The district says it is prepared for budget cuts from the state in December.
In the budget they adopted last June, California legislators included a trigger provision that proposes to cut k-12 education by $1.5 billion if the state does not raise at least $2.5 billion in revenue.
“As a district, we’ve built up our reserves up, so if the trigger is pulled, it would not affect the ‘11-‘12 school year,” said Christopher Learned, the Budget Services Associate Superintendent for the district. “There will be no midyear cuts.”
Learned said the state assumed it would receive $4 billion more in revenue than it had already received this year when it adopted its budget. If the state is unable to fill the $4 billion gap in the budget with at least $2.5 billion, this will trigger cuts to education funding.
“If I were a betting man, I would bet there’s no way the state’s going to make up $4 billion,” Learned said. “Some form of trigger will be pulled.”
In anticipation of further cuts, the state gave school districts the option of cutting the already-reduced 175-day-school year minimum by another seven days. However, Learned said, teachers’ unions in most school districts are unlikely to agree to a decrease in the number of school days teachers are paid to work.
Learned said he did not think reducing the number of school days would be a viable solution for most districts.
“The state has given us what they consider a tool, but not a very effective tool because of negotiations,” he said.
The district says it is not planning to reduce its school year, which is currently 178 days. Other districts, however, may be forced to attempt to decrease their number of school days if the state makes cuts to their funding.
Although he said he believed some money would be cut from education, Learned said he doubts cuts will be as extensive as they are proposed to be.
“I don’t think the legislature has the stomach to actually cut schools by $1.5 billion in the middle of the school year,” Learned said. “I think they’ll try to figure something else out, maybe push that problem into the next fiscal year.”
The state legislature will make no budget decisions until December, and so until then the district can only speculate about potential cuts from the state. Even if the state does decide to cut funding from schools, there is the possibility that California schools will receive money from President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act. At this point, however, it appears unlikely that provisions in the Act dealing with education funding will be passed by Congress.
The New York Times reported that a letter sent to Republican members of the House of Representatives on Sept. 16 from Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Cantor and Boehner would not support provisions in the Act dealing with education.
The Act proposes $30 billion to save the jobs of municipal employees, including teachers. The bill also pledges $25 billion to fund school construction and improvement. In their letter, Boehner and Cantor rejected both of these proposals.
In addition to cuts from the state, the district also faces cuts due to decreasing enrollment. The district has lost 500 students from its highest level of 5,500 students, making the current number of students about 5,000.
“If we’re making cuts for next year, it’s more likely that it’s being done as a result of declining enrollment than it is dealing with the state and federal crisis,” Learned said.
Despite potential cuts and declining revenues due to decreasing enrollment, the district is not planning to propose another parcel tax.
“We would not look at another parcel tax probably until Measure A expires four years from now,” Learned said.
Even if state funding is cut and no federal money comes in, Learned said AUHSD will probably not have to lay off any teachers for the 2012-2013 school year, although it probably will not fill places left by retiring and temporary teachers. In recent years, the district has not given teachers raises because of the tight budget. Learned said he did not know and could not speculate as to whether or not this trend would continue next year.
“We are going to begin negotiation with teachers probably next month,” he said. “It’s hard to say whether or not there will be raises.”