PUSD budget news is bad, and gets worse
By Emily Sorensen
Poway Unified school board members Monday night went through the motions of approving a 2012-13 budget that will require $35.6 million in district reserve funds to be balanced.
And that’s the good budget news.
Looking ahead toward the next couple of years, things are likely to get much worse, board members were told.
The budget for the 2012-13 school year is based on the state’s May revised budget, as no official budget has been adopted yet in Sacramento.
“We may have to adjust the budget when the state budget is adopted,” said Malliga Tholandi, associate superintendent, who presented the budget to the board.
A big question mark left hanging over Monday night’s discussions is whether California voters in November will approve one or more ballot initiatives designed to provide more tax money to public education.
Tholandi said that if either of the initiatives pass, the school district will receive flat funding, meaning while they won’t receive any more money, they also won’t have any cuts. If the initiatives do not pass, however, the state will cut $5.5 billion from statewide K-12 funding, with PUSD receiving a $14.8 million reduction in funding.
The 2012-13 budget includes a return to 100 percent salary for all employees, as well as a return to a full 180-day school year for students. School board member Marc Davis, noted that this was not a raise for employees, but a return to their full salaries of three or four years ago, which have not been adjusted for the increased cost of living. Teachers agreed to a 4 percent reduction in salary in 2011-12, as well as previously taking cuts of 2.7 percent in 2009 and 2010. The school year was reduced by 8 days this year to 172.
The district is beginning the 2012-13 school year with reserves of $48.2 million, an unusually high amount.
“This is one-time money,” warned Superintendent John Collins. “2013-14 is not going to look pretty.”
The budget will have $234.4 million in revenues and $268.5 million in expenditures, leaving the 2012-13 school year ending with a net deficit of $35.6 million, which the district will cover using reserve funds. This will leave 2013-14 to begin with only $12.6 million in reserve funds.
Tholandi’s predictions for 2013-14 and 2014-15 are grim. Required by the county to budget as if the tax initiatives had failed, the 2013-14 budget includes needed cuts of $39 million, with 2014-15 requiring a further $9.5 million in cuts. While the board didn’t know where they would cut as of yet, they predicted it could possibly include up to a 20 percent salary reduction for all employees. Tholandi noted that if the tax initiatives were to pass, the budget cuts in 2013-14 could be reduced to roughly $9 million.
“We have to adopt a budget out of compliance,” said Collins. “We feel pretty confident about the 2012-13 school year.”
The board was less pleased over the requirement of having to project their budget out to 2014-15.
“It’s a travesty and such a joke,” said Penny Ranftle, board member. “It’s all a house of cards.”
Fellow board member Todd Gutschow said, “I’d like to go on record saying this is stupid.”
In other school board news:
• The school board approved the year-round student attendance calendars for Abraxas High School and Valley Elementary School, with school beginning Thursday, July 19 and ending June 13, 2013.
• The school board reached a tentative agreement with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) bargaining group, with full agreement to be reached hopefully before October. Negotiations with bargaining groups for other unions continue this month.
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