Unified survives on less from state
California’s long-overdue budget had few surprises and no great news for Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s general fund.
The 2 percent cost of living allowance had been in the original forecast — equating to approximately $475,000 of the $37 million budget. The items that got cut in the budget include Equalization, PERS reduction, and mega-item block grant dollars for a total of $115,000 — bringing the effective COLA to 1.5 percent.
Because the adopted budget closely parallels the actual budget, the 45-day limit for advising the Board of Education of material adjustments becomes unnecessary. The well-publicized shift of School Improvement Program, Supplemental Grants, and Home-to-School Transportation means that for LTUSD approximately $360,000 of cash flow appropriations will be received by August 2003 rather than during the 2002-03 fiscal year.
Although the state budget gives little more than COLA to districts statewide, a larger local effect on LTUSD is that the loss of 152 in average day attendance numbers in 2001-02 equated to a loss in the amount of more than $700,000 for 2002-03 which outpaces the COLA received; and that a Health & Welfare increase of 17.9 percent (on an item which already costs the district more than $3 million) adds $500,000 to expenses. Reductions, including large administrative cuts and classified personnel cuts, certificated staff losses due to having fewer classes, and planned spend-down of prior year revenue allowed for the 2002-03 budget to remain viable.
Current state budget projections add back Equalization and PERS reduction dollars in 2003-04 as well as appropriate increases for COLA and growth, therefore it could be a better year for schools unless state taxes drop or there is a suspension or manipulation of Proposition 98. Financial challenges for Lake Tahoe Unified School District include declining enrollment, low COLAs, and high health and welfare costs.
Diane Head is interim chief financial officer for the Lake Tahoe Unified School District. She may be reached at (530) 541-2850 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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