School board talks budget revisions

Calendar-change support, child-abuse prevention education, Attendance Awareness Month among other topics

The San Ramon Valley school board approved a series of adjustments to the district's 2015-16 budget Tuesday, with some of the key changes due to budget moves at the state level, added sick-leave costs and medical premium increases coming in lower than originally expected.

The school district's 2015-16 general fund revenues are now projected at $310.4 million, almost $2.7 million less than estimated in the budget adopted June 30 but still almost $30 million below expected expenditures for the year.

The largest reduction occurred in a $2.2 million drop in anticipated one-time discretionary funds from the state, but that money is expected to be recouped in new funding earmarked for certificated employee professional development, according to Scott Anderson, the district's chief business officer.

"Really what happened here was we had one-time money that was unrestricted, and a piece of it really got reduced and then it came back as restricted as that (educator) program. But really the numbers kind of work out in the net overall," he told the board Tuesday night in Danville.

Anderson led a 30-minute presentation on the revised general fund budget, prepared 45 days after the school board adopted the original budget -- which was based on assumptions from Gov. Jerry Brown's May budget proposal, as opposed to the final budget adopted by the state at the end of June.

One key change at the state level was reducing the one-time "mandated cost reimbursement" discretionary funds by almost $440 million statewide, resulting in the San Ramon Valley amount dropping from about $18.7 million to $16.5 million, Anderson said.

But as part of the state budget, legislators approved new short-term funding for professional development for certificated teachers and administrators, with the local cut estimated at $2.4 million. Anderson said that funding won't be incorporated into the district's budget until the state releases more details about the program.

On the state revenue side, the district is also seeing a $656,996 reduction in Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) gap funding -- coupled with a $72,237 increase in mental health grant funding.

Local donation revenues have increased by $135,353 due to actual receipts compared to projections, Anderson noted.

General fund expenditures are currently estimated at $281.3 million, within $59,000 of original projections. The key adjustments related to an increase on the salary side and a decrease for benefits, Anderson noted.

District salary costs went up about $334,000 because of having to provide sick leave to employees who weren't previously eligible, as required by a new state law, he said. But benefits costs went down by about $495,000 because medical premium increases came in at 4.66%, instead of the 10% projected in the budget.

The general fund also won't have to contribute nearly $589,000 to the child nutrition fund because the board since approved increasing school meal prices, Anderson said.

The district's general fund is now projected to have a $54.5 million balance at the end of 2015-16, a budget reserve of 12.5%.

Upcoming tasks for finance officials include closing out the 2014-15 budget and adjusting the 2015-16 beginning balances, Anderson said. He plans to present the 2014-15 unaudited actuals to the board Sept. 8.

In other business:

* Three San Ramon parents and two California High students spoke in favor of changing the district's instructional calendar to have the first semester finish before winter break.

Their comments came during citizen input on non-agendized items. Board members said they could not converse about the issue since it was not listed on the meeting's agenda.

The five pro-change people were the only speakers on the topic Tuesday night, a contrast from June board meetings when groups of up to a dozen spoke in opposition to any calendar changes and the district's exploration process -- also during non-agenda comment

The recent calendar commentary has occurred after the May 12 regular meeting, when the calendar change last appeared on the board's agenda.

Board members discussed an early draft 2016-17 schedule that proposed several modifications to the district's typical instructional calendar, including shifting the school start date back one week to help the first semester end before winter break. No citizens spoke on either side of the issue that night.

The early draft calendar was created by a stakeholder committee as a material starting point for ongoing community, board and employee union review, according to district officials.

There is no set timetable for when the calendar issue will return to the board's agenda.

District officials said once discussions with employee bargaining units end, the supported calendar options will be presented to the public before board consideration. In May, district officials said they hoped to bring the calendar item back to the board before November -- which is when the board would typically approve the following year's instructional schedule.

* The board heard a presentation on "Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe," new curriculum for child abuse and bullying prevention that utilizes direct educational strategies with age-appropriate terminology, lesson plans and activities.

The program, set to be piloted at 10 local schools in January, would be delivered by the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County, a nonprofit agency. The pilot program would cost about $144,000, paid through the district's general fund, according to district spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich.

The pilot schools are John Baldwin, Montair, Sycamore Valley, Rancho Romero, Golden View, Walt Disney, Montevideo and Neil Armstrong elementary schools, as well as Charlotte Wood and Pine Valley middle schools.

In selecting the pilot schools, officials were mindful of feeder patterns, schools with new administrators and those already piloting a positive behavior intervention program this year, according to Toni Taylor, assistant superintendent of educational services. The ultimate goal is to offer the curriculum at all district schools, she added.

Council representatives said they supported a phased roll-out, rather than all schools at once, because of their own logistical constraints and to allow time for thorough analysis of pilot schools' experiences before the program is further expanded.

* Board members approved dedicating a public utility and right-of-way easement to the East Bay Municipal Utility District for a fire hydrant set to be moved onto the Stone Valley Middle School property in Alamo as part of the county's Miranda Avenue sidewalk improvement project.

* They also adopted a resolution declaring September as Attendance Awareness Month. The district had a 97.1% attendance rate last school year, officials said.

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