Atascadero Unified School District board OKs cuts

Atascadero school board members Tuesday approved a number of cost-cutting measures, including layoffs, work furloughs and an early retirement incentive program.

Atascadero Unified School District board members expressed disappointment and sadness about what they said are painful but necessary budget cuts.

“I’m frustrated with this process, with the whole deal,” board member George Galvan said. “We don’t cut by reducing students, we do it by reducing teachers, and it upsets me.”

The Atascadero Unified School District faces $3.7 million in potential cuts from next year’s estimated budget of $33 million, due to declining state revenue, dropping enrollment and other factors.

As a result, district officials recommend reducing work hours and salaries and cutting staff. The board unanimously approved new employment agreements that say Superintendent John Rogers agreed to forgo 15 paid work days during the 2010-11 school year.

Assistant Superintendents Kathryn Hannemann and Jackie Martin both agreed to 12 furlough days, as did Kimberly Spinks, the district’s director of human resources.

District officials said the move, combined with smaller monthly cell phone stipends, would save more than $32,000.

The board also approved plans to reduce work days for certificated management, classified management, special services and supervisory employees, for a projected savings of nearly $123,000.

In addition, the board approved an early retirement incentive program, open to employees ages 55 and older with 15 or more years experience.

Retirees who resign prior to June 4 would receive 50 percent of their current base pay over the next five years.

The board also voted 6-1 to lay off 18 certificated employees, including eight elementary school teachers, four special education teachers, a high school Spanish teacher and a junior high school counselor. Six additional certificated employees have retired this year.

Board members also discussed a proposed school improvement bond measure, which would replace a 1976 tax override bond set to expire next school year.

The bond would fund new school district buildings and renovation projects, such as repairing and replacing roofs, upgrading athletic facilities and renovating classrooms and restrooms. If approved, the measure would go on the ballot in November.

The board is expected to vote on the measure at its next meeting May 18.

Atascadero Unified consists of six elementary schools, a junior high school and a high school, as well as the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy, Santa Rosa Academic Academy, Del Rio Continuation High School and West Mall Alternative School.