As we approach 2011/2012, school districts are once again in uncharted territory. In January of 2011, we were told that the State is facing a $28.4 Billion shortfall. The Governor’s “solution” is a combination of program cuts coupled with a commitment to ask the voters to approve a 5-year extension of temporary tax increases. The outcome is less than certain.
Under the best of circumstances, there will not be a positive answer to the tax extension question until at least June. As a result, many districts are preparing four (4) budgets for next year. The looming question is how to preserve Board/District options until the picture is clarified. Three issues are potentially huge:
1. MARCH 15TH CERTIFICATED LAYOFFS
How large should the layoff be in order to protect District interests? There is always the option of scaling back the scope of the layoff as more facts become known. Except as noted in #2 below, however, we cannot increase the scope of the layoff after March 15th.
2. AUGUST 15TH CERTIFICATED LAYOFFS
The wording of Education Code section 44955.5 is unusual and the Legislature has a demonstrated track record of being late in adopting the budget. As a result, while supplemental layoffs are possible, they are not assured.
3. NEGOTIATIONS / COMPENSATION REDUCTIONS
Because cuts late in the year (or even in 2011/2012) may be necessary, it is in the District’s interest to preserve options. Action before July 1, if possible, is certainly prudent. If a district finds itself in a state of uncertainty as July 1 approaches, we recommend adoption of a Resolution prior to July 1, 2011 which: (a) “sunshines” an initial proposal to each bargaining unit; and (b) notifies non-represented employees of a potential reduction in compensation. This will negate arguments that changes cannot be made after July 1 without prior notice.
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