Interim budget letter shows District in the red for next two years

The Taft Union High School District is making deep cuts, already eliminating the equivalent of 16 full time teaching positions and considering eliminating some sports programs as tries to control its projected budget deficit.

According to an interim financial report filed with the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, the TUHSD is facing an estimated budget deficit of approximately $2.4 million in the current fiscal year, rising to to $2.8 million in 2018-19 and 2019-2020.

Those calculations were contained in a letter from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools after a review of a mid-year report submitted by the District.
The KCSOS letter was dated January 15, before the District and teachers agreed to a memorandum of understanding resulting in the elimination of the equivalent of 16.5 full-time teaching positions and increasing teacher workload from five classes to six classes per day starting in the fall of 2018.

The budget crunch for the TUHSD is a result of the Local Control Funding formula now used to calculate funding for school districts.

Historically, TUHS was a very wealthy District, but under the LCFF formula it will not receive annual cost-of-living adjustments until its funding levels fall back to the average levels of similar districts.

This comes as costs continue to rise, especially for employee retirement benefits

The TUHSD will spend $33,642,793 in the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30, with income of $32,157,180.

Coupled with other negative cash flow, that is a loss of $2,406, 889.

"It is essential that the District recognize and monitor spending so it remains manageable, and implement expenditure reductions if needed to maintain fiscal solvency," the letter from the KCSOS Division of Administration and Finance said. "

No estimate of how much the District will save through the cuts in teaching positions was available.

The TUHSD started tightening its belt a year ago, then held a workshop with School Services of California, a firm hired to conduct an analysis of its finances, in September of last year.

At that point, the bulk of the District's expenses - 62 percent - were going to employee salaries and benefits.

It wasn't a crisis at that point, the District was told.

"This is not a disaster but it is a situation that mandates early attention so it is still manageable," School Services of California CEO Ron Bennett told the Board of trustees at that point.

Now, however, there apparently is a feeling of crisis.

Board member Paul Linder said last week that the District was budgeting with faulty budget information.

"This District has repeatedly received inaccurate financial (information). I don't blame any employees. I blame bad information we received over the last 3 years and we're trying to rectify that."

In addition to the cuts to the teaching staff, the District is looking at other areas to cut, including sports programs.