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District’s $1.6M Surplus Won’t Go Far

The net gain of $2.1 million after the 2010-2011 school year is $1.6 million more than projected, but that doesn’t mean the district’s funding worries are over.

Despite $1.6 million more funding than projected, the is still facing an uphill funding battle.

$1.36 million is already earmarked for certain school programs, restoring employees who were laid off, and other costs. The rest will go into the district’s reserves.

“It’s technically a surplus, but it’s not an incredible amount of money,” said Chief Business Official Raul Parungao.

“We will take any money the state or federal government will give us, but they’re earmarked for specific purposes,” he added. “What we need is flexibility.”

And with budgets cuts of $2 million and $3 million coming in 2012-13 and 2013-14, the surplus will be used to keep reserve funds barely above the required 3 percent state minimum.

The $304,000 will reduce the cuts from $2 million in 2012-13 to $1.7 million, which will be used to save jobs, Parungao said.

The $304,000 came from the following savings and expenditures:

Reserve Funds Amount Savings from maintenance and operations budget $249,970 Changes in Special Education Revenue $137,279 Savings from utility costs $115,920 Increase in interest income $85,608 Savings from special ed budget $84,772 Increase in revenue from Medical Administrative Activities (MAA) $27,970 Changes in revenue limit $17,277 Changes in State revenues $12,515 Changes in expenditures -1,366 Changes in local revenue -$26,023 Reduction in special ed revenue from share in high cost pool  (Special Education Local Plan Area- SELPA) -399,882 Total Reserve $304,040

The district was able to cut maintenance and operations costs and reduce utilities bills to save a total of $366,000. The operations savings are put aside for facilities in emergency cases like the clean-up after the .

However, the state is threatening more mid-year cuts, which could come as early as January. If the state can raise $4 billion in revenue, school budgets will not be affected. Should the state not hit , further cuts will be made to school districts already operating with limited budgets.

If the state only raises $2 to 3 billion, there will be cuts to childcare programs, community colleges and higher education.

K-12 budgets would be affected if the revenue is less than $2 billion. These budgets would suffer $1.5 billion cuts, or $250 per student in the Redwood City School District. Perhaps most alarmingly, the school year could be cut up by another seven days, in addition to the five days that districts can cut from the typical 180 day school year.

“The money the district generates today may prevent any of these projected budget cuts in the future,” Parungao said.

 

Special Education and Miscellaneous Costs

The $304,000 reserve money is not as high as it could have been because the district received nearly $400,000 less from the county for special education services than anticipated.

However, should it cost a large sum of money to educate an individual special needs student, a local school district can apply for reimbursement from the county, which receives money from the federal government. Parungao said after a certain cost threshold, a school district is eligible for 100 percent reimbursement for a student’s education.

Another blow to the district’s budget was the . The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) was passed to ensure that students with disabilities would receive fair and equal education, but the federal government does not have the money to give to school districts to ensure that this equality prevails.

The district received only $8.1 million from the federal government of the $15.3 million needed to educate these students. The district had to transfer $7.1 million from its General Fund to this Special Education fund.

“We are truly in need for these students, but the federal government does not provide the entire funding,” Parungao said.

If districts do not comply with these mandates, they could be sued, even though they have not received adequate funding.

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Elaine Park October 11, 2011 at 04:21 PM
Districts are required to educate all students, because it is their civil right. This is the point of IDEA. Government agencies are not excused from the constitution because they are short of money. It's nice when the federal government can provide extra funds to help pay for the extra services some children need to learn. But the creation of a segregated funding flow for these kids has unfortunately created a mind set where students with additional needs are seen as "special" and outside the population that a school district should be serving. All kids are the responsibility of the district and singling out the ones that need additional support as a burden is
Elaine Park October 11, 2011 at 04:22 PM
...false and unhelpful, as is categorizing their presence as "a blow to the budget."
Stacie Chan (Editor) October 11, 2011 at 04:57 PM
Hi Elaine, the "blow to the budget" was the fact that this mandate is unfunded by the federal government. I can see how this can be construed as the mandate itself being a blow to the budget.
Georgia Jack October 11, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Even assuming that there were no other programs that needed to be serviced from the surplus, which there are given the state of the reserves, that "surplus" is only about $177 per student. I use "surplus" in quotes, because we're being funded at a lower level than we should be given the years of cuts. Also what's important about the reserve level is that how much is in reserve directly affects interest rates and loans that the district is having to take out to float the state government.
John Foley October 11, 2011 at 11:56 PM
How many kids with special educational requirements are actually out of district or using someone else's address? Who is checking? Who checks the kids on the "free/reduced" food programs who show up weekly with professional manicures, droids and iPads? How much do some of the district level admins take down? Stacie, please post that.
Georgia Jack October 12, 2011 at 02:19 AM
John: While I certainly cannot answer for Stacie, you've brought up an area that I hope to cover in my blog series on education which is the Tinsley Volunantary Transfer Program and the county-run special ed programs that serve students while being run on both the RCSD and the SHUSD campus'. As you might be aware, I am slowly sifting through the many, many, many issues and programs that effect education locally. That said, I was not surprised to hear from Woodside High School yesterday that they have had a significant upsurge over the past few years of kids on free and reduced lunch -- without having a lot of students moving in or out of the campus boundaries. That's a measure of the state of our local economy.
Elaine Park October 13, 2011 at 01:58 AM
IDEA is really a codification of a school district's constitutional requirement to educate all of its students, not just the ones that don't require additional support to learn. I don't really see this as a mandate. The gap between what it costs to educate students and what the state provides is the real problem here, not the students. Suggesting that our kids are somehow an extra burden to the district is inaccurate and sort of insensitive.
John Foley October 20, 2011 at 02:59 PM
The fact is---many---are on the dole who do not deserve help. The entitlement programs are out if control. Fraud is rampant.
Elaine Park October 20, 2011 at 07:04 PM
John, Are you suggesting that children should not receive help if they are hungry? Can you offer any proof of the rampant fraud? If you have evidence, I believe you should share it with us and the authorities.

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