It was hard for the Central Valley school board to see any light at the end of a long, dark budget tunnel after receiving a gloomy budget prediction Monday night.
Isabel Munoz-Colon, a senior budget analyst with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, relayed that the state is looking at a shortfall of $2.6 billion. While the state is required by the state constitution to fund basic education, everything else is vulnerable. That includes enhanced staffing for grades K-4, I-728 money for smaller class sizes, gifted student programs and levy equalization money.
Cuts are unlikely in the current school year because of the contracts in place, Munoz-Colon said. “We do expect significant cuts in 2010-2011,” she said.
The cuts will be heightened because the state has used federal stimulus money to backfill money that has already been cut by the state. When the stimulus money is gone, school districts will feel twice the impact. “We’re going to have big cuts,” she said. “We have a real concern that some of our school districts will become insolvent.”
Districts are only holding their own now because the state delayed a teacher pay raise and lowered the amount districts had to put into the pension fund. But both will have to be made up in future years, meaning the pension contributions could jump from just over 5 percent this year to 16 percent by 2014.
“All those things that kept us afloat this year will sink us,” she said.
In Central Valley each 1 percent rise in retirement rates costs the district $255,000 per year, said Jan Hutton, executive director of finance. In this budget year, the district got $1.9 million in I-728 money, nearly all of it in federal stimulus dollars. That amount is expected to drop to zero next year, she said. The district may also lose $1.6 million for enhanced K-4 staffing and $4.7 million in levy equalization money.
The district may have to cut more than the $3.4 million trimmed from the 2009-2010 budget. In order to save money the district withdrew from the middle school sports league, eliminated activity buses, cut the extra curricular program budget and reduced staff.
Board member Debbie Long said that while some cuts are inevitable, the district needed to be vocal about its need for funding. “We must squeak, we must yell, we must scream,” she said.
In other business, the board approved the 2010 levy rate. Voters approved a rate of $3.27 per $1,000 in assessed home value. By law, however, a district may only collect an amount totaling 24 percent of the money a district receives from the state. Central Valley intentionally guessed high in passing the levy because it was unknown if the state would provide levy equalization money. The resolution passed Monday set the levy rate at $2.86 per $1,000 to collect the maximum amount allowed of $19.3 million.
There was a small ray of hope in the levy, however. This year instead of only allowing districts to collect 24 percent of the money received from the state, districts may collect 24 percent of the amount the district would have received from the state if there had not been any budget cuts.
It’s a one time adjustment that will allow Central Valley to collect $1 million more than normal, Hutton said. Since that money is not accounted for in the budget, the district can use it to offset the expected cuts in state money.