News

Deficits rise as Mountain View Whisman spends big on technology, teacher salaries

A teacher adds third grade homework packets to a box at a drive thru set up outside Gabriela Mistral Elementary days after schools were shut down. Photo by Magali Gauthier

Mountain View Whisman School District's deficit spending has more than doubled to $3.3 million this year, following pay raises and a mad scurry to buy more than 1,000 Chromebooks so students can do schoolwork remotely, according to the latest projections.

The sobering budget report, reviewed by the school board last week, foresees turbulent times ahead for the school district's finances beyond the immediate-term spending spree. State and federal funding will be slashed for next year, with estimates showing that the massive spike in unemployment and recession caused by the coronavirus will blow a $19 billion hole in California's education budget.

In early March, Mountain View Whisman was already projected to end the 2019-20 school year with $1.4 million in deficit spending. But in the weeks that followed, the COVID-19 outbreak in the region triggered a shutdown of local schools, prompting the district to pour money into buying computers and internet hotspots to connect students for distance learning. The total costs for the Chromebook rollout is expected to be $1.53 million for the 2019-20 school year.

At the same time, the school board also voted to grant a 3% raise on top of a one-time bonus to its teachers and classified staff, adding more than $2.7 million in extra spending for the school year. Taken altogether, the district is spending nearly $4.7 million more than expected just two months ago.

The silver lining is that it could be much worse. The district received a helping hand from a voter-approved bond measure in March that passed just weeks before the region rolled out public health orders requiring schools to close and residents to stay home. The bond measure helped pay off construction debt and wiped out an annual $1.9 million payment that was due next month.

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Crafting a budget for the upcoming 2020-21 school year will be challenging due to the uncertainty related to COVID-19 and its impacts on the state budget, with the expectation that California lawmakers could keep tweaking education funding through August, said Rebecca Westover, Mountain View Whisman's chief business officer. As it stands today, she said the district is expecting to receive $254,000 less in state funding and $549,000 less in federal funding than previously thought.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week a $19 billion decline in education funding in the May revision of the state budget that will translate to a 10% drop in local school district funding for the 2020-21 year, despite several efforts to backfill the loss. Those efforts include a $4.4 billion investment in learning losses related to school closures, including the possibility of an early start to the upcoming school year.

California's education budget in the May revision is framed as being strapped for cash, with promises to scale back the cuts in the event that the federal government provides more money to states for education. This stands in stark contrast to the budget surplus expected in January.

"The May revision looks nothing like the January budget," Westover told trustees at the May 21 meeting.

Mountain View's local school districts are largely cushioned from the blow to the state's school funding cuts. Due to California's funding structure, the local school districts receive more money from property tax revenue than it would though the state's guaranteed per-student funding, meaning state funding only makes up about 7.1% of Mountain View Whisman's revenue, so state cuts have a relatively small effect on the budget.

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"We are in a reasonable position in comparison to other school districts," Westover said.

While the Mountain View Whisman school board has yet to review budget cuts, district officials say that they had not fired any employees due to COVID-19 as of April 27. State law permits school districts, in the event of economic recession and budget cuts, to fire teachers as late as August 15 instead of by the normal March 15 deadline.

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Deficits rise as Mountain View Whisman spends big on technology, teacher salaries

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, May 26, 2020, 1:36 pm

Mountain View Whisman School District's deficit spending has more than doubled to $3.3 million this year, following pay raises and a mad scurry to buy more than 1,000 Chromebooks so students can do schoolwork remotely, according to the latest projections.

The sobering budget report, reviewed by the school board last week, foresees turbulent times ahead for the school district's finances beyond the immediate-term spending spree. State and federal funding will be slashed for next year, with estimates showing that the massive spike in unemployment and recession caused by the coronavirus will blow a $19 billion hole in California's education budget.

In early March, Mountain View Whisman was already projected to end the 2019-20 school year with $1.4 million in deficit spending. But in the weeks that followed, the COVID-19 outbreak in the region triggered a shutdown of local schools, prompting the district to pour money into buying computers and internet hotspots to connect students for distance learning. The total costs for the Chromebook rollout is expected to be $1.53 million for the 2019-20 school year.

At the same time, the school board also voted to grant a 3% raise on top of a one-time bonus to its teachers and classified staff, adding more than $2.7 million in extra spending for the school year. Taken altogether, the district is spending nearly $4.7 million more than expected just two months ago.

The silver lining is that it could be much worse. The district received a helping hand from a voter-approved bond measure in March that passed just weeks before the region rolled out public health orders requiring schools to close and residents to stay home. The bond measure helped pay off construction debt and wiped out an annual $1.9 million payment that was due next month.

Crafting a budget for the upcoming 2020-21 school year will be challenging due to the uncertainty related to COVID-19 and its impacts on the state budget, with the expectation that California lawmakers could keep tweaking education funding through August, said Rebecca Westover, Mountain View Whisman's chief business officer. As it stands today, she said the district is expecting to receive $254,000 less in state funding and $549,000 less in federal funding than previously thought.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week a $19 billion decline in education funding in the May revision of the state budget that will translate to a 10% drop in local school district funding for the 2020-21 year, despite several efforts to backfill the loss. Those efforts include a $4.4 billion investment in learning losses related to school closures, including the possibility of an early start to the upcoming school year.

California's education budget in the May revision is framed as being strapped for cash, with promises to scale back the cuts in the event that the federal government provides more money to states for education. This stands in stark contrast to the budget surplus expected in January.

