Lucia Mar plans to send out dozens of layoff notices

The county’s largest school district, struggling to close a $5 million budget gap, is poised to issue scores of pink slips

clambert@thetribunenews.comFebruary 28, 2010 

The Lucia Mar school district is planning to issue layoff notices for 71.9 full-time-equivalent teaching, counseling and administrative posts that could be cut in the next academic year to help close a $5 million budget gap.

Three full-time management positions, plus three that are now vacant, could also be cut. The separate plans are up for a vote at the Lucia Mar Unified School District board meeting on Tuesday.

Teaching positions slated for possible layoffs include high school English, social studies and physical education; middle school English, math and science; 16 elementary positions and 12.5 “intervention” positions.

The management cuts would affect a food services director, a theater manager and an assistant technology director.

Those cuts would save the South County district — San Luis Obispo County’s largest school system — an estimated $500,000, according to a district report. It’s not known how much the proposed teacher and counselor layoffs would save.

Michelle Ellis, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, planned to meet individually with every affected employee by the end of the weekend.

State law requires the district to issue preliminary layoff notices by March 15; final notices must go out before May 15.

“The meetings have been very well received, even though it has been difficult news to share with an employee,” she said.

Ellis said she’s assured employees that cuts are not performance-based, but because of a difficult budget year.

A transitions meeting is set for April 14 for employees who get layoff notices.

Ellis said Friday that “a lot can happen between the initial and final notices.”

“Even though we don’t know the outcome of our budget, we have to plan for the worst-case scenario,” she said.

“Beginning on (Wednesday), the initial layoff notices will be distributed to employees,” Ellis added. “We still don’t know if we have retirements, resignations, job-share assignments or staff going to request 100 percent leave next year.”

School districts countywide are facing budget cuts. County schools Superintendent Julian Crocker said recently at an annual education forecast that local schools face an $8.6 million cut in state funding in the next academic year.

Lucia Mar’s current general fund budget — which funds most operations — is about $57 million, but is projected to drop to $54 million in the 2010-11 year. The district has other, separate funds for mandated programs that could also face cuts.

The number of layoff notices is far less than last year, when 220 Lucia Mar teachers were given notices.

The district ultimately laid off 90 teachers, but reinstated about 30 of them.

“The board comes to the March 15 pink slipping with such a heavy heart,” board President Colleen Martin said. “Last year we were crying up there. It’s not something we want to do, but we also aren’t allowed to run the district into the ground.”

The district last year was able to add about $3.7 million in one-time federal money to its budget to help close a $9 million gap. It still has about $1.2 million of that money left, which has to be used by September 2011.

However, the district also expects declining enrollment. This year’s enrollment has dropped about 70 students from last year, reducing the average daily attendance funding the district receives from the state.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929.

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