Editors Note: This article was edited at 11:44, Jan. 30 to correct Superintendent Sanchez’s response to staff layoffs. Sanchez did not say “she is not sure whether layoffs will happen, but said the staff knows it’s a possibility.”
Hollister Elementary School District (HESD) said it has a budget deficit of $1.8 million coming into 2023.
Chief Business Officer Elizabeth Wilson presented the monthly financial report at a board of trustees meeting on Jan. 24. “We are deficit spending by 1.8 million dollars, which is a very similar number to what you saw at the first interim,” she said. “Our Reserve balance is $6,029,670. Very similar to what you saw at the first interim.”
Interim reports are an opportunity for the public and board to review the budget, its expenditures, and any changes from earlier versions of the budget.
The report showed the district expects to spend nearly $52 million this fiscal year, with a transfer of just over $15 million to restricted programs.
“We’re spending $67 million out of $65 million coming in, based on our budget,” Wilson said. “My staff is currently reviewing our spending over the past five years, excluding COVID-19 funding and specific reports. This includes all unrestricted funds.”
In February 2022, the district faced a $6 million budget shortfall and cut 33 staff positions. It later laid off another 26 employees and the superintendent took a $4,000 pay cut from her $210,000 salary.
Wilson said the district is examining its spending patterns to determine if they are too high or too low. They are also working to control expenditures at individual school sites by adjusting budgets as needed. For example, if a school site overspends on computer equipment at the beginning of the year, they may take funds from other areas, such as classroom supplies, to keep the overall budget in check.
Trustee Jan Grist mentioned that the budget deficit is a concern, as it could lead to letting go of teachers.
“This is my nightmare and I have not been sleeping well,” said Grist. “Our class sizes have been very nice and this deficit spending is because our quantities have been very nice. Which then in my nightmare means we have to let go of teachers.”
Superintendent Erika Sanchez responded to Grist’s concerns by saying.
“We have to always remember that anything that impacts employees in regard to a reduction in force, in regard to working conditions, must be negotiated,” she said.
Wilson said that the district is currently in the second interim budget review period, which closes at the end of January. The report for this period will be released publicly on March 15.
“The reductions I’m looking at are going to be larger ones and they will be in areas that we can afford to make those reductions,” Wilson said. “I don’t have that detail yet. When I present the second interim report. I’ll tell you where we made those reductions and what we found of what we think we can live within because then that’s going to be the basis for building the budget for next year.”