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Schools brace for money

Stimulus package sent to local schools, but special election could affect funding

Posted: May 13, 2009 8:36 p.m.
Updated: May 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Local school districts expect to receive more than $14 million in stabilization funding from the federal stimulus package. But that money won’t be spent just yet, district officials said.

The widely expected failure of the May 19 state-budget ballot initiatives, along with new state budget shortfall projections, could lead to a new round of statewide education cutbacks.

“It all depends if the bonds pass,” said Sue Guthrie, chief financial officer for the William S. Hart Union High School District. “If the bonds don’t pass, it will help us keep our reserve. If they do pass, it will give us some flexibility and allow us to have a cushion in case there are mid-year cuts next year.”

The Hart district is expecting to receive a little over $8 million, Guthrie said.

Sulphur Springs School District is slated to receive about $1.4 million in this first of two installments of stabilization funding, Superintendent Robert Nolet said.

“The whole goal here is cash flow and building reserves so we can deal with what is certain to be another cut to education,” Nolet said.

Castaic Union School District will receive about $869,000, Superintendent James Gibson said.

“Clearly, if it stood alone, it’s a great thing,” Gibson said. “Right now, with the May election and declining (state) revenue, it may serve as a buffer.”

Castaic Union officials say they won’t spend the money anytime soon.

“For the most part, we’re putting it to the side,” Gibson said.

The funding is meant to offset the amount of budget cuts school districts make to its upcoming budgets.

“Clearly it’s to save jobs and obviously improve education programs,” Gibson said.

Newhall School District should receive $1.7 million, Superintendent Marc Winger said.

The amount came as the board members approved taking back the remaining 12 layoff notices to music teachers, counselors and a visual-arts teacher Tuesday.

Said Mike McGrath, board president, “$1.7 million is a lot of money and we welcome it to help save our programs. But the larger, unknown, concern is the impact of the deepening state budget crisis, the potential failure of the state’s budget propositions in May, and the budget cuts that may still be looming in our future. The large budget cuts we have made to date will remain in place and the federal stabilization funding will be held to shield the budget against further state-revenue reductions,” he said.

Saugus Union School District expects to receive an initial amount of $2.6 million, Superintendent Judy Fish said.

“We are not doing anything at this point until we know what happens with the June revise,” Fish said.

The state will present its revised budget figures next month.

California schools will receive preliminary allocations of $2.56 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds (SFSF), State Superintendent Jack O’Connell said. An estimated additional $1.1 billion will be available to schools in the fall.

The allocation is based on an amount equal to cuts made to each local educational agency’s revenue-limit funding in the February 2009 California State Budget. The next round of funding is expected to restore cuts made to funding set aside for specific programs.

Along with the stabilization dollars, local school districts are expected to receive more than $8 million in one-time Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding boosts through the federal stimulus package.

Title I funding goes toward school sites with a high population of low-income students. IDEA funding is designated for special-education programs at the elementary school districts.



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