The poor, sick and elderly will struggle with less in the coming year, and others are still left in limbo after Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of some state budget bills Thursday.
Teachers and other employees at local K-12 school districts are among those waiting and watching to see whether extensions of higher taxes are placed on a ballot. Without that revenue, San Luis Obispo County districts face an additional $20 million cut.
Brown is still negotiating with Republicans on a proposal to put tax extensions before voters in either June or November.
The billions of dollars in cuts that Brown signed into law only address $11.2 billion of California’s more than $26 billion deficit.
But the bills will make deep cuts to public assistance programs, raise community college fees and cut funding for state university systems by $1 billion — which means cuts for Cal Poly.
Other parts of Brown’s budget plan remain undetermined, including his proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies, and to shift some funding responsibilities to local governments.
An array of public assistance programs that help the county’s most vulnerable were slashed. Families in the CalWORKs program — California’s welfare program that provides cash aid and services — will face an 8 percent cut in the money it receives starting June 1.
For example, a family of three currently receives $694 — that amount will be reduced to $638.
Lee Collins, director of the county Department of Social Services, said that aid levels prior to the recent cut were at the same amount that they were in 1989.
In addition, the maximum time a family can receive aid will be reduced from five years to four years.
The number of families receiving CalWORKS in San Luis Obispo County has increased about 11 percent in the past two years. There are 2,207 families receiving assistance through the program, according to estimates.
The In-Home Supportive Services program — which is designed to help the elderly and disabled stay in their homes — will also face significant cuts that are not yet clearly defined, Collins said. That program serves more than 1,600 clients in the county.
Disabled, blind and elderly individuals receiving SSI because they are unable to work will receive $15 less a month — with monthly grants dropping to $830 from $845.
Additional cuts will be made to the First 5 program, resulting in various cuts to children’s programs and increased co-pays for various Medi-Cal benefits.
“It’s devastating for any vulnerable population,” Elizabeth “Biz” Steinberg, CEO of the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County, said of the cuts. “Put yourself in the shoes of someone on a fixed income. It’s just overwhelming.”
Student fees go up
Students at Cuesta College will pay more for their education when student fees increase from $26 to $36 per unit in the fall semester.
Cuesta College President Gil Stork said the impact on the college is “grim.”
With the fate of Brown’s proposed tax extensions unknown, the college is preparing three levels of reductions, Stork said.
The best case scenario is an 8 percent reduction. If the tax extension does not go to voters or does and is not passed, the college will face an 11 percent cut.
The state could also decide to fund community colleges at levels lower than the minimum mandated level guaranteed by Proposition 98. If that were to happen, Stork said, the entire basic framework of Cuesta College and state community colleges would be dismantled.
In all three scenarios, the first impact on students will be the reduced number of classes offered, ranging from 100 to 300 fewer sections. That could potentially impact 500 to 1,500 students who would not be able to take the courses they need.
Staffing cuts will also be discussed, Stork said.
Cal Poly must also grapple with budget cuts.
During a local chamber event Thursday, Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong said Brown’s budget proposal of a roughly 20 percent cut in state funds — assuming the expiring tax extensions are placed on a ballot and approved — could mean the university would receive about $99 million in state support in the upcoming fiscal year.
That compares with about $150 million in annual state support four years ago.
If the tax extensions don’t take place, state support would be about $79 million in 2011-2012, Armstrong said.
The CSU system will have to address a $550 million gap once $50 million in mandatory costs, including increased energy and employee health premiums, have been factored in, according to a CSU news release.
Brown’s actions Thursday didn’t change the situation much for K-12 schools, county schools Superintendent Julian Crocker said. The major impact at this moment is uncertainty, which trickles down to the local level, as teachers who have already received layoff notices wait to see if they are hired back for the next school year.
“If you’re under this constant threat of not being employed or having a job situation change, it’s not the best situation to be instructing children in,” Crocker said.
Districts have already submitted budgets with a combined total of $8 million in cuts. If expiring taxes are not renewed and Brown makes additional cuts to balance the budget, county school districts could face $20 million to $22 million in additional cuts.
If the taxes are placed on a November ballot, Crocker said, districts will still be faced with budget shortfalls between the end of the fiscal year in June and November.
The state could also decide to defer payments to school districts, forcing officials in some districts to dip into reserves or borrow money.