30 Jun The Saratoga Union School District’s Future is Less Secure (CA)June 30, 2010
By: Brian BabcockSource: Mercury News
The Saratoga Union School District is standing on financially stable ground for now. But the future looks a little less secure as the district expects to use up most of its reserves in the next couple of years.
The district’s board of trustees approved a budget of $23.4 million for the 2010-11 school year. The budget is $400,000 less than last year’s budget.
Nevertheless, the district’s projected expenses are $1.68 million more than its expected revenue. The district is covering the gap with a $2 million balance forwarded from last year’s budget.
The money comes from over-projected expenses, greater than expected revenue and unused government funding, said superintendent Lane Weiss. District staff and the board of trustees will need to do a better job of keeping track of expenses and revenues during the year, he said.
"I’d rather spend this year’s money on this year’s kids," Weiss said.
District revenue has remained high in most years thanks to high property values in Saratoga. But the declining housing market has affected property tax payments, which has in turn affected the district’s revenue.
But district staff has projected a 1.5 percent property tax growth in the city for the next two years.
"It may be a little optimistic. But we think it’s realistic," Weiss said.
But while revenue is expected to steadily rise, expenses are expected to do the same. The district expects to use approximately $1.5 million of its reserves to cover expenses over the next few years. That will bring the district’s reserve fund down from 10 percent of its budget to a little more than 3 percent by the 2012-13 school year.
The district looked into the possibility of putting a parcel tax up for a vote either this November or sometime next year. But polling data by the Center for Community Opinion showed that there was little support in Saratoga for a new tax.
The board decided at its June 22 meeting not to move forward with a parcel tax measure.
The district will continue to participate in the California Department of Education’s class size reduction program for kindergarten through third-grade classes. The district will keep its 20-1 student to teacher ratio as other school districts in the area have had to raise class sizes due to budget constraints.
The district receives $750,000 to $800,000 a year from the state for participating in the program, Weiss said. However, the district will have to give back $30,000 as the state cuts back on the program due to its own budget woes.
The district is also keeping all of its programs intact moving forward, Weiss said. That is due to conservative budgeting and donations from the Saratoga Education Foundation, he said.
Weiss said the foundation is expected to donate close to $1 million, which will help fund music, art, physical education, science and library programs.
Unlike most school districts, Saratoga doesn’t rely on its student population size for funding. Saratoga is a basic aid district, meaning that the school receives funding through local property taxes instead of general funding from the state.
Although the district is not reliant on its enrollment size for funding, declining enrollment and a lack of faculty retirements forced the district to send out 21 layoff notices to teachers earlier this year. But the district has rescinded most of the notices, Weiss said.
"We expect to bring back most, if not all, of our teachers," he said.