Friday, March 15 was bleak for many teachers in the Riverbank Unified School District, RUSD. There were 12 teachers throughout the school district that received lay-off notices. By law, the district had to issue the ‘pink slips’ by the March 15 deadline, even if the teachers don’t actually lose their jobs. Among the teachers, officials said some of them may have a reduction in their assignments and there is a possibility of recalling teachers in the future, with hopes of not having to let go all 12 that received the required notices.
The district, the Riverbank Teachers Association (RTA) and the California School Employees Association (CSEA) are currently in contract negotiations. In addition to the potential loss of 12 teachers, another eight teachers have taken advantage of an early retirement incentive. Some school classes will likely increase in size so the teachers will have more students to teach. The District’s current financial situation, attributed to a variety of factors, is the cause for the teacher lay-offs.
“We try to look at the overall system to see where we can absorb the cuts,” said District Superintendent Dr. Daryl Camp. “In reality I would like to keep everybody.”
According to Camp, both the federal and state financial situations have an impact on the district’s budget. He also added that the district’s financial condition can be summarized by looking at the declining enrollment, deficit spending, state deficit spending and cash deferrals.
“Although federal legislators averted “the fiscal cliff” in January, the failure to take action in early March will result in a process known as “sequestration” which applies an across-the-board percentage cut to several federal spending streams, including funding of most federal education programs,” stated Camp.
This would be an estimated 6-percent reduction in federal funding that would begin in the 2013-14 school year.
Proposition 30, which Governor Jerry Brown proposed and voters passed in November 2012, should provide the state with additional revenues. Although this gives the district a positive outlook, there will be no additional funding allotted to the current year to support educational programs.
The state deficit has seen a roughly 22-percent reduction from what RUSD should be getting through the state formula. Camp explained that if the district is due $100 for every student, the state is only funding a little over $77 a student due to the deficit factor. A third of that funding would be received after the school year ended. He also added that state cash deferrals have presented an additional challenge for California schools, as the money is held on to by the state longer than in the past, forcing local schools to come up with funding for programs ahead of getting the state reimbursement. As a method of managing state cash flow the state has delayed cash disbursement to schools within and between fiscal years.
“We have been getting by on our reserves but now we are deficit spending,” said Camp. “If we keep that pattern, we will be insolvent.”
The district’s financial condition has been in a precarious state for a number of years. The declining enrollment has had a major impact on the district and according to Camp it is significantly lower than it was 11 years ago. There are several different factors as to why the enrollment continues to decline, but the staff is currently looking at different options to attract students to the district. The staff will also be looking into ways to increase revenues and reduce expenditures as they move forward.
“Riverbank is a proud community that supports schools and student learning. Our staff is doing more with less every day. We will continue to strive to provide the best education possible for our students with the resources we are provided,” Camp noted, adding that he feels the community will rally behind the district. “In order to retain local control and prioritize learning needs for our students we must make very difficult decisions at this time. The Riverbank community will come together to support our students during this financial crisis.”