Modesto City Schools trustees Tuesday put the brakes on a proposal to slice administrative spending by $2.3 million, agreeing to bring back the plan at another meeting.
The proposal to reduce the number of district administrators by 10 to 15 positions was held up by concerns that it wouldn't deliver on its purported benefits. Trustees voted 6-1 to delay the decision. Gary Lopez voted against waiting.
Trustees, however, got moving on their efforts to trim spending by $25 million in the next academic year.
They scheduled dates for budget forums in January and February to provide the public an opportunity to give suggestions about which employees and programs should or should not be downsized next school year. One is to take place Monday at a yet-to-be designated school.
Officials also plan to offer an online survey to gather input.
The proposal to slim down administrative ranks reflects the pressure to balance the district's budget by cutting 10 percent of its $250 million spending plan. Employee union leaders said they would not agree to more salary reductions or unpaid furlough days unless management shared in staffing and spending cuts.
But employee groups presented information Tuesday that countered some of the gains the district hoped to achieve with the administrative reorganization that went before the board. It's coming back at the next board meeting to give administrators time to address those concerns.
The plan would undo some of the revamping that Superintendent Arturo Flores implemented when he was hired 2½ years ago. He created three academic learning communities, each with an associate superintendent and two directors. Positions at the director level are on the chopping block.
"This is a slimmed-down" district office, Flores said.
Lopez expressed concern about the impact on student learning, especially at high schools, by decreasing the number of administrators focused on curriculum and instruction.
"I just want to make sure we don't academically bankrupt our kids," he said.
Administrators estimate the savings at $2.3 million, but employee union groups say the number is inflated, arguing that officials are underestimating salary costs for some newly created positions.
Teacher union leader Doug Burton said employees were dismayed that more than half the estimated savings would come from school sites by eliminating some or all vice principals at junior high and elementary schools, which he says affects students more directly.
Nine of the 38 positions up for elimination are vacant. The plan would create eight positions that would not get a mileage stipend.
Nine managers would be demoted out of management under the plan. The group includes supervisors of repairs, electrical, mechanical, grounds and paint. They no longer would evaluate subordinates, but their salary would remain the same.
Without a cut in pay, union leaders say, the changes mainly are artificial so district administrators can claim they have nine fewer managers.