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September 23, 2020
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Covid-19 impacts school district

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
May 8, 2020

The Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District held a virtual board meeting May 5 to discuss budget impacts on the district. For almost an hour they discussed the dire situation they are dealing with during this pandemic. Two action items concerned required notice to employees about layoffs. Two presentations centered around the LCAP and Budget preparation.

Two resolutions were passed on a vote of 5-0. The first resolution, 1920-19, met a legal requirement to notify Certificated Employees of a decision to not reemploy or to reduce their hours for the 2020-21 School Year. The second resolution, 1920-20, also met a legal requirement to notify reduction or discontinuance of Classified Services for next year. 

For Certificated Employees, “In order to affect the layoff, final notice must be given to employees before May 15.” 12 employees were impacted. 11 waived final notices and one will be sent a final layoff notice. The recommendation was “a result of continued declining enrollment and fiscal solvency.” Layoff notices were based “on an employee’s seniority and credential(s).” They were not selected based on “individual employee’s behavior, performance, or fitness for service.”

The district worked with the bargaining unit and affected employees to reach a “stipulated agreement.” The agreement outlined the seniority order for re-employment as the district has vacant positions open for employees with appropriate credentials to teach. Interim Superintendent Watenpaugh said initially because of budget shortfalls they were looking at 20 FTE for layoff. However, with retirements and employees moving to other jobs, only notices for 11.5 FTE was required to meet budget reduction goals. These notices allow impacted employees to take control of their future and look for other teaching positions or jobs. He also said with additional retirements or staff going elsewhere, many of the impacted employees are likely to be rehired in the new school year, if still interested and available.

For Classified Services, “the Education Code of the State of California” requires notice “not later than sixty (60) days prior to the effective date of layoff.” Notice will be provided to six Paraprofessional employees “that as of the 5th day of July, 2020” that their positions will be reduced or eliminated. Paraprofessional employees don’t work an 8-hour day so the saved FTE for this action is 4.25 FTE. These actions plus the elimination of two elementary school assistant principals helped the district close an anticipated budget shortfall for next year of about 1.5 million. But the fiscal outlook for 2020-21 and beyond is still in doubt because of the pandemic.

Julie Synyard, Assistant Superintendent, advised the deadline for adoption of the 2020-21 LCAP was extended from July 1 until December 15, 2020. The LCAP normally covers three years, but the December adoption will only cover a single year. A second LCAP development and adoption will be required for later years. The district is required to adopt a budget for the 20-21 fiscal year prior to July 1. The LCAP should align with that budget. Executive Order N-56-20 allowed the extension, but it also requires the district to complete a COVID-19 Operations Report. That report “details the changes to program offering made in response to school closures.” The district will also be required to “explain how the district is delivering high quality distance learning opportunities, providing school meals and arranging for supervision of students during ordinary school time.” The report is due by July 1. It requires a public meeting to allow stakeholder engagement.

It was left to Robert Marical, Chief Business Official, to lead the good news, bad news discussion about the budget. The good news was limited. He said the district was eligible for about $547,000 in Federal Dollars due to the COVID-19 response actions. That money may be available by August or September. On the negative side, he said “Things are not going to be good. We just don’t know how bad until August or September.” Before the pandemic, the state projected a 1.3 COLA but now a zero percent COLA is likely. This would mean about 1.2 million in reduced revenues for the district. Casino funds are uncertain too. The $300,000 for this year is unlikely since they’ve also been closed. The 1.2 million annual contribution potentially will be reduced or eliminated for the 20-21 school year. There are a lot of uncertainties, so he’ll be preparing scenarios to identify possibilities, but his immediate goal is to ensure the district retains cash solvency through the end of June.