"The May revision looks nothing like the January budget," Westover told trustees at the May 21 meeting.

Mountain View's local school districts are largely cushioned from the blow to the state's school funding cuts. Due to California's funding structure, the local school districts receive more money from property tax revenue than it would though the state's guaranteed per-student funding, meaning state funding only makes up about 7.1% of Mountain View Whisman's revenue, so state cuts have a relatively small effect on the budget.

"We are in a reasonable position in comparison to other school districts," Westover said.

While the Mountain View Whisman school board has yet to review budget cuts, district officials say that they had not fired any employees due to COVID-19 as of April 27. State law permits school districts, in the event of economic recession and budget cuts, to fire teachers as late as August 15 instead of by the normal March 15 deadline.

Comments

Standing Ovation
Old Mountain View
on May 26, 2020 at 2:04 pm
Standing Ovation, Old Mountain View
on May 26, 2020 at 2:04 pm
44 people like this

They hand out raises during a pandemic and economic crisit with little discussion and then talk about a deficit next year?!? And again not a peep from the school board in this article. Go figure! They aren't just sheltering in place from the virus anymore, they are sheltering from their constituents. And these geniuses are in control of the education of children?!? Lord help us. This just shows why you should never promote teacher/principals to be Chief Business Officers. Neither Superintendent Rudolph nor CNO Westover have a clue how to manage a budget, moreover and especially during a crisis. And I can't wait to see what happens if board member Jose Gutierrez gets elected to the city council! But I guess this is what happens when you elect people who own next to nothing or with little financial sense to positions with fiduciary duties. They spend the money and then ask for more.


Otto Maddox
Monta Loma
on May 26, 2020 at 2:33 pm
Otto Maddox, Monta Loma
on May 26, 2020 at 2:33 pm
39 people like this

A raise.. during a pandemic.. like we all couldn't see the budget crisis coming.

We need to take that raise back, for starters.

People are losing jobs in the bay area. Many others are taking pay cuts.

A raise, right now, is obscene.


Enough!
Waverly Park
on May 26, 2020 at 4:50 pm
Enough!, Waverly Park
on May 26, 2020 at 4:50 pm
38 people like this

After 10+ years of economic boom, weren't we all expecting a market correction? This district is so used to wasting our money and then coming to us for another bond measure. It's typical of government spending other people's money. Raises for teachers also translate into guaranteed pensions that we are obligated to fund even during down years. Time to layoff those deadbeat teachers. Any parents who are on campus enough know who they are. Get rid of tenure and get rid of the lemons who are draining our funds and short changing our kids.


Cfrink
Willowgate
on May 27, 2020 at 9:22 am
Cfrink, Willowgate
on May 27, 2020 at 9:22 am
18 people like this

Seems to me that this is a normal cyclical budget process that we’ve seen through the years, with the unexpected, added addition of the Covid-19 expenses that no one could have predicted. For years, we’ve hoarded reserves in this district and we made calculated decisions to spend some of those reserves to improve teacher pay to help retain as many of our teachers as we can and prevent them from fleeing to higher paying districts. And local companies have been stepping up with grants for technology needs such as chrome books and hotspots and I think that will help with these unexpected costs going forward. But we are in a crisis so the idea that additional expenses during a crisis are somehow outlandish seems a bit disingenuous. We’ll be fine. The budget department in our district is well stacked, top down, with talent, even if people reading these stories don’t know how a budget office works. Our budget office does a fantastic job keeping an eye on our district finances. We may have to make some tough choices in the coming year...like the rest of the country...but in the end we’ll continue to be better and stronger as a district.


Fiscal watchdog
Rex Manor
on May 28, 2020 at 12:47 pm
Fiscal watchdog, Rex Manor
on May 28, 2020 at 12:47 pm
18 people like this

In March the district planned for a $1.4 million deficit and now it is almost $2 million more??? The expense for the chromebooks made sense, but what on earth was the other almost half a million more spent on? Utility costs should have been less with students and teachers not in the buildings. Hand sanitizer doesn't cost that much. It appears that Standing Ovation is right with the thought that Rudolph and Westover can't manage a budget. The Board should be considering this in year-end evaluations for both.

Anyone else notice how cfrink always comes to the rescue when someone criticizes Rudolph? Take off your rose colored glasses!


Steven Nelson
Cuesta Park
on May 30, 2020 at 3:15 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
on May 30, 2020 at 3:15 pm
3 people like this

It will be nice to see if carina decides to run for Board this election. There seems to be an opening seat and the Administration would always like to see yet another strong supporter/advocate (and certainly not strong community 'oversight" / a member who asks questions)

BTW, the Administrative salary overhead of the MVWSD continues to be 1/6 over the state average of 6% of the Budget. The Rudolph Administration continues to not improve that (reduced administrative overhead to at least match the state ave). That's also 'where the money goes' and the access staffing in administrative and administrative support positions WAS MENTIONED in all outside District Quality Audits from the early 2000. The entry audit under Rudolph noted this - AND THE BOARD HAS NOT DIRECTED that this excess overhead be cured. (pg. 11 of link)
Web Link

I will not vote for Gutierrez for Council for this and similar reasons (mainly just financial responsibility/efficiency and effectiveness of delivering Education to kids). Good Heart (it's the kids) needs to be matched by good fiscal/program oversight.


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