WCCUSD Superintendent posts update on budget deficit

Coronavirus causes WCCUSD to close all schools for three weeks
WCCUSD offices at 1108 Bissell Ave. in Richmond. (Photo credit: WCCUSD)

By Matthew Duffy, West Contra Costa Unified School District Superintendent

As our secondary schools begin the second semester of the school year, we are still deeply involved in trying to navigate our current budget challenge. I am writing to give you an update on our budget situation and share information on the next steps in the process.

All of the reductions that will be made are painful and will in some way change the way this District provides services. As we tackle this problem and search for solutions, I want you to know that we are keenly aware of the potential impact these decisions will have on the programs and services the District provides to students and families.

The budget deficit we face is $47.8 million. We have made a commitment to reduce expenses by $32 million in the 2020-21 school year and have decided to reduce the remaining $16 million in the 2021-22 school year by utilizing a second year of our Fund 71 one-time reserves to attempt to minimize the impact of painful cuts while we advocate with Sacramento for more appropriate school funding. The use of reserves will allow us to make the reductions over two years. Doing so will allow us to understand what improvements to our budget may come next year with the new state budget and important initiatives on the ballot such as the “Schools and Communities First” measure to increase funding for education. 

Our solution for the 2020-21 school year includes $6 million in non-salary cuts, a $2 million reduction in unrepresented central management personnel costs, $2 million decrease in discretionary funds given to schools, and negotiating $22 million in reductions from our four bargaining units.

As a first step in this process, the senior leadership team, as a result of feedback from multiple stakeholders, has identified more than $6 million in non-salary reductions. This list will be discussed publicly at the February 12 board meeting and made public today. Many of our non-salary costs are fixed like electricity, insurance and others come from restricted pots of money for items such as special education services like transportation and specialized programs and also single use funds such as textbooks and instructional materials. This makes finding additional savings in this area a great challenge. Of the $33 million in unrestricted non-salary expenses approximately $24 – $25 million of those fall into the “fixed cost” categories. The potential reductions of $6 million represent almost a two-thirds reduction in support contracts. These cuts are very deep and for any that are not ultimately implemented a recommendation for a different cut will need to be presented to meet the target of $6 million. 

With a need to reduce $32 million for the 20-21 school year, layoffs may be an unavoidable part of the solution. In an attempt to reduce the impact of any potential layoffs, the District is offering permanent employees an early notification bonus if they notify us by February 14, 2020, of their intent to separate from District employment at the end of the school year. More details around this plan have been shared with District employees. It is my hope that early identification of employees who plan to leave the District will allow us to reduce the number of actual layoffs. 

There have also been significant concerns about management reductions. The reductions in spending on management personnel are still being worked out and will be part of Board discussions in February. However, I want you to know that many of the rumors that have been spreading are untrue, such as the elimination of principals from our schools.  Every school in the district will have a principal next year. All of our secondary schools will have assistant principals in some capacity. We will continue to work on the status of vice principals at the elementary schools which has been a new investment for us over the past three years.

Central office management staff will be significantly reduced next year in order to keep cuts away from the classrooms. Details of these central office management reductions will be shared through upcoming budget updates and at our February Board meetings. These central office management cuts sadly will be severe. It is important for the community to know that the central office will sacrifice enormously in order to help balance our budget.

We are currently in discussions with the unions that represent District employees in an attempt to negotiate the more than $22 million needed in reductions that are bound by contract. Because of this process, we will be unable to share certain information with the public although you may hear and see it from other sources. If you see information regarding potential reductions and have questions, we may not be able to answer them immediately in order to stay within the rules and norms about negotiations. 

I encourage you to give your feedback either by email or at the next Board meeting. Additional information about the District’s budget challenge can be found on our budget information page.

This post originally appeared on the West Contra Costa Unified School District website.