California and local school district finances
I’m working on a primer about how California school districts and AUSD are funded, because it’s pretty confusing: see here.
The budget for 2020-21 must be approved by June 2020. Due to the shutdown to control the spread of COVID-19, the budget workshop, the Budget Advisory Committee meetings, and Board meetings to discuss budget proposals have been moved to Zoom meetings.
On June 1, a subset of the Budget Advisory Committee will meet to discuss the role of the BAC in future budget processes.
On June 9, I expect the Board will be presented with a 2020-21 budget proposal by district staff, which we will be asked to vote on that night. That proposal will presumably include the staff reductions approved by a majority of the board on Tuesday, May 26.
On March 10, the Board approved the Superintendent’s request to reduce staffing in response to declining enrollment. Once the presentation that explains those reductions has been posted I’ll link it here. The Board postponed a decision on proposed service reductions in student support services, including ELD and intervention. You can see the full list of proposed reductions here. You can view the recording of this discussion here.
You can see updates about actual spending and revenues on the AUSD budget site under Current Budget. The budget was approved in June 2019, and the First Interim and Second Interim reports (which update spending and revenues using actual data and revisions in staffing, enrollment, etc.) have both been approved by the Board.
The latest projection for 2019-20 looks like this:
This projection incorporates the additional revenue from Measure B (which will add $130 per parcel starting in 2021-22), as well as a 2% raise across AUSD. That 2% was agreed to between the district and the Albany Teachers Association as part of the passage of Measure B.
Note that this budget puts the district below the state-mandated 3% reserve threshold by 2021-22, and in negative reserves in 2022-23. The Board must approve reductions that bring that last red number (-3.74%) to 3% by the time we vote on a budget in June 2020. Otherwise we will be subject to County oversight.
About the budget process (expand)
1. The first interim budget is created by the superintendent and her staff, and must be approved by the Board and submitted to the county by December 17. In order to receive a “positive” status, the budget must show above a 3% reserve three years out – i.e. in 2020-21. The proposal coming before the Board tomorrow shows a 9.17% reserve in 2020-21. As the budget proposal indicates, we could cut $1.5 million and still be at 4.89% in 2020-21. A “qualified” status, which we would receive if we submitted a budget with less than 3% reserve in 2020-21, means more county scrutiny. There are many districts in California who will submit “qualified” budgets this month. The K-12 funding situation in California is quite dire, and we do not know what to expect from the Governor’s budget in January.
2. The outgoing board on November 27 directed the superintendent to bring a proposal for cutting $2.5 million from the budget, in ongoing reductions to take effect 2019-20. The Board taking office tomorrow has never discussed or voted on the amount that actually needs to be cut in 2019-20- we could decide that $2.5 million is too high. We have also never discussed how any amount would be cut specifically. These are two separate (but obviously related) decisions: what the target is, and how it should be reached. There are many elements that shape these issues, including the possibility of additional revenue, in the form of interdistrict transfers (which could take place as early as Fall 2019) and higher parcel taxes (which would need to be voted on in 2020).
3. The final budget for 2019-20 will not need to be approved until June. However, any staffing reductions that need to take effect in 2019-20 will need to be determined long before that point, in February, in order to give adequate notice. The Board must balance the need for sufficient planning and notice with the need to take the time we need to make thoughtful decisions.
4. There are two different time frames for the reserves: (1) in December and March, our interim reports must show 3% in 2020-21 to be in “positive” status. (2) In June, when we adopt the budget for 2019-20, we need to show 3% in 2021-22 – an additional year out – to be in “positive” status. The budget process over the next several months needs to keep both of these time frames in mind.
Based on information from the district, in order to reach 3% in 2020-21, we need to have net reductions of approximately $1.15 million. In order to stay above 3% in 2021-22, we need to have net reductions of approximately $2 million. These can be a combination of revenue growth and expenditure reductions. And again, the Board will need to vote on the appropriate reserve to maintain, the 3% is simply the state requirement for staying in positive status. The district’s projections also assume no change in state funding, which we may know more about in early spring (but the state budget is often not signed until June).
Values shaping my thoughts on the budget
1. I am committed to an open, creative, thoughtful and community-informed process for making the very difficult decisions that our district faces. The Budget Advisory Committee was given very little time to work, and has expressed an interest in a more robust process before determining how to meet the reduction goals for 2019-20. I believe that we have the time and community support to do this.
2. I am committed to ensuring that we maintain our commitment to educational quality, equity, and meeting our obligations to provide ALL children with the services, education, and social environment that they need.
3. I am concerned about teacher retention and morale in both the short- and long-term.
4. I am concerned about making changes to our schools that will be difficult or impossible to reverse.
5. I take very seriously the role of the Board in promoting public engagement, increasing transparency, thinking creatively, looking out for our students and teachers, and holding the superintendent accountable to the values of our district.
2018-19 Adopted Budget (June 28, 2018): in PDF