The Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) appears to be inching closer to takeover by the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE).
In a sternly worded April 17 letter addressed to Board of Education President Roy Boulghourjian, LACOE Chief Financial Officer Candi Clark said the district needs to cut an additional $8 million from its budget, pointing out “the district has a history of not submitting its FSPs [financial stability plans] in prior years, which is of great concern to our office,” the letter states.
PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald said in an email blast on Friday that the district is well on its way to meeting its financial obligations.
“We have put into effect the Board of Education’s courageous actions to right-size staffing and minimize spending,” wrote McDonald. “The reductions and savings of more than $6.9 million during 2017-2018 and more than $12 million in reductions for 2018-2019 have allowed us to replenish our district’s state-mandated reserve and end the year with a balanced budget.”
But it appears that is not sufficient. LACOE is calling for cuts to special education, an increase in the district’s workers’ compensation insurance fund, and closer monitoring of enrollment trends. School funding by the state is based on student average daily attendance (ADA), with funding cuts corresponding to steep and ongoing reductions in the district’s student population.
The district has been plagued by declining enrollment for years, and unless officials can find a constant revenue stream, the district could end up in this situation again.
McDonald said the district has more work ahead due to increasing pension and health care costs, with state funding expected to remain flat.
LACOE has already provided a fiscal expert to help the district deal with pending insolvency. According to the letter, the county agency will take the next step if the district does not adhere to the FCS.
“We are prepared to elevate the fiscal expert to fiscal adviser, with stay and rescind power over the board should the FSP not be implemented in its entirety or should the board take any action determined to be contrary to be contrary to improving the district’s financial solvency and further impeding the district’s ability to meet its financial obligations,” Clark wrote.
— André Coleman