Publication Date: Friday, December 24, 2004
School budget up slightly
School budget up slightly
(December 24, 2004) Campus closure still inevitable, trustees say
By Julie O'Shea
As Mountain View-Whisman prepares to shut one of its nine campuses next year, school district leaders said last week that they are moving into 2005 with about $1 million more than what was projected in June.
While this may seem like a bit of good news, officials were quick to point out that district expenditures have jumped by 6 percent, due in part to the skyrocketing costs of special education. And figures confirm that the only way the 4,200-pupil district will be able to balance its budget for the next five years will be to close a school and rent out the land.
With extra revenue coming in from the state and federal government, Mountain View-Whisman now has $32.3 million in its 2004-2005 operating budget. Six months ago, district finance chief Rebecca Wright estimated Mountain View-Whisman's revenues at $31.6 million.
However, expenditures for this school year are expected to be $33.2 million, up from the early June projection of $31.4 million. A starting fund balance of $2.7 million will allow the district to pay all its expenses this year, as well as maintain a 3 percent emergency reserve, which is required by state law.
"It's not a comfortable budget, but it's a budget that works," said school board President Ellen Wheeler.
The school board unanimously approved the budget last week. And in doing so, "the board is essentially approving a school closure," Superintendent Eleanor Yick said. The assumptions made in Wright's multi-year budget forecast are based on rent generated from a school closure.
This year's budget has about $1.4 million more in funding than last year's budget. This is no doubt a welcome relief to school leaders who had projected the 2004-2005 budget to be $28.6 million a year and a half ago. Most of the extra funds presented in last week's budget update are coming from a $1.6 million parcel tax that voters approved last March.
The data also shows Mountain View-Whisman has continued to see a decline in employee health and welfare costs, but there is still no money currently budgeted for teacher raises.
Yick said she isn't planning to lay off any teachers next year, however, "we will be very cautious about hiring new staff."
School officials said one sure way to funnel more money into the district would be to close a school in June. Wright has emphasized that this is the only way the district will be able to balance the budget over the next several years. By renting out a school site, the district could bring in at least $400,000 a year, Wright said. The closure would also save $150,000 in staffing and maintenance costs, according to Wright's calculations.
"The first interim budget provides a very good picture of where the district stands," Wright said.
Added trustee Fiona Walter: "It mostly confirms that we really have to close a school." Still, she said, "it looks like a good plan going forward."
Wright estimated the district's 2005-2006 operating budget will be at $32.4 million, a slight increase from this year. And revenues are estimated to jump to $33.1 million, according to Wright's data.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will present his state budget proposal next month. What's unveiled then has the potential to impact the amount of funding given to California's public school districts.
E-mail Julie O'Shea at firstname.lastname@example.org
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