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August 13, 2020

Temporary aid inbound for PVUSD budget

WATSONVILLE—The road has been rocky this year for the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, as the state went from a rosy pre-coronavirus budget surplus in January to the potential of $19 million in reductions in May.

Those numbers have changed yet again, after Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed a $202 billion budget that largely leaves schools unscathed, but defers reductions that some experts warn could mean deep cuts in the future.

But the deferrals—roughly $11 billion statewide—mean that school districts will be spending without getting reimbursed by the state until the 2020-21 school year. The Governor and legislature created this budget with the hope of federal stimulus such as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act or HEROES Act, a risky bet since Congress has largely rejected that legislation and has signaled its reluctance to pass another stimulus package.

Newsom’s budget includes $5.3 billion to deal with the “learning loss” that might have occurred during the school closures and distance learning that followed and $645 million for special education. In addition, the state is providing $2.3 million for employee pension obligations. It also prohibits staff layoffs until after June 2021.

Now, PVUSD is looking at reducing just $4.1 million from its budget, allowing it to leave intact most of the potential reductions outlined during a June 10 meeting.

This includes the Early Academic Outreach Program, which would have been a $1.4 million cut. The district is also not reducing seven academic coordinators and is keeping 7.5 classified positions. In addition, the funds mean the district will not have to cut 13 intervention teachers.

“We went from having a $19 million possible loss to being able to have quite a few more supports in place than we originally expected,” PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez said. 

The district’s budget will also improve after it received $19 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act.

But Rodriguez warns that those funds are one-time only, so they cannot be used for ongoing staffing costs.

In addition, the money must be spent by the end of the year, and must be used for learning support and to help the district pay for increased costs that come from distance learning.

The CARES money can be used to replace the $4.2 million the district has shelled out on Covid-19 related expenses, Rodriguez said. 

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