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Hart district looks to fully restore cut school days

Posted: June 21, 2013 5:39 p.m.
Updated: June 21, 2013 5:39 p.m.

The William S. Hart Union High School District will look to restore next school year’s schedule to the full 180 days that students attended before massive budget cuts, board members agreed this week.

Under terms of the approximately $179 million budget approved by the Hart district board Wednesday night, the district will hold classes during the five school days that had been cut from the schedule as employees were furloughed, according to Sue Hoerber, the district’s chief financial officer.

While the district still has to finalize bargaining agreements, the budget approved Wednesday on a 4-0 vote assumes the full restoration of the school year, Hoerber said.

Though the budget could still change after the state budget is approved, Hoerber said there is reason to be optimistic.

“Right now this is an estimate, but it’s much better than what we’ve had in the past several years,” Hoerber said of the budget.

The district’s budget includes about $6 million more in spending than income for the next school year.

Much of that spending is going toward restoring the five school days, Hoerber said, and most of it will come from the district’s reserve fund built up over the past several years.

The state requires school districts to maintain 3 percent of their budgets as emergency reserve each fiscal year.

But even with the $6 million deficit in this year’s budget, the district will still have more than $30 million in rainy-day funds on hand, well above that threshold.

Deficit spending could also occur in the coming years, Hoerber said.

“As the economic outlook improves, the district will be able to reduce its reserves to more traditional levels,” Hoerber said.

One of the changes in this year’s Hart district budget is the inclusion of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, which overhauls the way schools across the state are funded by giving each school a per-student base grant and then providing supplemental funding for students who are English-language learners, in the foster care system or below the poverty line.

Though some of the intricacies of the Local Control Funding Formula remain unknown, Hart district will receive an estimated $7.4 million more than originally expected in funding from the state next year, according to Hoerber.

But, district officials said, this pales in comparison to how much has been cut in recent years.

This last school year, the district only received about 78 percent of the per-student funding it would have received before the recession forced education cuts.

While the Local Control Funding Formula does not come close to restoring all of that during the next fiscal year, the district does stands to receive approximately $26 million in funding from Proposition 30 sales and income tax hikes, approved by voters in November.

Hoerber said those funds will be used to pay for instructional salaries.

One of the challenges still facing the district is declining enrollment, a trend that began after the 2009-2010 school year. Since then, the district has seen its average daily attendance decline by more than 300 to settle in at a projected 21,705 for the 2013-2014 school year.

Most of the district’s state funding is based on daily attendance. And the district loses $47 every day an enrolled student does not attend school, according to estimates.

Hart district board member Steve Sturgeon was not present at Wednesday night’s meeting.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney


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