SL Coastal cuts $4.2 million and 40 jobs

The San Luis Coastal Unified School District trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to cut $4.2 million from its budget, making some of the deepest cuts the district has seen in a decade.

The major cuts will result in more than 40 jobs being eliminated. Also cut was high school transportation, summer school, Wi-Fi installation at high schools and half of the funding for school resource officers.

After months of pleading by parents, staff and the public, the school board kept two full-time elementary counselors who assist students dealing with emotional issues. The district originally planned to cut all elementary counselors.

“Being a classroom teacher, I can see how professional development can be done in other ways,” said Jim Nett, a teacher at Laguna Middle School. “No way I can teach kids who need a counselor when a counselor is not there.”

The two saved positions will come at a cost of $200,000. It is not yet clear what will be cut to keep those jobs. The two counselor positions will be shared by the school district’s 10 elementary schools.

The cuts equal about $1.9 million in teaching staff, $911,633 in other personnel and about $1.4 million in programs.

The layoffs are the largest in magnitude made by the school board in more than a decade.

“We can’t not do anything this year because next year it will be worse, and the year after that we as a board will not be making decisions,” said Walt Millar, board president. “None of this is what we want to do.”

Millar and other board members reminded the crowd of more than 150 people that if the district did not balance its budget, the state could eventually take over operation of it.

Also cut were librarians, a handful of instructional coaches, English-language-learner teachers and other supplemental teaching positions.

Five bus drivers and additional transportation support positions, such as a dispatcher and a driver trainer, two custodians, a district administrator and 10 part-time special education para-educators will also lose their jobs.

Bus routes will be reduced from 28 routes to 16, and parents will be asked to pay double what they pay now for elementary and middle school students to ride the bus.

Schools will also see their budgets reduced by 20 percent. Funding for school resource officers at Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo high schools was slashed in half, less money will be spent on teacher training, and summer school has been nixed for elementary and middle school students in 2013.

This is the second round of stark cuts made by San Luis Coastal trustees, who cut more than $4.5 million from the budget in May — changing the way elementary music is taught, altering the way specialized instruction is given to English learners and trimming from special education.

The district has been using reserve funds to offset a structural deficit for the past three years.

The state made those cuts with the expectation that money would be paid back; however, a new funding model for schools approved by Gov. Jerry Brown this year made it clear that money would not be repaid.

“I wish our legislators were sitting in this room and could hear everyone sitting here,” trustee Mark Buchman said. “This is really scary.” 

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.