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Readers' Turn: You Cut CUSD's Budget

UPDATED WITH THREE POLLS: Get out your pencils and put on your thinking caps. Patch asks how you would balance the budget at Capo Unified.

How would you close a $50-million gap in Capistrano Unified School District’s budget?

Last year, the district offered . This year, however, unless you attend the Board of Trustee meetings – and few do – you don’t have much opportunity to be heard.

So Patch is inviting the public to come up with its own solutions.

“A multiple-prong approach is necessary to address a budget shortfall of this magnitude,” reads a staff report to the Board of Trustees. “This multiple-prong approach will include unilateral reductions in staffing and programs impacting all employee groups, district services and school sites.

“The multiple-prong approach will require regarding salary, work year, class size and other work conditions,” the report continues.

We detail below the building blocks that could chip away at the funding shortfall. They won’t include items that are not possible – such as the wholesale elimination of programs for undocumented students or special education students. The district can’t legally broach those subjects, so while they may lead to a lively discussion, for purposes of this article, they’re off the table.

Because  without having to get various union groups to agree, your task just got lighter. Now, you only have to find $40 million in reductions – still one of the larger cuts the district has ever had to make in one budget year.

However, if there are any items on that list (see ) which you'd like to save, you must find corresponding cuts elsewhere.

All figures come from Capo Unified documents obtained in a California Public Records Act request or from the website of the Capistrano Unified Education Association, the teachers’ union.

Larger class sizes

Increasing class sizes means laying off teachers. This year, . In addition, . The plan saves the district money as long as some are not replaced.

Adding one student per class for all grades between kindergarten and 12th means eliminating 47 teachers, at a savings of $4.23 million.

Adding two students for every grade means cutting 91 teaching positions, for a savings of $8.2 million. Adding three students per grade means 131 fewer teachers, for a savings of $11.8 million.

The district calculates that each teacher gone from the payroll saves $90,000. In coming up with your plan, you could increase some grades and not other, but you'd have to stay within some parameters – no more than 33 students in grades K-8.

It should be noted that the state has no maximum ceiling for the number of students in a high school class. 

Last year, the trustees asked the state for a by adding as many as three extra students per class. Although class sizes were not increased last year, the waiver – which would permits up to 33 students per class, is good for two school years. Class sizes currently average 30 students in those grades.

This year, . The waiver would also ask permision to up class sizes in those grades to as many as 33 students. Current kindergarten classes average 31 students; grades 1-3 average 30.

Freeze salary advancements until January 2013

Delaying automatic salary advancements by six months could save the district $2.73 million for all employee groups. The savings break down like this:

  • Teachers:  $1.43 million
  • Non-teaching employees:  $933,000
  • Teamsters:  $207,000
  • Management:  $163,000

Furlough Days

Each furlough day saves the district $1.67 million for all employees. It breaks down like this:

  • Teachers:  $1.2 million
  • Non-teaching employees:  $338,000
  • Teamsters:  $43,000
  • Management:  $100,000

It should be noted that teachers already have three furlough days a year under their current contract. Non-teaching employees (members of the California School Employees Association’s local chapter 224) don’t have any furlough days, the Teamsters have four and management has six.

Salary cutbacks

Every 1 percent reduction in pay saves the district almost $2.9 million. Here’s the breakdown of savings on a 1 percent rollback:

  • Teacher:  $2.03 million
  • Non-teaching employees:  $589,000
  • Teamsters:  $69,000
  • Management:  $194,000

So a 5 percent salary reduction for all employees would save $14.4 million.

One example

Those are the puzzle pieces. In a report to the trustees, Superintendent Joseph Farley illustrated an example of how the district could negotiate cutting just under $40 million. It was for reference and example only:

Cut     Savings Increase Class Size by 2 $8.2 million Freeze Salary Advancements $2.7 million 8 Furlough Days $9 million Teachers 3 current + 5 new Non-teachers 0 current + 8 new Teamsters 4 current + 4 new Management 6 current + 2 new 8% Salary Rollback $19.8 mil Teachers 1.2% current + 6.8% Non-teachers 0% current + 8% Teamsters 1% current + 7% Management 3.7% current +4.3% Unilateral Reductions $11 million Grand Total $50.7 mil

The chart is "just one example of how a $50 million reduction could be reached, and should not be viewed as anything more than that," states a report to the trustees.

