West Contra Costa County Unified School District facing 2-year budget deficit of $47.8 million

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ByLuz Pena via KGO logo
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
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The West Contra Costa County Unified School district is in a dire financial situation and layoffs are a possibility for the upcoming school year.

RICHMOND, Calif. (KGO) -- Instead of planning ahead, third grade teacher Kristyn Jones is concerned about the school district's budget.

"It makes me really nervous, I don't know what's going happen tomorrow," Jones said. "Am I going have a job tomorrow? Are my kids going to have books?"

We went searching for those answers. According to the West Contra Costa County Unified School District, they are facing a 2-year budget deficit of $47.8 million.

We asked West Contra Costa County Unified School District spokesperson Marcus Walton, "Where did this overspending happen?"

Walton said, "Over the last approximately five years, we have received $35 million in local control funding formula revenue increases. Twenty six million goes to state mandated contributions to our retirement system."

According to the district, there are $34 million to carry them through this school year. But layoffs next school year are almost certain.

"Plan of action that the superintendent and chief business officer have laid out is that there will be layoffs in order to weather the budget crisis," said Walton.

According to the district, the causes of this deficit are also from a drop in enrollment of 1,300 students since the 2013-14 school year and a rise in costs like staff salaries.

"Increases of things for like utilities and insurance, benefits have also increased," Walton said. "There are a lot of factors that go into that. The district made an investment in employee compensation."

Hercules council member Dan Romero is asking for a fiscal crisis management team to intervene.

"Coming from Hercules, where we had financial problems 9-10 years ago, you can't allow the people in the inside to do the assessment. You have to hire a third party," said Romero.

Mandated by the state, the West Contra Costa County Unified School District will have to notify its staff about layoffs by March 15, 2020.