It’s almost mid-March, which means school boards around San Luis Obispo County are grappling with how many teachers, counselors and other employees to lay off in anticipation of another year of budget cuts.
About 55 initial layoff notices will be distributed to full-time teachers and other credentialed employees and managers around the county by the legal deadline of March 15.
About 125 temporary employees — those hired for a set period of time — were also given notice that they would be let go.
Most, if not all, districts are preparing budget scenarios that assume California voters would approve a proposed statewide ballot measure that would extend a temporary increase of some state taxes before they expire at the end of June.
“We’re to the point right now where we can’t go any lower,” Shandon Unified Superintendent Rodney Wallace said. “If we do, we will be in combination classes in all levels with high numbers of students.”
The district, with about 300 students, faces a cut of up to $300,000 to its $2.2 million general fund budget and plans to drop one elementary teaching position (it must distribute two layoff notices to do so).
Tom Torlakson, the state schools superintendent, is urging districts to plan for the worst and warned that without any tax extension, an “all-cuts” budget could lead the state to reduce school spending as much as $4.5 billion.
Thousands of teachers across the state have already received initial layoff notices, but the exact number won’t be available until after Tuesday’s deadline.
Last year, 21,905 teachers and other staff in California received layoff notices by March 15.
In San Luis Obispo County last year, about 185 teachers, counselors and other credentialed employees received an initial layoff notice. In May, the school district boards finalized layoff notices for 172 employees.
The number of initial notices going out to full-time employees this year compared to last March appears similar for some districts and fewer for others, while the number of cuts to temporary positions is higher — which could indicate that district administrators are nearing the point where they’ve cut nearly all the positions they can without using other measures, like furloughs.
“We keep cutting and cutting and cutting,” said Michelle Ellis, the Lucia Mar school district’s assistant superintendent of human resources. “It is going to be less because we’re running out of people to cut.”
The South County district — San Luis Obispo County’s largest school system — last year negotiated an agreement with its classified staff to take furlough days, which it never had to carry out. So did Shandon Joint Unified and Templeton Unified.
In an effort to cut costs, at Atascadero Unified, several district administrators and staff members have agreed to take unpaid furlough days.
The number of layoffs will likely change in the next few months as a clearer picture of the state budget emerges. Final notices for teachers and other credentialed employees are handed out in May, and districts must approve a fiscal year budget by the end of June.
For classified staff — such as secretaries, computer lab assistants, library technicians and mechanics — a notice of termination must be issued no later than 45 days prior to the last day of employment. Many districts have not given notices to those employees yet.
Teachers in the Paso Robles district will receive the highest number of notices countywide. Twenty-eight teachers will receive notices, and school officials made it clear during a recent board meeting that more jobs could be cut.
Last year, the district sent layoff notices to more than 70 teachers. Clerical workers could also get layoff notices, though the board has until May to sort through classified positions. The district faces a drop of $2.2 million from its budget.
The Lucia Mar district faces a $3.5 million cut to its $51 million general fund budget if the tax increases are not extended past the end of June. The district with 10,500 students also expects to lose about $700,000 because of declining enrollment.
The school district board has approved issuing layoff notices to 11 teachers and two managers. Nearly a dozen others would be reassigned to other positions.
Thirty-nine temporary teachers were also let go. In addition, 37 classified staff, mostly classroom and computer lab assistants, and library technicians, will be laid off; one position will be reassigned and 22 others will have their hours reduced.
Some districts will avoid a layoff: Atascadero Unified has let go 15 temporary teachers but is not issuing layoff notices to permanent teachers.
The Cayucos Elementary and San Miguel Joint Unified districts will also avoid layoffs, according to Christin Newlon, the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education’s chief human resources officer.
The San Luis Coastal district has issued layoff notices to about 40 temporary teachers, said Rick Robinett, director of personnel services.
“We don’t know what will happen with the budget, and it remains a scary scenario for us right now,” Robinett said. “Our anticipation is that we will be able to call those teachers back.”
Up to 30 classified employees who are primarily funded with categorical funding — money that can only be used for specific programs — such as aides, secretaries and clerks will receive release notices. “We are very optimistic that we will be able to keep those positions,” Robinett said.
Positions there that could be cut include counselors at both elementary and secondary schools, teachers in Regional Occupation Programs and teachers in areas such as music and physical education.
Russell Miller, assistant superintendent for finance at San Luis Coastal, said that state budget cuts are expected to be anywhere from $4 million to $6.2 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Eight elementary, middle and high school teachers in the Templeton Unified district will receive an initial layoff notice, said Superintendent Joe Koski, who just started his job with the district a month ago.
“I certainly would much rather be talking to the community about how we’re going to expand our programs and invest in employees,” he said.
The district board has decided to use reserves to cover about $500,000 of an estimated $800,000 budget gap in the district’s $14 million general fund budget, he said.
The district will try to make up some revenue by offering Saturday school — for which the state makes up some lost funding from absences — and urging students to reduce their number of absences throughout the school year.
The county Office of Education distributed layoff notices to five managers and eight temporary teachers who teach alternative and special education, Newlon said.
Number of layoff notices distributed to full-time and temporary teachers and other credentialed employees:
Atascadero Unified: 15 temporary teachers
Cayucos Elementary: None
Coast Unified: Two temporary teachers
County Office of Education: Five managers, eight temporary teachers
Lucia Mar Unified: 11 teachers and two managers, 39 temporary teachers
Paso Robles Unified: 24 teachers and three managers, 7 temporary teachers
Pleasant Valley Unified: Not available
San Luis Coastal Unified: 45 temporary teachers
San Miguel Unified: None
Shandon Joint Unified: Two
Templeton Unified: Eight teachers, seven temporary teachers