By Liset Marquez | | Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
February 7, 2018 at 4:51 pm

Ontario-Montclair School District is facing a $5.5 million deficit for the 2018-19 school year due to declining enrollment and increasing retirement obligations.

It has prompted Superintendent James Hammond to look at implementing a fiscal stabilization plan, which will outline reductions in expenses and personnel.

By making what Hammond called “strategic and surgical” reductions to its operating budget ahead, the district won’t face a structural deficit going into the 2018-19 school year.

“We’re not forecasting any layoffs,” said Hammond by phone Monday. “Even though we have personnel reductions to make, it’s not going to be done with layoffs to permanent employees.”

He hopes to mitigate some of those layoffs first through attrition: either retirement or those who have taken new positions with another school district. It also means not filling vacant positions.

Hammond said there are temporary teaching positions that would be in consideration.

“There will be reductions but not to the point where we’ll be eliminating programs or services,” Hammond said.

But the burden of maintaining those services will be done with less personnel, he acknowledged.

The school district has 1,700 permanent employees and an operating budget of $258 million.

There are some operational costs – like maintenance or technology updates – that can be deferred, but 81 percent of the district’s budget comes from personnel costs.

Other avenues for reductions

MaryKay Scheid, president of the Ontario-Montclair Teachers Association, and Chris Vargas-Rojas, president of the California School Employees Association, say they believe the district could first consider cutting management positions, reduce professional development as well as testing.

In a joint presentation to the Board of Trustees Feb. 1, the presidents of the labor groups said their common goal is “to keep cuts and layoffs as far away as possible from the kids in our classrooms. Our certificated and classified staff provide vital services for the district and our community every day, working directly with students and their families.”

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