School deficits could be in the millions by next year | December 5, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - December 5, 2008

School deficits could be in the millions by next year

Financial future is grim based on projections from the state

by Harry Stoll

An avalanche of deficits, with each year's shortfall piled atop that of the previous year, could bury the San Ramon Valley Unified School District in a $45.3 million hole in 2011-12. So district officials reported at the Nov. 18 school board meeting, presenting their review of the governor's mid-year budget and its potential impact on the district.

"If the governor's latest proposal is enacted, that would be a loss of $8 million-$9 million," said School Superintendent Steven Enoch in an e-mail a few days after the meeting. "If the parcel tax fails, that would be an additional loss of $4 million. This on top of the $3 million in cuts this year would be devastating for the district."

At the meeting, Gary Black, assistant superintendent, business, gave a summary showing an $8 million cut in per-student funding, at $300 per each of 27,000 students. His summary included other red ink items, such as the current deficit of $2.6 million, to bring the 2008-09 deficit to $9.9 million.

Black projects a deficit increase to $15.2 million in 2009-10, to $16.4 million in 2010-11, and to $17.5 million in 2011-12.

"I think you're underestimating the cost of increased enrollment," said Board President Greg Marvel.

Black's summary shows an increase in revenue each year due to increased enrollment. Enoch said opening a new school always costs money.

Black's summary also showed "Reserves Available."

"That money will go away," said Trustee Joan Buchanan, referring to the report showing the reserves as available each year, when in fact, the reserves would take a big hit the first year and go away the second year.

"My intent at the board meeting was to ensure that we have a clear picture of on-going versus one-time money," she explained later.

In a subsequent summary Nov. 21, Black clarified the available reserves, showing three-quarters of the $13.5 million reserve used in 2008-09 and the remainder in 2009-10. His projection of reserve balances was as follows:

* 2008-09: $3.6 million plus balance (using reserves)

* 2009-10: $11.6 million deficit (using balance of reserves)

* 2010-11: $27.9 million deficit (including previous years)

* 2011-12: $45.3 million deficit (including previous years)

"Mid-year cuts are particularly difficult for school districts because we are a 'people business' and most of our people are under contract and/or in critical positions that cannot be eliminated mid-year," Enoch said after the meeting.

"While we don't yet know how we would address this level of reduced funding, I can assure you that our school district will not be the same and the changes will be quite obvious as we will need to address major service and support levels," wrote Enoch. "It will not be business as usual."

Black said the "worst case scenario," including a $4.2 million deficit for 2009-10, is expected due to the expiration of the parcel tax.

Voters are expected to decide on renewing the parcel tax in May 2009. By June, when the budget is typically worked on, the voters will have spoken and perhaps the governor and legislature will have acted.

The school budget is scheduled to be adopted by July 1.


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