MUSD Struggles With Finances Following Superintendent’s Exit

Morongo Unified School District Superintendent Tom Baumgarten has exited his position for an unknown reason. Equally unknown is whether his departure is a temporary leave of absence or for good.
Meanwhile, Doug Weller, Morongo Unified’s former assistant superintendent of human resources, has been brought in to serve in the capacity of acting superintendent.
The Sentinel’s inquiries as to what the basis for Baumgarten’s absence is, and whether he is merely playing hooky or has been expelled, were met with what were essentially non-answers to the quiz. Efforts to reach Weller ultimately led to the woman who was formerly Baumgarten’s secretary and is now serving in that capacity for Weller.
Asked if Baumgarten’s departure is temporary and, if so, what date he is to return, the superintendent’s secretary said, “That is information we cannot share.” Asked then if Baumgarten would be back before the onset of the news school year, she said, “That is not public information.”
The timing of Baumgarten’s retreat appears to have left the district in the lurch, as a combination of factors has imposed on the district a severe reduction in its operating revenue. While Baumgarten was yet in place last month, the State of California informed the district that it would likely impose a ten percent reduction in the Local Control Funding Formula throughout the state, meaning that the district will have sless money for operations in the upcoming 2020-21 fiscal year than it did in the nearly-concluded academic year. In 2019-20, the Morongo Unified School District had expected revenue of roughly $107.3 million and planned expenditures of $109.2 million, with the difference made up through a contribution from an unclarified source. Because of the coronavirus crisis, the city has taken what is either an undisclosed or undetermined hit, reducing the available revenue for this year, even as teachers and students have been absent from their classrooms since March.
Baumgarted was to wrestle with making various economies to the district’s operations, which speculation has suggested would entail reducing teaching positions, not purchasing new textbooks and teaching materials, and deferring maintenance to school facilities. The state has indicated that the inflow of money to the district will be reduced, but has not specified the precise amount.
The district is anticipated to see a basic decrease in revenue because of the drop off in student population, pegged at somewhere around 150 fewer enrollees in Academic Year 2020-21. A commensurate reduction in teaching staff would be at least six. One report held 13 teachers would be axed.
Baumgarten is not in place to make or suggest cuts to the school board.
On the fly, the Sentinel was told, Weller is scrambling to achieve $3 million to $4 million in reductions.
The Sentinel is informed that at a meeting on June 30, the school board will consider a 2020-21 budget calling for $109 million in expenditures and $106 million in revenue, with the difference being drawn from the district’s reserves.

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