As if preparing to reopen schools in a coronavirus world wasn't difficult enough, local districts are facing proposed substantial deficits and cuts the next fiscal year.
Gov. Gavin Newsom's May revise budget proposes a $6.5 billion reduction to the Local Control Funding Formula, which comprises about 80 percent of state funding for kindergarten through 12th grade schools, and also estimates a $19 billion decrease in the Proposition 98 guarantee of minimum funding for K-14.
What that translates to locally is several millions of dollars potentially lost.
Bakersfield City School District
The Bakersfield City School District is currently looking at an $8.8 million deficit in its unrestricted general fund, explained Sherry Gladin, assistant superintendent of business services. That money can be used for any purpose in district operations.
The district also projects a loss of $34.6 million in the LCFF, and an estimated $25.2 million in operating increases, which includes its COVID-19 response.
"Not a rosy outlook, but our philosophy going into our adopted budget is to really wait and see what the state actual adopted budget will be to hold out for if there will be increased federal stimulus funding or dollars available or flexibility on those funds," Gladin said.
During the June 2 special board meeting, Gladin shared that budget solutions for mitigating funding loss include $14 million in ongoing reductions, $14 million in one-time reductions and $31.2 million in one-time reserves and federal stimulus dollars.
Proposed changes for next year include: freezing replacement and refreshment expenses; fourth through sixth grades having a 29:1 student to teacher ratio; freezing vacant positions; and cutting administrative operating budgets, which include travel and conferences.
If additional federal dollars are available, Gladin said that would soften the $8.8 million deficit.
Federal Learning Loss Mitigation Funds could potentially result in $28 million for the district, but that money has to be spent by Dec. 30, and it is restricted to costs associated with mitigating learning loss due to COVID-19.
"It's just better to plan for what you know you'll receive and have the scenario come out better, than to plan for funding that may not come through and have to adjust for additional reductions in your budget," Gladin added.
Deputy Superintendent Mark Luque said he feels confident the district will still deliver quality instruction to students, even with changes in place, due to an emphasis on "developing strong systems and structures" the last four years.
Panama-Buena Vista Union School District
For the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District, its proposed budget projects a deficit of $21 million. The district is addressing the structural deficit in three phases.
The first phase included management staff meeting with the board of trustees to discuss preliminary solutions totaling around $3 million, which included freezing salary cost-of-living adjustments and steps for management and administration and transferring reserves from a specific fund.
In the next phase, which begins after the governor signs the state budget, the district will revise its budget. At that time, it hopes federal aid will be determined, and it will leverage all federal dollars and district available reserves, in addition to spending reductions, to mitigate the structural deficit. The third phase prepares to respond to mid-year cuts to education funding resulting from additional loss of state tax revenues.
Glenn Imke, assistant superintendent of business services, said the district is hoping to keep cuts away from classrooms for as long as possible. If federal stimulus dollars come in, that will allow the district to make adjustments.
"We serve the kids, and we’re happy to do it, but we’re not running away from the problem," Imke said. "It’ll take time, but we will have a solution."
Currently, he's recommending to use district reserves until information is available from the state and federal government. The district will finish this year with general funds with 17 percent reserves. Absent any cuts or federal stimulus money, the district will burn through 10 percent of its reserves next year.
Salaries and benefits make up close to 90 percent of the district's expenditure budget, so any negotiations, such as ones regarding class sizes, will take place with collective bargaining units, Imke explained.
Greenfield Union School District
The proposed total reduction for the Greenfield Union School District is approximately $8 million. There were some items the district was able to include as offsets, such as lower STRS/PERS increases (offsetting by $1.38 million), special education revenues increased by $80 per students (offsetting by $1 million), CARES Act funds of $3 million and total budgeted revenues down by $2.6 million, according to the budget.
Several reductions and adjustments have been made, according to the budget. Chromebooks were purchased with 2019-2020 funding, which resulted in a $1 million reduction to the Technology Refresh Plan. Additionally, one elementary music position was removed, Project Lead The Way supplies, conferences and consultations were reduced, and field trips, including Camp KEEP, are discontinued at this time.
"We had to really take a long hard look at a number of different areas ... deciding which things we needed to reduce," said Vicki Norman, assistant superintendent of business.
At this time, there are no layoffs planned for any certificated or classified employees, Superintendent Ramón Hendrix said during a board of trustees meeting Wednesday.
Once a final state budget is signed by the governor, local districts have 45 days to revise their 2020-21 budgets.