Suspended between the state’s nebulous budget and its need to nail down plans for the next school year, the board at its Tuesday meeting forged ahead to adopt a 2011-12 spending plan.
The budget, as announced at a , calls for no new cuts in fall, even if the state ends up axing education funding in last-minute budget wrangling. The district will tap into reserves to avoid cuts next year.
“It’s really a wait and see mode,” said Laurie Harden, assistant superintendent and the district’s finance manager.
She added that this is familiar territory for schools, as they're required to adopt a budget by July 1. So is the state. But, especially in recent years, this deadline has been ignored in down-to-the-wire manoeuvring.
Whenever the state budget is adopted, and school funding is certain, the Albany can revisit its budget.
This is highly likely, Harden said, calling the budget “a snapshot in time.”
“As the school year progresses the state budget will be adopted and the variables will undoubtedly change,” she wrote in her budget report.
The budget projects $32.5 million in revenue from all sources, including per student state funding, parcel taxes and state lottery income.
Expenses are projected at $33.3 million.
The difference of $917,000 will be covered by the district’s reserve, drawing it down to $4.1 million, or 12 percent of the budget.
The district is required by the state to maintain a 3 percent reserve for emergencies. Schools in the state average an 11 percent reserve, Hardin said.
The budget doesn’t include contributions from community funds such as , the and , which are used to help fill gaps.
For budget details, including a three-year projection, see the report on the school district’s website. (Warning: It takes a long time to open.)
Good and bad budget highlights
At the board meeting, Harden highlighted what she considers the good and bad budget news.
- Optimism that the state will spare cuts to public education
- Albany, unlike 60 percent of schools in the state, hasn’t reduced school days to save money
- Not furlough days or benefit/salary reductions for staff
- Healthy reserves allow planning time if more cuts are necessary
- Uncertainty around state tax extensions
- Late state budget could mean mid-year school cuts
- Local parcel tax dollars needed to support core programs, with Measure J expiring in 2014
- Federal stimulus one-time funds end in 2011-12. In Albany, stimulus was used for staff salaries.
Harden also pointed out that the is restructuring to be self-supporting, including repaying a $500,000 2010-11 loan from the district; the school cafeteria program is self-supporting; and it’s too soon to know if are helping it become self-supporting—a district goal for the program to survive.
In reference to s held in spring, School Board President Pat Low thanked Harden for helping the board “listen to the community” in deciding to use reserves during this time of budget unknowns.
Are you a state budget watcher, or happy to let others decipher what's going on in Sacramento? Tell us in the comments.
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