Capo's Budget: You Can't Get There From Here Without New Union Pacts

The district has identified $11 million in cuts it could make. That's $40 million off from what trustees will ultimately have to find.

More details emerged about the ’s dire financial situation at Tuesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The district has identified about $11 million in cuts it can make fairly easily. But Capo Unified is looking a $33.5 million deficit at a minimum, and that’s . If it fails, the deficit jumps to $51 million, said Robyn Phillips, interim deputy superintendent of business and support services.

The difference will have to be made up in employee concessions from the district’s three unions.

“This is not a case of cutting this or that. This is a case of cutting this and that,” Phillips said.

She outlined how $11 million in savings could be found without reopening negotiations with the three unions:

  • $1.5 million from management (mostly at the district headquarters, but also at school sites)
  • $3.5 million from classified (non-teaching) employees
  • $3.5 million from teachers and other employees with a teaching credential
  • $1.1 million in redirecting funding from restricted categories to other areas, now that school districts have greater flexibility to make such moves
  • $1.4 million in other savings, including asking student government bodies and booster groups to step up donations

But, Phillips acknowledged, “$11 million is only a small piece of a $33 million reduction and a very small piece of a $51 million reduction.”

Superintendent Joseph Farley said he began the discussion Tuesday with principals about how supporting groups, such as student governments and booster clubs, could step up in the district’s time of need.  He’s decided he will have to speak to the students directly about the problem.

One example of where students and parents could help is in transportation to extracurricular activities, Farley said. Currently, the district spends about $650,000 on that item alone.

But to get to the $51 million figure – the number the district must cut because its budget must be approved far ahead of the November election – the trustees will have to .

The trustees unanimously voted to reopen talks with the Capistrano Unified Education Association – the teachers’ union – California School Employees Association and the Teamsters. Specifically, the district is considering furlough days, larger class sizes and lower salaries.

Why is the district in such a bind? Phillips pointed to many causes, including:

  • Revenues from the state are coming in less than budgeted, to the tune of $1.8 million
  • The $ as a way to solve its own budget problems
  • Employee benefits are $2.9 million more than anticipated, $2.1 million of that in medical benefits
  • An increase in classified salaries
  • Legal expenses
  • Repairs
  • The consultant who drew up the was more expensive than budgeted

The district will spend $19.6 million more this school year than it will receive in revenues, Phillips said. The reserves will ultimately take care of it, but the district will not be able to go to that well again, she said.

By law, school districts are required to have 2 percent in reserves. After closing out the books on the 2011-12 year, the district will be down to about $9 million, $1.3 million away from the magic 2 percent figure, Phillips said.

“That’s less than one week’s payroll for the district,” she added. “It’s very, very tight.”

Trustees made few comments. The board voted 5-2, with Trustees Ellen Addonizio and Sue Palazzo against, to approve an interim budget report that indicates the district may not be able to meet its fiscal responsiblities in the next two years. 

