Schools face 10- percent slash in funding

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Schools  face 10-  percent  slash in fundingCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom announced earlier this month that COVID-19 measures yielded a projected $52 billion deficit in the state budget. Following analysis of his May Revise, public schools are expecting that shortfall to translate into a massive loss in funding.

Proposition 98 requires that California dedicate a minimum of 39 percent to education. Even with that guaranteed apportionment, schools are facing a $4-billion cut this year and a $13.6-billion cut next year.

Officials are reporting that school districts should prepare for a 7.7-percent cut in funding. However, schools are already facing an effective 2.3-percent loss since the cost-of-living adjustment promised to schools has already evaporated.

“So this really amounts to a 10-percent cut for us,” said Dr. David Ostash, superintendent of Sierra Sands Unified School District.

More than 80 percent of the district’s budget funds total compensation of its workforce – including salaries, health and welfare benefits and pension contributions.

“Even though we have not determined yet where or how much will be cut, we do know that you can’t find 10 percent in spending out of less than 20 percent of your budget.”

Ostash said that another critical unknown is the budget calculator provided by the governor’s office that will allow schools to determine funding.

In the absence of more concrete guidance, Ostash said, Sierra Sands is focusing its efforts on assessing and analyzing needs.

“Once we have determined those needs, we can build a budget based on current projections. That has to be presented to our board for review and approval in June.”

The district is creating a tiered plan for cuts and planned expenses that can be modified once more definitive information is available.

Ostash also noted that Indian Wells Valley schools are in a somewhat unique position compared to other California districts.

“Our public schools are funded by a combination of local and state revenues,” he said. Because the IWV has very little industrial revenue, SSUSD is among the districts throughout the state that is subsidized by industrial revenue from high-earning communities.

“We are fortunate because this allows us to receive a lot of revenue generated by citizens outside of our community,” he said. The tradeoff is that, when state revenues plummet, there is no local funding mechanism that offsets those losses.

“Our job remains the same, however,” said Ostash.

“We still have to prioritize our focus on student need, then include the interests of our stakeholders before we make decisions.”

Story First Published: 2020-05-22