Should the voters in November pass an initiative Gov. Brown proposes which would temporarily increase taxes on the rich and purchases made by everyone, CUSD would be able to reverse $18 million worth of cuts.

randy June 05, 2012 at 10:48 PM
I knew it had coming. Feel a pulse? Coincidence? :p
Pam Sunderman June 05, 2012 at 10:57 PM
And here it all was all along... http://capousd.ca.schoolloop.com/cms/page_view?d=x&piid=&vpid=1310911263222
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 05, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Sure, polls are easy. :-)
Pam Sunderman June 05, 2012 at 10:59 PM
If so I would call that a very quick response to what was perceived here as a need :). But as you can see from the press release there have been opportunities for input all along.
Moving On June 05, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Penny - if you do a poll, will people that already voted be able to respond? When you add the third question, since I had already responded to the poll, I couldn't vote when you added the third question on parcel tax. Maybe a separate poll? Just a thought :)
Moving On June 05, 2012 at 11:07 PM
@Pam - they posted it today, so I tend to think that it was just put together. The budget presentations on the web-site, I have already reviewed them as they were posted to the website :)
For the kids June 05, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Penny This workshop was announced a while back and isn't new. How come this information hasn't been part of the discussion up until now? I would argue that this shows how public this discussion has been all along and how a few really motivated people claim to be left in the dark when all they had to do was open their eyes and look around? I have heard people talking about this workshop for days. Pam posted links great links. Thanks Pam! This isn't a Board meeting either in case any one was wondering
randy June 05, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Assuming 51m to payoff by salary cuts and unilateral cuts, layoff/attrition with fewest furloughs possible being rsolved in weeks, if not 12 months, we need to know what to do with $18m new money from new taxes (if unfortunately passed by entire state election)? We need to know where allocation (reallocation) will be going from. Stay ahead of playing field will most likely contribute all CUSD students in long term.
Pam Sunderman June 05, 2012 at 11:20 PM
I agree Moving On. The situation has moved so fast that they are now ready to share the latest info. This forum has given people a chance to interact civilly. That would be a great mood to carry into the actual public forum.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 05, 2012 at 11:24 PM
You and I live in alternative universes, FTK. The item was posted today. The date is on it. It now tops the front page of the CUSD homepage, which means it was just added. And I check the site daily. It wasn't there. The meeting is clearly labeled a community forum. I've already written a story about it.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 05, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Here is the timeline for the original budget schedule, as presented to the board in February http://capousd.ca.schoolloop.com/file/1229223560406/1218998864154/7227554648873332144.pdf You'll see in the Point Presentation that there was no community forum scheduled. Last year, there were two (one of which was eliminated, the other which was rescheduled ... twice).
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 05, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Randy, CUEA wants the furlough days/salary cutbacks to be temporary, meaning they would be restored as soon as the extra money comes in. However, the district is expecting yet another deficit, albeit much smaller, for the 2013-14 year.
Yeparoo June 05, 2012 at 11:32 PM
@randy - Bill Clinton says no new taxes. However, if their are new taxes, I suggest to be fiscally responsible CUSD should pay off their debt. I'm not sure when, but at some point homeowners may need to disclose on any real estate transaction that their home school district is financially unsound. It would be nice if they could be fiscally sound.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 05, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Pam, I'm not sure your characterization is fair. What's been on the table has actually been proposed for months. The $51 million figure has not changed. The cuts will be some sort of combination of furlough days, fewer teachers/larger class sizes and salary cutbacks. Everyone has known this. The question I've asked the public, what's most important in coming up with a plan?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 05, 2012 at 11:37 PM
How could community input from a month or two ago be irrelevant? The $51 million figure has been known for months. The May revise really didn't change much. That's what was said last meeting. Parents' priorities are parents' priorities. Do you really think a parent who would have said in March, "I don't want too many furlough days," would suddenly change his mind? Would a parent who was against class-size increases suddenly be for them?
Pam Sunderman June 05, 2012 at 11:46 PM
It is in the best interests of the teachers for the district to be solvent as well. I'm sure the negotiations have taken all the factors into consideration. Starting with the premise that teachers would throw the district and its students under the bus (not to mention colleagues) is returning to the mindset of a previous school board...and perhaps even several previous school boards. I prefer to think that the fact that there has been absolutely no animosity expressed by the representatives of either side is a very good omen that the priorities for both are to find the best solution for all.
