Clovis News

Clovis Unified battles budget deficit

Clovis Unified School District officials are facing a $28 million budget deficit -- and some hard choices.

District officials had already cut about $13 million from the upcoming year's budget when they thought the deficit would total about $19.8 million.

But in the last two months, proposed cuts by the governor and state legislature widened Clovis Unified's deficit to $28 million.

School trustees met Wednesday night, but made no decisions about closing the budget gap. Budget discussions will continue in committee meetings before trustees meet next month.

In two years, cuts by the state and reduced property tax revenues have resulted in Clovis Unified receiving about $50 million less -- a reduction of more than 15% -- for its general fund, which pays for staffing and many basic operations of the 37,000-student district.

To bridge the $15 million gap, the district is looking at dozens of proposals. Under consideration is an across-the-board 2% salary cut for all employees that would reduce the deficit by about $3.4 million, district officials say.

In an e-mail message to employees, Superintendent David Cash said "every one of our permanent employees can be confident their job is secure in the coming year," but employees likely will face financial sacrifices.

Cash also said that employees may not wind up in the same jobs they now have. About 86% of the costs for the district are for staffing, but district officials have made a commitment not to lay off permanent employees, said Kelly Avants, the district's spokeswoman.

One item that will not likely be part of the budget-cutting discussion is step raises, which amount to about $3.8 million, Avants said. Those raises are for employees generally at lower salary tiers, she said, and reducing or cutting those raises would not be equitable for those employees.

An across-the-board pay cut will reduce an employee's retirement compensation, which also would trigger a retirement incentive program, Avants said. A retirement incentive earlier this school year resulted in 115 employees leaving the district by June 30, a savings of about $4.5 million.

Discussions about cuts are ongoing and nothing has been decided, said LisaMarie Slater, president of the district's faculty senate, which represents about 1,800 teachers. Committees made up of teachers, classified employees and administrators are continuing to examine budget-cutting options.