Paso Robles School Board elected new officers and heard sobering details of the continuing budget crisis Paso Robles Joint Unified School District faces. The board elected Stephanie Ulibarri president and Chris Arend clerk.
Ulibarri replaces Joel Peterson, who stays on the board. Arend replaces Ulibarri, who previously served as clerk. The vote for Ulibarri was 5-2 for Ulibarri over Chris Arend, with Chris Bausch and Chris Arend casting the two dissenting votes. The vote for Chris Arend as clerk was also 5-2, with Lance Gannon and Joan Sommers each voting for Joel Peterson, the other nominee.
Chief Financial Officer Brad Pawlowski gave a report on finances before the board broke for closed session. Later in the meeting, Pawlowski made another presentation before the board unanimously approved certification of the 2019-2020 First Interim Financial Report. The report indicates that the current budget has created a budget reserve of 3.12%, just over the state mandated 3%. But that reserve will fall to 2.82% in the next fiscal year, and in 2020-2021, it will drop to 1.27% at current spending levels. Superintendent Curt Dubost recommends that the board maintain an ongoing list of budget cuts. He told the board, “We have to find another million dollars to cut from the budget.”
The board is looking at revising transportation in the school district. Pawlowski says currently only 18% of the student population rides the bus. That service may be revised to save costs. The board voted to approve recommended expenditure reductions, but will revisit the “ongoing list of budget cuts” in January.
Joel Peterson talked about the devastating impact of declining enrollment to the budget. The district is projecting enrollment will continue to decline slightly in the next few years. The district is also facing a plethora of lawsuits filed against it by citizens and parents, which may impact the financial well-being of the PRJUSD.