NORWALK -- The Norwalk-La Mirada Unified’s Board of Education has approved a more than $200 million balanced budget for the 2016-17 school year.
However, plagued by declining student enrollment and potentially volatile funding from the state, district officials are forecasting steady deficits over the next three years.
In a unanimous 6-0 vote, with board member Margarita Rios absent, the Board of Education on June 27 adopted the new spending plan that develops programs that focus on supporting three high-need groups: students from low-income families, foster children, and English learners.
After holding stakeholder meetings throughout the year with students, parents, and faculty, the district narrowed its budget goals to six themes, which include creating an engaging and connected learning environment, increasing student achievement and college/career readiness, expanding a high-quality staff, engaging parents, offering equal access to rigorous instruction, and improving infrastructure district-wide.
In order to meet these goals, the 2016-17 budget divides up $206.05 million in revenues for district projects and programs.
While 85% of the funds go towards salaries and benefits, $28.4 million will pay for everything from expanding AVID programs in elementary schools ($77,762) and instructional coaching ($1.45 million) to launching K-12 dual language programs ($1.29 million) and hiring more safety personnel around district campuses ($305,425).
“The District engaged in thoughtful, collaborative discussions with all of our community members about how to provide every student the opportunity to excel,” said NLMUSD Superintendent Dr. Hasmik Danielian in a statement.
“Thank you to all of our staff, teachers, parents and students for providing valuable input that helps shape our school environment for the coming school year.”
As a result of one-time state monies – nearly $4.2 million – the district projects it will complete the 2016-17 school year with a $3.1 million surplus of revenues. Added to the existing district revenue fund of $36,762,699, NLMUSD expects to have roughly $40 million in unassigned funds next year.
Nonetheless, multi-year projections by district staff show that declining enrollment and a slowdown in education funding from the state’s budget could create deficit spending for the district, depleting the reserves and putting the district in fiscal jeopardy.
Although Danielian is optimistic that this will not happen, she said it’s prudent to put extra emphasis on the looming risks.
“Looking to the future, [Governor Brown] is careful to point out that the state’s projections do not assume a recession, but do assume that Proposition 30 temporary taxes expire,” she said. “On the extension of taxes, the governor has said, ‘I’m leaving that to the people of California,’ but under these assumptions, the state forecasts large deficits, which grow even higher if a recession should develop.
“Once the dust settles in November, we could experience significant revisions in revenue projections, and we will keep stakeholders informed of any changes.”
Estuardo Santillan, assistant superintendent of business services, said the staff is watching the state budget projections for 2017-18 and will develop a budget contingency plan in January to cut spending and keep the district solvent if state funding dries up.