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Watsonville
July 18, 2024

PVUSD can meet financial obligations for next 3 years

WATSONVILLE—The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees heard a budget report Wednesday for financial activity that has occurred from July 1-Oct. 31, which shows the district is able to meet its obligations for the next three years.

This so-called positive certification is a best-case scenario for a school district. PVUSD last year showed a “qualified” certification, which meant it was possibly unable to meet expenses for the next three years.

But this somewhat rosy financial picture was tempered with a grim prediction through 2024 of decreasing enrollment leading to lowered revenues. PVUSD Chief Business Officer Clint Rucker predicts that this year’s enrollment of 16,793 students will decrease to 15,776 in three years, leading to a drop in Average Daily Attendance revenues.

This amounts to a loss of more than $9.7 million next year, and $3.8 million in the 2023/24 school year, Rucker said.

This is a problem statewide, where the K–12 student population declined by more than 160,000 students last year.

The meeting began with dozens of teachers addressing the board, asking for salary increases that they say would allow them to keep their jobs and continue living in Santa Cruz County.

“I think PVUSD can afford to—and must—give us a bigger raise,” said Amesti Elementary School teacher Rachel Hitchcock. 

She said that the district has money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and that the district currently shows a $28 million ending fund balance over the next two years.

“Teachers want PVUSD to have money in reserve, we do,” she said. “But teachers—and your job—is to educate children, not hoard money.”

Hitchcock also said that the district has a 5.07% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)—which is funding from the state to help districts meet increases to salaries, health and welfare benefits and retirement costs.

Many teachers echoed this sentiment, asking the district to apply the COLA to their salary schedule.

But Rucker said that the 5.07% COLA includes funding for last year, when the district did not receive a COLA.

After paying last year’s costs, the district is left with a 2.48% COLA, which the district has offered in ongoing negotiations to put on the salary schedule, Rucker said.

He also cautions that much of the district’s balance comes from one-time funding, which he says would be inadvisable to put toward ongoing expenses such as salaries.

The money, he said, will be spread out over the “steps” of the district’s salary schedule, which normally signifies the number of years of employment. This year, newer teachers will get higher amounts as a way to entice them to stay and new ones to join the district, Rucker said.

Teachers in steps 1-6 are being offered a $2,500 increase, for example, while those in steps 7-10 are being offered $2,000. More experienced teachers—those in steps 7-10 and 11-14—have been offered $1,500 and $1,000 respectively.

Todd Guild
Todd Guild
General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA. https://pajaronian.com/r-p-reporter-honored-by-csba/

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