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AUSD Budget Talks

Introduction

In the fall of 2017, AUSD's Board of Education directed staff to review budget priorities in light of the fact that despite recent raises AUSD employees are still among the lowest-paid public school district employees in Alameda County.

 

Over the course of five five meetings, staff presented data on a wide range of budget items, including the costs of full day kindergarten, innovative programs, staffing teachers on special assignment, special education, budget cuts already implemented at District Office, and the parcel tax program.

Staff found a number of reasons why AUSD’s salaries are low, including:

 

  • AUSD’s class sizes are lower than the county average
  • Many AUSD classes are not filled to the contractual limit
  • AUSD’s special education costs are higher than the county average

The budget exploration also found that AUSD’s administrative costs are lower than the county average, and that AUSD spends less of its overall budget on administrator salaries than surrounding districts.

At the April 10 Board of Education meeting, staff presented the Board with a list of ways to potentially shift funds to employee salaries. After discussing the list, the Board approved more than $3.5 million in cuts to programs, as detailed in this press release.

 

At that same meeting, both community members and board members called for long-term plans to identify the community’s educational values and then find creative ways to implement them while developing a salary schedule that can both retain and attract excellent employees. Ideas include merging Alameda and Encinal High Schools, combining elementary schools, and leveraging grants, partnerships, and other alternative funding sources. A committee has been formed to explore the viability of consolidating Alameda and Encinal High Schools; details on that committee and its work are available here.

 

Frequently Asked Questions About the AUSD Budget

 

Why is the Board of Education reviewing its budget priorities at this time?

AUSD employees are among the lowest paid in Alameda County.

AUSD and Alameda Education Association (AEA) are in contract negotiations this year.  The Board of Education has asked staff to review the district’s spending priorities and see if there is a way to reduce expenditures on programs and services so as to improve salaries to employees.

The goal is to help us attract and retain a high-quality workforce in coming years in a fiscally sustainable way.

 

Why don’t you make cuts away from the classroom so students aren’t impacted?

AUSD has made significant cuts “away from the classrooms” over the last several years. For instance, this fall, AUSD drew on funds originally allocated for deferred maintenance to cover, in the short-term, the rising costs of pensions and special education in the district.

The year before that, AUSD cut 10% from all departments in the central office.

 

Why are pensions rising?

The state has increased the amount of money that school districts have to contribute to employee pensions. Between 2014-15 and 2020-21, AUSD’s payment for “certificated” employees (meaning those with teaching certificates) will double. The District will experience a similar increase in the amount it pays for classified employees (those without teaching certificates). The increase in percentage of pension costs that employers and employees are and will be expected to contribute is shown in the chart below.

Between 2018-19 and 2020-21 alone, this will cost AUSD about $10 million. Cost of Living Adjustments provided by the state government cannot nearly cover this expense, so it needs to come from the general fund, which reduces the amount of money available for programs and employees.

 

Why are special education costs rising?

When we say “special education costs are rising,” we mean that in AUSD – as in districts across the state – more and more children are being identified with special needs and the state is mandating that school districts provide more and more services to those children. We very much want to provide all our students with the services they need. Unfortunately the state does not cover the cost of the increased services it mandates, which means districts have to take the funds from their general funds to cover them.

 

How much will it cost to give employee raises?

A 1% raise for all AUSD employees for one year costs about $775,000 annually.   

 

What sorts of expenditures will the Board be reviewing?

Types of programs and positions that the Board will review include:

  • Reduction of services at the District Office
  • Certain software programs
  • Discretionary budgets for school sites
  • Innovative and magnet program funding (e.g., for additional staffing)
  • Teachers on Special Assignment (e.g., academic coaches)
  • High school administrative staffing levels
  • Aligning all middle school schedules to a six-period day

Staffing more efficiently (e.g., allowing classes to have the maximum number of children allowed under the teachers’ contract).

 

Doesn’t Measure A (and Measure B1) cover innovative programs?

AUSD’s parcel tax provides innovative and magnet programs with money for planning and set-up for three years. Once the programs are established, ongoing money to maintain the programs comes from the district’s General Fund.

 

How will the Board decide how to proceed?

The district is surveying AUSD families about their budget and education priorities this month. In addition, budget priorities will be discussed in public Board of Education meetings beginning in late February.  The final list will go to the Board of Education for approval.

The goal is to have objective, data-based conversations about AUSD’s revenue, expenditures, and educational values so as to make thoughtful decisions on how to prioritize spending.

 

Isn’t part of the problem that we have too many highly paid administrators?

No. Most AUSD employee salaries are about 12% lower than the county average. Looked at another way:  AUSD spends about 8.92% of its budget on administrative services at District Office. The average for public school districts in Alameda County is 10.59%. This is about 20% more than AUSD, which is equal to $1.7 million. 

AUSD also spends less for administrative services at its school sites (6.4% of the budget) than the Alameda County average (6.74%). This is equivalent to $360,000.

 

How can I get involved in this process?

Parents, guardians, employees, and community members who would like to voice their opinion about potential reductions to their school's budget can go to School Site Council meetings as well as Board of Education meetings. Please also take

Communications

Board Presentations

Budget Background

AUSD's Budget

AUSD's Local Control Accountability Plan

California School Boards Association: "Behind the Numbers"