g matt March 13, 2012 at 09:23 AM
Wow, not one comment on the dire conditions of our schools, but close to 100 comments on the UFO sightings.... Kind of shows where the interest is in our society. When they close the school in two years how many will understand why??? How many will really care????
Capo Parent March 13, 2012 at 01:43 PM
g matt Likely due to the fact that the public has lost all faith in the CUSD leadership and its unions, and they are looking to aliens to save us. Given how dire CUSD's financial condition is, such an approach can't hurt.
Capo Parent March 13, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Penny I note that Phillips didn't mention the roughly $20 million that CUSD gave back to its employees over a 2 year oversight. Was that a deliberate omission? Also, is the extra $2.1 million in medical expenses a result of the board opening an existing contract and agreeing to pay for more medical expenses?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) March 13, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Question No. 1) She didn't, and I can't answer you why. However, the board that voted in favor of the restorations has said that issue is in the past (at a previous meeting) 2) No, it's for additional special ed teachers and aides who needed to be hired, mostly, Phillips said.
tritontrue March 13, 2012 at 03:13 PM
I think we should talk about the exhorbitant salary paid to Superintendent Farley- approx $300,000 a year PLUS big benefits ! And a 5 YEAR CONTRACT =$1.5 MILLION even if he gets fired ! THAT's where your education dollars are being wasted ! PLUS how much was paid out in the past 6 years to to the other 4 or 5 Superintendents that either quit or were fired ???????????? Time to investigate this and leave the poor teachers alone.
jim capistrano March 13, 2012 at 08:14 PM
As everything is only good or bad by comparison...what are the District's administrative costs when compared to the Orange County Diocese's Catholic schools...K through 12? Also compare standardized test scores.
cusd mom March 13, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Jim Capistrano, That would be like comparing apples to oranges. The Catholic schools do not have to take special ed or ESL kids. Tuition and expenditures are controlled by each individual school. Also, the Diocese will not release test scores to the public. They are not obligated to since the taxpayers are not picking up the tab.
jim capistrano March 13, 2012 at 10:17 PM
...I've heard those same arguments for the past 50-years. Yet the fact remains that the parochial school (no matter what the denomination) produces a better education for less. If nothing else it could be used as a model for our failed public system that for these same 50-years has been a worsening money pit of higher costs for less "education".
cusd mom March 14, 2012 at 05:00 AM
Oh really? Have you checked out the tuition at south county private schools lately? The Catholic school in RSM charges over 8k a year in tuition and fees. The private high school there charges well over 10k a year. If you check the Capo website, I believe we get around 5500.00 a student. Remember, the Catholic schools don't have the nuns anymore who worked for slave wages to teach the kids.
Capo mom March 14, 2012 at 04:36 PM
The figure of $5,500 per student you are using is ADA funds only. CUSD gets much more than that per student when you consider categorical funding. Private schools don't get categorical funds. They don't get developer fees or Mello Roos dollars either. They don't have massive facilities slush funds to squander like CUSD does. (Raise your hand if you think $52 million for our almost empty district office was a good idea.) They don't get special funding for minorities, special education or additional money and resources if they aren't meeting their goals. Private school tuition must generally cover student costs, as well as building and infrastructure. Private schools don't have serve a union's never ending demands for salary and benefit increases. Their employees don't demand to negotiate every last thing (like the recent and ridiculous example in CUSD of compensation for an additional 12 minutes a day) nor do they necessarily pay their people on a step and column basis. Private schools can control their costs without the kind of interference CUSD has to contend with from CUEA.
cusd mom March 14, 2012 at 04:42 PM
You do have valid points, Capo mom. However, IMHO, I still don't think you can fairly compare private and public schools in south county.
cusd mom March 14, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I'll also add that in addition to tuition charged, many of these private schools have VERY large endowment funds which they are able to use as they wish.....unlike the public schools.
Capo mom March 14, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Oh, I agree it is a difficult comparison in terms of results. Private schools achieve or close their doors. That is the ultimate in accountability. Public schools demand more funding when they can't do their job with what they have and they still deny they are accountable when they fail.
jim capistrano March 14, 2012 at 04:57 PM
..of course you can compare parochial, private and public schools...colleges do it on a regular basis...no matter what the funding....
Capo mom March 14, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Public schools have foundations. They solicit money from corporations and community members as well. Those may not look like private school endowments, in part because everyone who is a taxpayer is already compelled to contribute to public schools. Those who earn big $$ know they will probably be "contributing" more after the election thanks to the governor's tax initiative. And they know that still won't solve the problem. And many potential contributors are put off by the scandals, waste, poor achievement and constant political turmoil. I think this is particularly true in CUSD.
