Cuts needed for Paso schools to be solvent

As painful as it is, a 6 percent pay cut for Paso Robles teachers appears to be the surest way for the school district to become financially stable enough to avoid a state takeover.

We wish that weren’t the case. If there were any way that the three furlough days offered by teachers would be adequate, we would urge the district to adopt that plan.

But at this point, a one-year stopgap measure isn’t enough. According to the county Office of Education, which has been working with Paso school administrators on financial planning, the district must show two years of fiscal solvency if it’s to get out from un der the “negative certification” declared last month.

A negative certification essentially means that the district does not have a 1 percent reserve fund, which is the minimum required by the state.

If that trend continues, the district may have no choice but to borrow money from the state — and that’s not in anyone’s best interests.

Under aworst-case scenario, the current superintendent, Kathy McNamara, would lose her job and be replaced by an administrator appointed by the state. The school board would lose its power and become an advisory body. And the state-appointed administrator could make any number of unpopular decisions —including additional layoffs and program cuts — to ensure the loan is repaid.

To avoid that, the district has asked teachers to take a 3 percent pay cut this year and another 3 percent next year. Teachers — who have not had cost-of-living increases in three years — say the 6 percent pay cut is draconian.

That may be, but it’s not nearly as draconian as having the state come in and dictate what to do.

Bottom line: We believe the district is being fiscally prudent in asking for a6 percent pay cut. We would strongly urge, however, that the district offer to renegotiate with teachers in the event that the district’s financial situation improves — if, for example, voters approve a tax increase in November.

We also urge the board to reconsider putting a parcel tax measure on the ballot; $8 per month was the amount discussed a couple of years ago, and that seems fair.

While winning the necessary two-thirds majority would be tough, we see nothing wrong with at least giving voters the option of saying yes or no.