.

MUSD must not let its reserves drop below 3 percent, or it risks losing its certification. The third year’s projected 5.84 percent gives the District some flexibility should the state experience an economic downturn.

Board President Deidre Siguenza asked whether the para teacher could be retained through contributions by parent-teacher organizations or other donations, and Cammack assured her it would work.

The cuts, she said, “are not something we want to do or like to do.”

Boardmember Kathi McLaughlin said that the just-released federal budget proposed by President Donald Trump would decrease education funding on the national level. While she feared burdening the District’s administrative staff, she approved of having a little extra in the reserves as a hedge against the unexpected.

Vice President Bobbi Horack praised Cammack’s presentation, saying past cuts proposals had not been as transparent.

In other matters, the Board agreed to hire RGM and Associates as the Measure R bond capital improvements construction manager. The firm scored highest among those interviewed.

Also approved were upgrades and modifications to the District schools’ safety plans, prequalifying documents for bidding on repairs to Alhambra High School’s swimming pool and Assistant Superintendent Helen Rossi’s second interim budget report.

Among items on the consent agenda, the Board approved by a single vote agreements with the University of the Pacific, the Trustees of the California State University East Bay and St. Mary’s College of California; and contracts with C.O.P.E. Family Support Center and the Christy White Association.

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