Paso school board halves pay

In an effort to show they too are making sacrifices during troubled times, members of the Paso Robles school board voted Tuesday to take a 50 percent pay cut.

In addition to slashing their pay — which will reduce their monthly stipend to $120 — the board members also agreed to take a cut in their benefits plan, which is now on par with the plan teachers have.

The roughly $44,000 saved is a small fraction of the $8 million the board needs to cut from next year’s budget. But it’s a good gesture, board president Bob Simola said.

“It’s really such a small percentage of our budget,” he said. “But basically, it was the right thing to do.”

The Paso Robles board, like counterparts across the county, has been forced to make cuts in the district budget because of reduced state funding. In Paso Robles, 140 teachers and classified staff could be without jobs next fall as a result. During budget negotiations, board members have suggested teachers and support staff take furlough days to ease the burden, leading some to question board members about their own sacrifices.

Simola said the board’s decision to cut its pay was not intended to encourage anyone to take furloughs. In fact, he said, the pay cuts have been discussed for a couple of years.

Jim Lynett, president of the teachers’ union, said he was pleased with the action.

“I think it’s a good step,” he said. “It’s part of the concept of shared sacrifice we talked about.”

Furloughs are still an option for both classified and certified staff. But Lynett said plenty of sacrifices have already been made. In addition to layoffs, teachers are facing a two-year salary freeze plus increased contributions to benefits.

“So that’s a pay cut,” said Lynett, who is still pushing the board to pursue a parcel tax that could generate new revenue.

While cutting school board pay could discourage others from running for the position in the future, Simola said compensation isn’t an issue for current board members, who are performing a public service.

“Not one member of the board decided to run to get on the board because they were going to get $240 a month,” he said.