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Hilmar Unified proposes pay cuts, furloughs to balance budget
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The Hilmar Unified School District Board of Education has proposed a three percent across the board pay cut, or six furlough days to the district’s teachers’ union.

According to HUSD Superintendent Isabel Cabral-Johnson, the pay cut or furlough days (which equal three percent) would be applied to all district personnel, including classified and district staff.

In the past several weeks the board has meet numerous times to discuss possible budget pictures from the state and evaluate plans for the worst-case scenario, which is if Governor Jerry Brown’s tax proposal is shot down by voters or never even reaches them. That tax proposal still has not been approved for the November ballot.

Even if the tax proposal is approved, HUSD will likely lose most of its transportation funding, which board members fear will reduce state per-pupil funding — which comes from attendance.

“We are a rural school district and we have to mitigate the cuts to transportation,” said Cabral-Johnson.

If HUSD fails to make cuts in some shape or form, then it will drop its reserves from a healthy 11 percent currently to less than the state-mandated 3 percent by next school year. When a district has less than 3 percent of its budget in reserves it is declared insolvent, or bankrupt.

The district would have to cut $1.2 million in expenditures to remain solvent through 2013-14. A 3 percent pay cut across the board, or six furlough days would only meet some of that $1.2 million. Cabral-Johnson said to make up the difference there would be “some slight program reductions and some restructuring in the transportation department. The home-to-school transportation service to students will not change and (we will) use our reserves to mitigate the remaining funding gap.”

Cabral-Johnson said the board evaluated possible cuts with three points in mind: maintain a healthy reserve; minimize impact to students; and minimize impacts to staff.

The teachers’ union is expected to reply to the board by this Friday.

“Should the teachers’ union not accept our offer that does not necessarily mean layoffs. We will have to revaluate,” she said.  

The HUSD Board of Education has a tentative public meeting scheduled for March 5 — dependent on the negotiations status. Hilmar Unified Teachers Association President Dick Pirsma said the union’s goal is have no teacher layoffs.

“In the past we have given the district furlough days to balance the budget,” he said. “I think this is the economy we are in. The state certainly isn’t doing its job and there are issues with cuts that may or may not happen depending on the governor’s proposal.”

The HUTA serves 115 teachers.

In late January and early February the HUSD Board of Education released a list of cuts recommended by teachers, staff and parents. It included a wide range of proposals including cancelling summer school, closing a campus and loss of stipend pay for teachers.