At the last board meeting, WCCUSD leaders revealed that the district faces an unexpected $39.9 million deficit — almost 10% of the total WCCUSD budget — for the current school year. This news was surprising because in June the board approved a balanced budget that already included $12.5 million in cuts. The community was told these cuts were necessary to close the gap. Now, the district says it will have to make even more budget cuts this school year in order to meet its financial obligations.
How did we get to this point where WCCUSD faces a mid-year budget crisis outside the normal annual budget process?
To try to understand why the budget picture keeps changing, we’ve pieced together recent budget-related events and the evolving messages about our district’s financial situation below.
A Short History of the WCCUSD 2019-20 Budget Process
Dec. 2018: The district recommends a set of $12.5M in reductions for the 2019-20 budget year, which, along with $4M of cuts in 2020-21, will “balance our budget for the coming three years.”* Based on months of discussions with educators, parents, committees, and study sessions, the list includes a mix of reductions to contracts, positions, and materials. While the district presentation promises that cuts will protect core programs and continue to advance Roadmap 2022 goals, it also ominously warns that “there is still more work to do and any other savings we can find should be put to cover possible future deficits.”
*District presentation to the board: 12/12/18
Mar. 20, 2019: An external auditor presents a “qualified” financial audit. At the same meeting, Dr. Al-Amin presents an update on how 2018-19 expenditures have differed from the adopted budget for the year as part of the Second Interim report. A $7M deficit is now projected for the year, and the district indicates it will use a current fund balance of $9M to cover the overage, significantly dipping into funding that was not intended to be spent this year.
May 2019: Dr. Al-Amin, Associate Superintendent of Business Services, resigns.
June 12 & 26, 2019: The board approves the final 2019-20 budget by a vote of 3-1, with 1 member absent. The budget was created with support from the county following the departure of Dr. Al-Amin. Bill Clark, County Office of Education Associate Superintendent of Business Services, states that “a fundamental assumption of this budget is that revenues and expenditures are equal,” while warning that WCCUSD has outspent projections in both of the last two years. He also notes that WCCUSD is in a unique position among CA districts in that 90% of total expenditures go towards salaries and benefits, versus 85% in the average district. Finally, Dr. Clark warns of “drift” tied to changes in CBOs, which can cause districts to fall off-track financially.
A significant caveat in the budget presented is that total planned expenditures for the year do not take into account funding needed to pay for positions that are currently vacant, even though some of these positions would nonetheless be filled. Trustee Hernandez-Jarvis calls this “disingenuous” and later expressed “concern over not having correct information when tough decisions need to be made.”
July 17, 2019: The board passes Resolution No. 21-1920 “to maintain fiscal stability and identify additional budgetary work needed in 2019-20 through 2023-24” due to “significant additional expenditures” in 2019-20. The resolution outlines a process to balance the budget and identifies a list of the board’s 6 highest priorities, one of which is the Roadmap 2022.
The board approves the hiring of a new CBO, Dr. Tony Wold.
Sep. 18, 2019: CBO Wold presents the 2018-19 “unaudited actuals” and announces a “cut target” of $39.9M in 2019-20 and $7.9M in 2020-21. Wold reiterates his intention to follow the Board priorities referenced in the July resolution. A timeline is announced for upcoming meetings, including a week in September and a week in October for community input meetings. Wold’s presentation notes “Solving the Budget issue will require a full partnership of all stakeholders.”
Going forward, we call on the district and board members to be as transparent as possible about the tough choices that lie ahead and to meaningfully engage the full community in making these choices.
How can you get involved?
- Reach out to board members to ask that they ensure a process that matches the size of the problem, including adequate time — early in the agenda — to allow for budget discussions during public board meetings
- Urge district leaders to present potential solutions that put any cuts fully in context (e.g. dollar amounts alongside evidence of student impact) and highlight tradeoffs inherent in these decisions
- Actively participate in upcoming WCCUSD community meetings (currently scheduled for the week of Oct. 28) and urge district leaders to provide the entire community with authentic opportunities to engage in the budget decision-making process. Meetings like the DBEC and DLCAPS are open to the public and welcome community members to come and learn more
Upcoming Budget Events
- Oct. 16: Board presentation on surplus facilities. This presentation will cover options for district-owned buildings that are currently unused and may be a financial burden for the district. Any proposals in this area would take several years to complete and are not long-term solutions, particularly if we don’t identify and address how we got here
- Oct. 23: Board presentation with a budget update from Dr. Wold on the current fiscal year and a deep look at potential non-personnel reductions for the upcoming year that are the furthest from impacting students
- Oct. 29: District Budget Engagement Committee (DBEC). This public meeting will take place 6:30 – 8:00 PM at the Alvarado School in Richmond (5625 Sutter Ave.), Room 1
- Week of Oct. 28: Community input meetings with key committees, including DLCAP, DBEC, Solutions Team, principals, and teachers
- Nov. 6: Board presentation on potential advocacy for additional state revenue
- Nov. 20: Board presentation on potential reductions to administrative spending
- Dec. 11: Board presentation on the first interim budget and recommendations for spending cuts outside schools (non-personnel and administrative)