Capo mom March 14, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Pam Sunderman March 14, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Comparing schools is not (and never has been) the answer. There are no guarantees in life. The best private school and the worst public school (by whatever measure you choose to use) or vice versa will not ensure success or failure for a student. It comes down to 3 factors...the student, the parents, and the teacher. If all 3 are doing their best then all will be well. The fact is that teachers are very different (since they are human like the rest of us). If you are fortunate enough to connect with a teacher in a life changing way...lucky you. If not...it will be OK if you do your best and have good support at home (not perfect support...because, like teaching, there is no way to measure the best support and parents are human too). Just because schools have been compared doesn't mean that it is relevant. Colleges are constantly looking for ways to decide among applicants, including evaluating their high schools. But there is no evidence that any of this makes a lick of difference in whether or not a student will be successful. All you can do (and should do) is support and advocate for your student and their school. Making large scale generalizations is fruitless. Our resources and energies should be focused on our students...not trying to find the "best."
Capo mom March 15, 2012 at 01:53 AM
If teachers are all different, why should their compensation be determined unilaterally?
jim capistrano March 15, 2012 at 02:24 AM
...and make all graduates valedictorians, jollygirl?
Pam Sunderman March 15, 2012 at 04:04 AM
No Jim...I know a few valedictorians...it didn't ensure success or happiness. Capo mom...can we not go there? Just this once.
jim capistrano March 15, 2012 at 04:31 AM
...my point is if we're not trying to find "the best"...should we just group all (students and schools) as "the best"?...
Pam Sunderman March 15, 2012 at 05:04 AM
Why do we need to define what is "best?" It can't be done. So we all do our own personal best as well as we can...whatever that may be. As parents we do our best to raise good people...why subject them to an undefinable "best?" I am much more concerned that they do the right thing. The rest will fall into place. I don't see life (or education) as a contest.
jim capistrano March 15, 2012 at 05:52 AM
,,,should we not give grades to teacher or student? Life is a series of tests...unless trust funds are your way of life...
Pam Sunderman March 15, 2012 at 06:39 AM
Life is a series of tests...but not everything can or should be measured that way. My experience is that parents who wanted grades in the early grades wanted "A's." They were not interested in "B's" or (shudder) "C's." And how would you base the grades on teachers? Some of my children's teachers who were not among my favorites were judged "best" by some standards. What is this compulsion we have for "best?" It simply implies to me that some people always want to have bragging rights. I would like to see the emphasis on the students needs for success. Teachers are held to a very high standard in CA. They have to pass multiple tests and have 5 years of college to even enter the field. They are required to keep up with current trends and research in their field. They are evaluated yearly by their administrator. I see no reason to encourage competition among them. I want them all to work together so that they are all doing their best. And, in my many years of experience, that is exactly what they are doing. Teachers are certainly not the problem in CUSD. As a matter of fact, by every measure, the schools in CUSD are exemplary. This is due to great teachers, supportive parents, and motivated students. Some parents prefer private schools for a number of reasons...but I never considered it a competition.
Capo mom March 15, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Everything in CUSD from curriculum to pay and benefits, is subject CUEA's influence. Private schools don't have to struggle with that burden. They can be more responsive to the communities they serve without having to get an organization (whose primary interest in not education) to agree to reopen a contract. Just doing the budget math in CUSD, $55 million in cuts distributed over all current employees looks like an average of almost $16,000 per employee. That is pretty sobering. Of course, there will be an effort to shift the burden on to the students by increasing class sizes and further reducing the number of school days. It is doubtful that we be at this juncture today, had CUEA accepted a pay cut in 2010 rather than striking. CUEA's goal is to get the highest level of pay and benefits for its members, not to create better educational outcomes for our kids. With a union owned board majority, the focus of the "negotiations" will be on maintaining compensation, whatever the cost to students. We have seen it before, we'll see sit again.
Pam Sunderman March 15, 2012 at 04:54 PM
"It is doubtful that we be at this juncture today, had CUEA accepted a pay cut in 2010 rather than striking." This statement is very puzzling since the teachers did accept a pay cut in 2010 and had even accepted it before the strike.
Capo mom March 15, 2012 at 05:37 PM
When is a pay cut not a pay cut? When you work for CUSD. http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-preventing-bankruptcy-at-capo-unified
cusd mom March 15, 2012 at 06:33 PM
http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/letter-to-the-editor-preventing-bankruptcy-at-capo-unified This needs to go out to as many parents as possible.
melissa kaffen August 29, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Anyone remember the hateful pay cut imposed by a the non- Union controlled School Board several years back, until the district's revenues reached specific growth benchmarks???...The cuts were summarily tossed aside when the Teachers' Union regained control of the Board? This IS what happens... when foxes guard hens? Now we get big Union crocodile tears & a strike threat if the the Gov's temporary tax increase doesn't pass. Yet the Teachers' Union has necessary funds to defeat Prop 32? A much needed measure that might just tip the balance of power in CA back in favor of the "funding source".


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