School district on track with budget
Despite state deficit, MVWSD in black thanks to planning, community support
Public schools throughout California, shouldn't be expecting a great year when it comes to federal and state funding, but local elementary and middle schools are prepared to absorb most, if not all, of the potential mid-year cutbacks, according to the head of the Mountain View Whisman School District.
The budget, passed unanimously at the district's June 7 board of trustees meeting, projects that the district will end the 2012-13 school year with about $1 million in unspent revenue — taking in more than $45 million, spending about $43.4 million and diverting the rest into rainy day reserves in anticipation of possible mid-year cuts in state funding.
With California lagging behind the already slow-going national recovery and a projected state budget deficit of $15.7 billion, Superintendent Craig Goldman isn't optimistic that his district is going to get a great deal of help from Sacramento or Washington, D.C. during the coming school year.
In fact, the district's 2012-13 budget anticipates funding will remain at its current level only in the "best-case scenario," Goldman said.
That scenario rests upon the passage of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative, which will temporarily raise taxes on "high-income earners" if approved. Should the governor's proposed tax initiative fail, "trigger cuts" will go into effect in November, resulting in $5.5 billion in education spending reductions statewide and a $441 per student reduction throughout the Mountain View Whisman School District, Goldman said.
It is unlikely that the district will have to make any cuts midyear, however, Goldman said, as the district's financial officials have structured the budget so that $2.1 million in reserves is set aside to deal with the trigger cuts.
"We've paid strong attention to our reserves," Goldman said. "We've tried to strike a balance of being fiscally cautious, while maintaining effective programs."
While it is possible that cuts could be in store in the 2013-14 school year and beyond, Goldman said, "we've built the budget on the basis so that we do not have to cut current year."
The only way the district could be forced to make reductions this year is if the governor's projections are off and midyear cuts are triggered that exceed the anticipated $441 per student.
In addition to prudent financial planning, Goldman said that generous support from local organizations and the community was also an integral part of the district's red ink-free budget. In particular, he gave credit to Google's $1 million donation, El Camino Hospital's grant that allows the district to keep three school nurses on staff and the money from the Shoreline special district for helping the district forge its way through trying economic times.
On top of that, the district generates a fair amount of revenue from properties it leases to Google, the German International School of Silicon Valley, the Primary Plus preschool and the YMCA, Goldman said.
Goldman acknowledged that the district has made sacrifices recently, such as moving kindergarten-, first-, second- and third-grade classes from a ratio of 20 students per teacher up to 25 students, as well as asking teachers to pay a bigger share of their healthcare premiums.
Overall, though, he said the district is in "relatively sound" financial condition.
"When I started as CFO five years ago, we implemented a variety of strategies to maintain the quality of our programs while ensuring the fiscal integrity of the district. Those strategies have worked for us," Goldman said.