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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tax Extension Ballot Essential to SMMUSD

• Budget Outlook Is Bleak

BY JULIE WALLACH


An interim report on the budget was approved at last week’s Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education meeting. The report discussed multiyear budget projections in two scenarios.
The first scenario assumes the governor’s budget is adopted and voters approve tax extensions that at this point have not been put on the ballot. Additionally, Proposition 98 funds, which are determined by general fund revenues, per capita personal income, school attendance growth or decline and other factors, would be limited to $19 per Average Daily Attendance.
The ADA is calculated as number of days of student attendance divided by the total number of days in the regular school year. A student attending every day would equal one ADA.
Scenario 2 assumes the tax extensions are not approved and that Prop 98 funds are recalculated, resulting in a decrease to $330 per ADA. Deficit spending would increase to $3.6 million per year. This scenario “may be too optimistic,” according to Jan Maez, district assistant superintendent and chief financial officer, as “there is potential that without the tax extensions and because they are unable to make the necessary reductions in other sectors of the state budget the legislature looks again to education for additional reductions.”
Both scenarios account for AB 3632, a mandate vetoed by former Governor Schwarzenegger that shifted responsibility of payment for case management, residential and therapeutic costs of students in residential treatments, and outpatient mental health services to the district. The expenses amount to $250,000 per month.
Maez explained, “Budget planning for the next several years is complicated by the uncertainty that exists around the revenue limit changes that might occur and the resolution that will ultimately be found for the mental health issues resulting from the loss of funding in AB 3632.
“At this time, the district clearly has sufficient funds in the scenarios to sustain current programs throughout the 2011-12 fiscal year. However, without significant revenue changes beyond the next fiscal year the board will be forced to consider a number of cost cutting measures.”
The report stated, “Estimated amounts of additional reductions have ranged from a low of $300 per ADA to $1,000 per ADA. This would mean a minimum of another $3.3 million reduction. Clearly, a cut of this magnitude will be devastating and we would expect that the state would allow districts to take extraordinary measures.”
Linda Gross, executive director of Santa Monica Malibu Education Foundation, discussed strategic fundraising options rather than a second Gross explained, “Right now, we’re not planning on doing another SOS campaign” [the Save Our Schools emergency fundraising effort that raised over $1.5 million last year]. “We raised so much money in a short amount of time. It was such a collaborative effort and those involved continue to stay connected. “If we don’t get tax extensions on the ballot and passed in June, we will have to come together as a community and figure out what we can do.”

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