2016-07-08 / Front Page

District passes $164M budget

Enrollment numbers show improvement SVUSD
By Hector Gonzalez

The Simi Valley Unified School District Board of Education has passed a balanced, $164-million budget for the 2016-17 school year, the district’s chief financial officer said.

Approved unanimously by the school board June 28, SVUSD’s projected budget for the coming year will leave the district with an ending fund balance of about $18 million, said Rod Todo, assistant superintendent of business and finance.

“Overall, it looks like a very good budget picture. We are meeting our mandated reserve,” he said.

The budget projects roughly $162 million in total revenue for the coming school year. Expenditures are expected to amount to about $164 million.

To close the budget gap, SVUSD will use nearly $3 million in one-time funding—money the state owes the district for past years of underfunding according to the Local Control Funding Formula, which went into effect two years ago, Todo said.

The formula gives districts more control over how they use their state allocation. Under LCFF, most category-specific funding was eliminated, leaving it up to local districts to determine how to tackle the special needs of certain groups of students.

Slight enrollment decline

Over the 2015-16 school year, enrollment in the district dropped by 142 students, ending in June with 17, 227 pupils, Todo said.

In previous years, enrollment had dropped by an average of about 500 students annually.

Even though enrollment has improved overall, the slight decline significantly shaped the district’s 2016-17 budget, since the bulk of the projected revenue for the upcoming school year—about $137.5 million—is coming from the state, which uses a funding formula based on average daily attendance, Todo said.

“(The state) is going to increase the money they’re giving us under LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula), but at the same time we’re seeing declining enrollment,” Todo told the Simi Valley Acorn this week.

In other words, while the district will receive more funding per student than last year, the total allocation will be nearly the same as last year because the district has fewer students.

Besides the primary education funding from the state, about $5.5 million in SVUSD’s projected revenue is coming from the federal government. The district also will get about $8.6 million in revenue from other state funds, and about $10.4 million from local and other sources.

Last year, due to the state having additional funding to direct toward school districts, SVUSD received nearly $10 million in additional funding under the new local funding formula, also “onetime” money that now must be spent down, Todo said.

“One-time money should be spent on non-recurring expenditures. We are spending that down over the next three years, putting some of the money into facilities (improvements), technology, programs, curriculum and professional development,” he said.

Salaries and benefits

As in past years, the largest expenditure in the 2016-17 budget is for employee salaries and benefits, amounting to more than $141 million.

Salaries for teachers increased last year after the district provided educators with 6.5 percent pay hikes, their first raises in eight years.

For 2016-17, the district will spend more than $72.4 million on teacher salaries, along with $28.1 million to pay non-faculty employees. Another $41.1 million is going toward employee benefits, including pensions.

The district also expects to spend more than $7 million on books and supplies next school year, about 22 percent more than in 2015-16. Most of that increase is due to the introduction this coming year of new language arts textbooks for all grades, Todo said.

The remaining $16 million in projected expenditures is slated to pay for miscellaneous student services, capital improvements and other costs.

Tightening the belt

This year’s enrollment decline will equate to savings on teacher salaries, which the district expects to achieve by not hiring new teachers to fill the spots of educators who retired and by making sure that staffers are only hired when the enrollment necessitates the addition of teachers, Todo said.

An ongoing effort to “right size” staff levels to fit enrollment is expected to trim around 29 teaching positions next school year by not hiring replacements for retiring educators.

Although the budget leaves little room to pay for major improvements to buildings or for updating computer systems, elections in November could bring a new revenue stream if voters approve a new $239-million bond for school improvements, he said.

“A huge part of the bond is for technology, so we’ll be able to better support technology in our schools,” Todo said.

About 30 percent of the funds from the bond would go toward technology, with the remaining money being used to improve the school facilities, he said.

“Funds provided from the successful passage of a bond ensures that the district will be able to provide up-to-date technology and modern facilities for the students of Simi Valley,” Todo said.

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