Proposed Budget Adds Some Changes to Education Funding (CA)
May 18, 2010
Though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s May budget proposals did not make significant changes in funding for kindergarten through 12th-grade education, local district officials were told at a workshop Monday night that the picture could change in coming months if fights ensue over proposed cuts to social services.
The latest budget proposals and what they mean to educators locally were presented to districts from around the county at a workshop hosted by the Butte County Office of Education.
According to the latest figures, revenue-limit funding to school districts will be down by about 22.205 percent for the next school year, at an estimated dollar loss to Butte County of more than $44 million over three years, said Kevin Bultema, assistant superintendent of business for BCOE.
Bultema and School Services of California representative Sheila Vickers presented the update to an audience of about four dozen district superintendents and trustees. Present were school officials from Paradise, Chico, Oroville, Concow, Thermalito, Palermo, Durham, Feather Falls and Berry Creek.
Basically, the state’s cuts in education will remain far below the base amount districts should receive.
Vickers said that overall, "the state situation is worse,&am p;quot; but education continues to be better protected than other programs targeted by the May budget revision.
However, there are significant differences in the way the state will now apply cuts in revenue-limit funding. Cuts in revenue-limit funding, based on attendance, have put districts through real financial struggles during the past two school years, across the entire state.
Last January, Bultema told officials the revenue-limit cuts totaled about 18 percent, with a one-time $253 cut to Average Daily Attendance funding that was supposed to be reimbursed.
Now, the one-time ADA cut has been replaced by an ongoing ADA reduction of 3.85 percent, added to the existing revenue-limit deficit of 18.355 percent. What that means is that the revenue-limit deficit will now be about 22.205 percent.
Vickers warned that districts need to be very cautious in planning budgets in the months ahead, because the governor’s latest budget proposals may need to be amended and cuts to social services programs might not be approved, which could affect education funding.
"It’s going to be very tough to come to a budget deal," Vickers said. She added, "Once the budget is settled, it’s not a done deal. You have to be very cautious in moving forward."
Bultema said the revenue limit isn’t the only thing affecting the deficit.
He indicated the districts also need to take into account a general decline throughout the county in average daily attendance.
Generally, declining enrollment is affecting district funding and special education.
He said other factors affecti ng district budgets are high numbers of school staff who are at the highest end of their salary schedules; increasing special education enrollment; and increasing charter school options that will take dollars away from the districts and change the way funding flows.
Bultema urged the districts to spend federal stimulus funds effectively, prioritize and carefully manage cash flows.
Cash-flow problems are another issue districts face due to deferred payments from the state.
He ended on a note of encouragement.
"The boards will adopt budgets by June 30, schools will open, quality education will be provided and we will get through this," Bultema said. "We will get it done."
Afterward, Thermalito Union Elementary School District Superintendent Julian Diaz said he’s more concerned about hidden cuts they may not know about yet, rather than the figures Bultema and Vickers presented.
"My biggest worry is whether we’ll be able to survive for 2011-12," Diaz said. "Most are OK this year, but the following year, who knows?"
He said federal stimulus money has been the salvation at his district.
Paradise Unified School District Superintendent Roger Byland responded that the state is drastically cutting revenue, but whether the May revise increases cuts to education or not, "it doesn’t address the condition of the California economy."
Paradise board president Tom Conry interjected that the state needs to bring school funding up to where it should be.
& ;quot;The state is asking us to bail out a boat that has a giant hole in it, and the water is winning," Conry said. "We’re all sinking."
"I’m glad it’s not a worse budget than what we were projecting," said Penny Chennell-Carter, superintendent of Oroville City Elementary School District. "Our board has already made some drastic reductions."
She said Oroville City has already reduced its budget by almost $1.6 million, mostly through reductions in the work force.
Conry said unless the state takes action to handle the deficit problem and increase funding due education by law, "programs will continue to shrink, class sizes will continue to grow and we’ll lose an entire generation of students due to the state’s unwillingness to fund education."
Most districts are currently engaged in preparing and approving budgets for 2010-11 by June 30.