Many districts in the state receive direct payment of about $5,500 per pupil, a method that has applied to Los Altos in recent years. But this year, due to the expected state cuts in education funding, the district qualified for "basic aid," meaning it receives most of its funding from local property taxes.
Under the direct funding plan, called "revenue limit," the district expected to lose close to $1.5 million after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his budget proposal. But with basic aid, the district now faces a less severe deficit of $800,000 for the upcoming school year.
"If we didn't have this, we would have close to a $1 million deficit," said Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent of business services. "This is really going to help."
Kenyon uses the common "bucket" analogy to explain funding. If property taxes fill the bucket, he says, the district is basic aid, and gets to keep the surplus. But if property taxes do not fill the bucket, the district receives revenue limit funding — meaning the state adds enough money to fill up the bucket.
Los Altos has been on the borderline recently, switching back and forth from a revenue limit to a basic aid district. Last year the district received direct state funding, meaning its property taxes did not meet the minimum amount of funding the state guarantees per student, i.e. fill the bucket.
The governor's latest proposal cuts the minimum funding for each student, but LASD's growing property taxes exceed this new minimum amount, meaning it does not have to rely on the state for general funding.
"When he shrank the budget he pushed us back into basic aid," Kenyon said.