School board passes $174M budget

DOWNEY - The DUSD school board last week adopted, on schedule, its $172 million 2011-12 budget a few hours before the Democrats-dominated state legislature passed its long-delayed $86 billion budget. It then increases slightly to $174 million in 2012-13, then, taking a leap of faith, goes to $178 million in 2013-14. The three-year budget horizon follows years-old custom.The budget's general fund figures above are decidedly on the conservative side, reflecting a fiscal strategy that, in combination with other carefully thought out and creative measures, has worked well for the district. This approach was responsible for preventing mass teacher layoffs, for example, as was and still is, the case with too many school districts all over, and has otherwise kept DUSD's budgetary ship safely afloat. Given the uncertainties inherent in the state budget process and the incontrovertible fact that the district totally depends on the state budget for its life, the district went ahead with its (still conservative) forecasts of average daily attendance of 22,011 next school year, 21,922 the next, and 21,888 the third year. Based on these forecasted enrollments, the district is optimistically budgeting, in a best-case scenario, a per pupil funding of $5,222 for 2011-12, $5,389 for 2012-13, and $5,535 for 2013-14. This is based on an unexpected increase of student enrollment, according to assistant superintendent of business services Kevin Condon, as well as the receipt of stimulus funds in the year just ended, coupled with early teacher and staff retirements and programs/services cut in the not-too-distant past, which meant much-needed savings for the district. These elements led to increased per pupil funding of $5,222 for the school year just ended, instead of the original budget estimate of only $4,943. In a worse-case scenario, especially if the state's anticipated increased tax revenue of $4 billion does not materialize, the district figures per pupil funding of $4,891 (2011-12), $5,059 (1012-13), and $5,205 (2013-14) would be very realistic. As if to remind the district that even if the worst seems to be over, that it cannot let its guard down: despite the seemingly encouraging numbers, the budgets for the next three years still carry deficits of $4.2 million, $3.2 million and $3.6 million, or a total of $11 million, over the three-year horizon under discussion. Still, despite all this, the district stands to maintain its reserves of over 17 percent of the general fund budget. Another working assumption is the increase in class size in grades 1-3 to a 27:1 ratio. "We'll have a better sense of where we're at by October," said Condon. "This is when revenues from taxes (sales, property, lottery, etc.) will be determined, and thus the district's funds stream. We can then review our budget and make the necessary adjustments and we'll be able to tweak our priorities." "At any rate," he added, "I can say we're on a solid financial footing." The district, formed in 1961, covers nearly 14 square miles, which includes the majority of Downey and portions of Bell Gardens, Bellflower and South Gate. It continues to operate 13 elementary schools, four middle schools, two high schools, a continuation school and an adult school.

********** Published: July 7, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 12