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KHSD could face significant financial cuts with proposed revised state budget

KHSD meeting

Scott Cole, Kern High School District deputy superintendent of business, discusses potential financial shortfalls during a Board of Trustees meeting Monday.

As California legislators and state officials try to mitigate a projected $54 billion shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic, local school districts are looking at significant budget cuts of their own.

The Kern High School District board of trustees meeting Monday night outlined potential impacts on the district if Gov. Gavin Newsom's May revision budget proposal, which aims to close the $54 billion gap, passes.

The revision's solutions to address the shortfall come from combined sources, explained Scott Cole, KHSD deputy superintendent of business. That includes: 

  • Cancel $6.1 billion in new program expansions and spending increases proposed in the January proposal.
  • Use all $16.2 billion in state reserves over a three-year period.
  • Defer apportionments (including school funding), borrow and transfer $4.1 billion from special funds.
  • Make $14 billion in cuts (including $6.5 billion in education) if sufficient federal fiscal relief does not materialize.

This translates to ongoing cuts of $35 million for the district if this were to pass, Cole explained.

"I say if this were to come to pass because there's still some discussion going on with legislators, and they have multiple proposals themselves that may not result in this much of a loss," he said, "and we're still waiting to see what the federal government does in terms of a type of bailout for us as well."

Newsom in his May budget revision is looking to eliminate $6.5 billion in Proposition 98 funding, which sets minimum funding for education. 

Cole added the governor also is proposing cuts to categorical programs, such as California Partnership Academies ($9.4 million), Adult Education Block Grant ($66.7 million), Career Technical Education Incentive Grant Program ($77.4 million), After School Education and Safety ($100 million) and K-12 Strong Workforce Program ($79.4 million). That represents about $3.8 million in cuts for the KHSD.

In total, if the revise passes, the district could face:

  • Trimming about $35 million from its 2020-21 fiscal year budget.
  • Trimming $1.2 million from Adult Education, or backfill a portion of that from general fund dollars, which would translate to a deeper cut to general funds.
  • Losing about $3.6 million in Career Technical Education related categorical programs, including partnership academics.
  • Needing well in excess of $35 million in cash to weather deferrals. 
  • Making deep cuts despite getting approximately $29 million to $38 million in one-time restricted use funds.

Trustee Jan Graves had one word to describe the potential financial losses: "Scary."

"The unknown is the scary part of it," echoed Cole. "We don’t know how it’s all going to turn out in the next few weeks."

There is some good news for the district, Cole said. Newsom did propose to help districts with CalSTRS/CalPERS by redirecting $2.3 billion to further reduce employer contribution rates in 2020-21 and 2021-22. Cole explained that would save the district about $7 million.

Newsom also is proposing an increase to special education of about $100 per student, which comes out to a total increase of $2 million for the KHSD.

The May revise proposes a one-time investment of $4.4 billion in federal funds ($4 billion federal Coronavirus Relief Fund and $355 million federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund) for mitigation of students’ learning loss during school closures. The district could see $29 million to $38 million in one-time restricted use funds.

Cole added there are proposals being put on the table to share that money with all school districts, however, not just those that receive concentration grants, which the KHSD is one of them. Concentration grants go to districts where more than 55 percent of students are high need.

The money is very specialized, Cole explained, and funds must be expended by Dec. 30 in one of four ways: extending the instruction school year, additional academic services, learning supports and wrap around services.

The district will bring forth its budget for adoption at the June 29 board meeting.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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