School board to hear report on how governor’s proposal affects district
By Maureen Robertson and James R. Riffel
Ramona school administrators and two trustees were scheduled to be in Orange County Wednesday morning for a School Services of California workshop on what the governor’s budget proposal means to schools.
At the school board meeting Thursday, Jan. 16, they will share what they learn.
In San Diego last Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown said California’s finances are healthy, but long-term liabilities require a prudent state budget in the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1. He proposed a $155 billion budget for 2014-15.
Brown proposes increased spending for K-12 schools, community colleges and California’s university systems. What that means for Ramona isn’t clear, Graeff said Friday.
“Clearly there is more money for education than projected a year ago,” he said. “The question is how much?”
School officials have received a dozen different reports, some conflicting, said Graeff. While Ramona Unified School District will receive more money, “is it enough to solve our fiscal problem? No way,” he commented.
The district’s most recent budget report showed a possible $7.2 million deficit in two years. Continued declining enrollment, increased costs, and escalating payments on a $25 million loan a previous board approved are among contributing factors.
Starting next year, loan payments will come from the district’s general fund, according to the report: $1.7 million in 2014-15 and $1.77 million in 2015-16.
The governor said an improving economy will allow the state to pay down debt and put some money into reserve accounts to use in years when volatile capital gains tax revenues come up short.
“Some people would say let’s go on a spending binge, but I say it’s time for wisdom and prudence,” said Brown. “Pay down our debt, put it in a rainy day fund, and be prepared for the next downturn.”
California has about $355 billion in long-term liabilities, including $217.8 billion in unfunded pension costs to retired state employees and $64.6 billion in deferred maintenance.
Brown wants the state to pay down its $11 billion debt to school districts and local governments, which have seen funding cuts and payment deferrals in recent years.
The state would begin issuing refunds to schools in the next fiscal year, and cities and counties the year after, said state Department of Finance Director Michael Cohen.
In all, the state owes around $25 billion in deferred payments and loans that the governor calls “a wall of debt.”
“Gov. Brown is prudent to pay down the billions of dollars in deferrals that have crippled schools in recent years,” said Randy Ward, San Diego County superintendent of schools. “That move, plus his proposal to put aside additional funds in order to stabilize school funding even in years state revenue dips, will go a long way towards making schools whole — and keeping them that way.”
San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, 2014 chairwoman of the board of supervisors, said she was encouraged by the budget proposal overall but disappointed the county government would not be immediately repaid the $60 million it’s owed.
“For years the state ignored its fiscal crisis by relying on budget gimmicks, shifts and delays,” said Jacob, who represents Ramona and East County. “It’s encouraging that Gov. Brown has started tackling the problem and changing the culture of Sacramento.”
Spending in the general fund, which pays for basic state services, would increase 8 percent over this year to $106.8 billion, with most of the hike going to schools, under the proposal.
Ramona trustees will open the public portion of their meeting tonight at 7 in Wilson Administrative Center, 720 Ninth St. Information about other items on the agenda is at www.ramonausd.net under School Board, 13/14 Meeting Dates, Agendas & Minutes.
- Governor’s budget proposal mixes increased spending with rainy day fund
- School district calls back five teachers
- Ramona school district forecasts deficit next year
- School district heads toward fiscal precipice, county warns
- A Modest Proposal for Ramona Unified School District & the Citizens of Ramona
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