Mountain View Voice

News - June 28, 2013

Whisman budget outlook rosy despite deficit

Superintendent sees plenty of upside with state recovery, city aid

by Nick Veronin

Although its new budget shows the Mountain View Whisman School District running a structural deficit in the coming school year, Superintendent Craig Goldman expects his district will be in the black by this time next year.

Things are looking up, Goldman said. With Gov. Jerry Brown promising a balanced budget for the foreseeable future, Proposition 30 pulling in far more money than anticipated, a new formula that gives more control to local districts over how they spend state dollars and funds from the recently passed Shoreline Community Joint Powers Agreement, the superintendent has high hopes for the next few years. Still, he added, district officials are being cautious.

Goldman explained that the 2013-14 district budget — which passed at the June 20 board meeting — does not account for the money from the Shoreline JPA, nor does it make any presumptions about how the new local control formula will help the district. It also doesn't count on grant dollars that will most certainly come the district's way.

"We tend to be fairly conservative," Goldman said. "We don't overestimate revenue."

The budget, as approved last week, makes it appear that the district is planning to spend more than it anticipates taking in. The current budget projects $42.77 million in revenue — down from $48.28 million in the 2012-13 school year — and calls for expenditures of $45.88 million, compared to the $42.11 million that was spent in the previous year.

That level of spending would put the district in the red by about $3.1 million. But Goldman said he is hopeful things will work out much better than that, as he believes much more revenue will come the district's way. "We get the benefit from a state recovery. As state revenues go up, that recovery is reflected in higher revenue guarantees."

Even in a worst-case scenario, if it runs a structural deficit, the district has "significant reserves" to cover the red ink, he said.

With the increased expenditures, the administration, faculty and staff will all get cost of living wage increases of at least 2 percent next school year, and the district will spend more on instruction.

"It's going to be an exciting year instructionally, as the district begins to implement the common core state standards and we begin to pilot more groundbreaking initiatives with respect to blended learning and project-based learning," Goldman said. "We are extremely grateful that an improvement in the state economy and a strong source of local revenue will allow us to focus on quality programs for students instead of deciding where to make cuts."

When asked whether he thought the district was climbing out of the recession, Goldman chose his words carefully.

"The worst is behind us and the worst is ahead of us," he said. "We do go through financial cycles in our economy. Fiscally, we never take the moment for granted. We're always looking for a way to be sustainable as an organization."

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