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New school year brings cautious financial optimism

Posted: August 10, 2013 4:25 p.m.
Updated: August 10, 2013 4:25 p.m.

When Santa Clarita Valley schools open their doors this week for another term, they will do so with a new sense of cautious financial optimism after years of spending cuts.

The passage of the Proposition 30 tax hikes in November spared school districts further devastating budget cuts. Furlough days are being eliminated at some school districts around the Santa Clarita Valley.

Some layoff notices to teachers and classified staff members were rescinded.

Gov. Jerry Brown has also pledged to kick more money toward education as part of the Local Control Funding Formula, which allots additional funds to schools based on their populations of students who are English-language-learners, who live below the poverty line or who are in foster care.

Traditionally, student enrollment had been the primary factor in determining state school funding.

But despite recent promising developments, school district officials told The Signal earlier this year that continued deficit funding — by which schools have received only about three-quarters of the money they are supposed to receive from the state — and lingering questions regarding the Local Control Funding Formula remain challenges to district finances.

When school districts passed their budgets earlier this year, they did so by basing them on the old funding model, as the Local Control Funding Formula had not made its way through the state Legislature at that point.

With the new funding formula now the law of the land after passage of the state budget, school districts will have to examine how, or if, state funding will change for the coming school year.

Every year school districts have to approve budgets before the state budget is finalized.

School districts have 45 days after approval of the state budget to see if the budget will impact their funding, either positively or negatively.

Any changes then have to be approved by the governing boards of each school district.

But, according to Newhall district Superintendent Marc Winger, criteria for the funding formula remain fluid even with the school year about to start.

“When you dig into the state funding changes you will find that no one — (Sacramento) or district people — know exactly how any of it is really going to work,” Winger wrote in an email Saturday. “It will be mid-year at best before we know details.”

That sentiment was also expressed earlier in the year by district officials.

“We’re working on it,” Cynthia Shieh, assistant superintendent of business for the Saugus Union School District, told The Signal in an earlier interview. “But it’s not like you can finish that overwhelming task overnight.”

But despite the uncertainty, officials at two Santa Clarita Valley elementary school districts — Newhall and Saugus — told The Signal earlier this year they will restore their full school years in the fall, adding back school days that were cut to save money.

Officials at the Castaic Union School District and the Sulphur Springs School District, on the other hand, told The Signal earlier this year they are being conservative and plan to keep furlough days as a precaution.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney



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