randy June 05, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Yeparoo, for the record, I vote no new taxes. Hard to predict the reuslt from the state election in Nov. If $18m new taxes will pour into CUSD, we ned to know the hrd facts in addition to what Penny said above. What happen to class sizes, RIF, etc. with new money? Or roll over for 2013-2014? Kickbacks? Etc.?
Pam Sunderman June 06, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Penny, while I agree that CUEA wants temporary in the language...what we are looking at is a starting point. We have no idea what the triggers will be. I'm sure there has been a lot of discussion about THAT. We know that last year the trigger was as soon as new money came in. But did the teachers get all of the new money or just a portion of it? I really don't know. I can think of lots of ways to trigger restorations. Should pay be restored before or after class size improves. What would that look like? Should pay be restored in segments? Should pay be restored before other items in the budget? Which ones? How do benefits figure in? Pension issues are out since those are decided by statute, not through collective bargaining. What happens in case of another deficit (which as you say is expected)? Again...all being talked about perhaps but no walking out of meetings, no press releases or talking to John and Ken on KABC. A very good omen for CUSD!
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 06, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Randy, the easiest cuts to restore are furlough days (especially if they haven't occurred yet) and salary cuts. It would be very disruptive to start hiring teachers and moving students around to decrease class size in the middle of the year.
just a parent June 06, 2012 at 12:40 AM
This budget forum was announced in last week's Capo Talk. A friend called me about it over the weekend, so other people read Capo Talk and knew about it. In addition, there were several Superintendent forums earlier this year. I think I remember the budget deficit being discussed at the one I attended. Honestly, I feel that I've lived and breathed this budget disaster for all of 2012. I truly don't feel in the dark or that information wasn't available to me as a parent in the district. I also understand that I could attend any board meeting to voice my opinion. I can call or email the district leadership and/or any school board trustee to discuss the situation further. I guess I simply don't feel that I've been kept in the dark as some seem to imply. I also appreciate the calm on my campus and the continued focus on the kids in the classroom. Its a nice change. My kids are completely focused on school and unaware of the dire budget situation, as it should be. I think that negotiations conducted in a calm, rational manner rather than a hyper-emotional, dramatic, media driven circus will produce better results. That's just my optimistic opinion. My opinion on preferred ways to bridge the budget gap: 1. Salary reductions and freezes 2. Furlough days up to 10. I'd rather see more furlough days than cut any student program (sports, music, librarian, etc.) 3. Class size increase as a last resort 4. I'll donate more money and time next year.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 06, 2012 at 01:02 AM
It WAS on Capo Talk. Out of curiosity, how many of you read it closely? (My guess is not many because 400+ comments and no one mentioned it until after it was posted). I admittedly missed it. However, I check the main CUSD website daily. It didn't show up until the 3 p.m.-ish hour. Why so long?
Lawrene Bottorf June 06, 2012 at 02:30 AM
As goes Wisconsin...so goes the country.... :)
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 06, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Please don't start a discussion here about the Wisconsin election. Not sure how I can make it hyper-local so you can have a place to discuss it, but don't do it here. Thanks!
Lawrene Bottorf June 06, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Sorry Penny...it was my round-about way to saying that the way to best save $$ in CUSD is to start with pensions and other entitlements...which are also taboo in this thread. :)
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 06, 2012 at 04:16 AM
You can discuss the Scott Walker recall and implications for more local concerns here: http://sanjuancapistrano.patch.com/articles/implications-of-walker-s-failed-recall NO USING THE WORD HACK! Be kind. Discuss the ISSUES, not each other. Now go! :-D
OC Mom June 06, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Penny, ST Math Ji Ji might only be available to schools. Here's their website: http://www.mindresearch.net/cont/about/landing_about.php ALEKS is available to homeschoolers or private parties who want to subscribe to supplement their kids during the school year or over the Summer. It's not that expensive. www.aleks.com If class sizes increase or you have a child struggling in Math I think these programs can help tutor them. Khan Academy is great too and free.
Capo Parent June 06, 2012 at 06:35 PM
No triggers, but the teachers union won't agree and Farley doesn't have the cojones to hold firm (no pun intended). So if triggers are agreed to make sure there ironclad and that CUSD has to actually receive, in hand, the additional general funding that prompts the trigger, no more using deferred funds as real money.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) June 06, 2012 at 06:52 PM
And I thought no one had seen it (or, I'm not funny)! Hope everyone knows it's just in good fun. :-)
randy June 06, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Admittedly I had great laughs from your creativity but I didn't reply when itscrolled up too fast. Penny, your writing is well versed. Had to reply this using my sow moving smartphone!

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