The Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District’s budget committee met Mar. 7 for the fourth time since Jan. to prepare recommendations for balancing next year’s budget. These recommendations were presented at the Mar. 12 board meeting.
A statement published in the board agenda shows some of the major causes of the deficit: “The budget committee has found that the significant negative pressures on the district are: The district is experiencing its third consecutive year of declining enrollment... Special Education costs increased by approximately $830k from budget adoption in June 2018 to December 2018... Increasing STRS and PERS retirement costs.”
The school district’s budget committee believes that reduction in expenditures will be the best way to produce a conservative budget for the 2019-2020 school year. Each member of the committee supported implementing eight of nine items in an effort to develop a balanced budget. Committee members differed about the idea of reducing three assistant principal positions.
These reductions intended to meet the Financial Recovery Plan required by the Sonoma County of Education in a letter sent to the school district this past January. At this meeting, the Budget Committee discussed proposed cuts for two hours. The district’s goal, to cut expenditures by 1.6 million dollars, could balance the budget for the next fiscal year.
The first item, staffing class ratios according to contractual agreement, would reduce the number of teachers necessary. Because of retirements, layoffs would not be necessary. Transitional kindergarten classes would be staffed at 22 students to 1 teacher, kindergarten to second grade would be at 24 to 1 ratio, while all grades from third through twelfth would be staffed at 28 students to l teacher.
The second recommendation, that one assistant principal position would be eliminated at Rancho Cotate High School to align with county wide high school administrative staffing ratio of 371 to 1. This would have Rancho staffed at 379 to 1. Currently Rancho Cotate (including El Camino) is staffed at 303 to 1. California Ed Code requires a staffing minimum at 500 to 1.
Another recommendation, eliminate two full time assistant principals at the elementary level, would mean that the two remaining positions would each serve three or four schools. A priority criteria list would determine how much time each administrator would serve each site.
At the district office, reduction of two part-time administrators would result in the elimination of 0.9 full time position. Also, a full-time district office/special education position could be removed as this individual would take over an office manager job created by another retirement. And another half-time district office within Education Services position could be eliminated as these responsibilities would be reassigned within the department.
Other proposed classified reductions could save annually another $74k. Reduction of some contract services will provide another $316k savings while a decrease of ten percent of all district office budgets will save $75k.
The school board discussed these recommendations and informally approved all the recommendations except the assistant principal cuts which will be further examined. The budget committee will review that discussion at its Mar. 28 meeting. Final decisions about cuts will be made in May. At this point, one thing is clear: no teacher layoffs will be used to balance the budget.