District is in new budgeting territory

By: By Patty McAlpin Lincoln News Messenger correspondent
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All the school districts in California, including Western Placer Unified, will be in new territory when the governor signs the state budget for fiscal year 2013-14, which will usher in a new formula under which districts will receive state funding called the Local Control Funding Formula.

The Western Placer Unified School Board adopted an approximately $50 million budget for fiscal year 2013-14 Tuesday night but expects to revise figures based on the new state funding model after Gov.  Jerry Brown signs the state budget. The governor has until June 28 to sign or veto.

A final calculation of the Local Control Funding Formula is yet to be finalized, according to the school district’s Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Audrey Kilpatrick. She told the board to plan on a 45-day report of the effect of the state budget approval in August and several budget revisions in 2013-14.

“We are uncertain as to how much revenue we are going to receive under the new formula,” Superintendent Scott Leaman said. “We anticipate we will receive a little more but it’s not going to make us rich.”

Leaman said state funding represents the majority of the district’s revenue. The district, based on the 2013-14 fiscal year budget adopted Tuesday night, currently anticipates receiving approximately $34 million from the state for students attending district schools. 

The present funding model is based on two broad categories – revenue limit and restricted funds. The new categories will be called “base” and “supplemental.”

“It’s going to be very odd,” Leaman said. “All the formulas will be different.”

District officials say they are not sure how the new funding model will affect programming.

Kilpatrick said she anticipates staff attending a lot of workshops by School Services of California and other organizations to understand how the new funding model works.

The district may be able to reduce budget cuts with additional state revenue, Kilpatrick said.

A combination of $4.4 million in budget cuts and reserve expenditures were made to balance the budget for fiscal year 2013-’14. Of the $4.4 million, approximately $2.4 million represents budget cuts. The district is using $2 million from fund balance reserves from 2012-’13 to help balance the budget.

Of the $2.4 million in budget cuts, $540,943 is coming from salary and benefit concessions and $1.3 million from temporary use of wetlands reserves and deferred maintenance.  Technology reductions will impact labs and desktops.

Almost all of the budget reductions represented one-time cuts, Kilpatrick said. She said the district is looking at making $5 million in ongoing cuts for fiscal year 2014-’15 to achieve a budget with the minimum 3 percent reserve.

“The needed cuts total $5 million now, but that could change depending on what is provided in the state funding calculation,” Kilpatrick said.

Hopefully the amount of cuts necessary will “go down,” school board Vice President Brian Haley said.

Kilpatrick said the district will have to cover step and column increases and account for employees receiving a full salary for fiscal year 2014-15.

“Do we expect an increase in property taxes?” board member Paul Long asked Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick told him property taxes are expected to “increase slightly.”

In her budget report, Kilpatrick told the board the nation is slowly coming out of the woods financially, but California is still lagging.

“California continues to show strong signs of recovery. May’s higher revenues reflect growing employment, increased consumer spending and a resurgent housing market,” said State Controller John Chiang.

But Chiang cautioned that optimism should be tempered because the recovery is still fragile and accumulated debt has yet to be retired.