School Board Meeting Focused On Budget Update

SB-Budget By Nicholas von Wettberg

The January budget update was the main topic of discussion at Thursday’s Davis Joint Unified School District (DJUSD) Board of Education (BoE) meeting.

Inside the City Hall Community Chambers, DJUSD Associate Superintendents Bruce Colby and Matt Best delivered a presentation report to trustees about the projected budget’s impact on the district, with the rationale being that the new information sets their own planning process into motion.

For the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to the California Budget update, the possible net funding for the DJUSD from the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is slated to be $3 million. The district can also count on an additionally projected sum of $1.6 million, per a discretionary one-time fund from Proposition 98.

It is suggested, but not a mandate, that the discretionary one-time fund “be used to support in content standards implementation and technology,” which is what the district planned

During the announcements, Davis Teachers Association (DTA) President Frank Thomsen said that while fiscal year projections based on increased revenue was good news, the board should be reminded that the district’s children are our “mutual greatest priority.”

“And therefore next must be the people who work with them most closely,” Thomsen said, in reference to the teachers. “We would urge you, as we know you’re already inclined, that as you look at the district’s budget that you keep in mind your employees, with whose livelihoods you’ve been entrusted.”

Thomsen added: “While facilities, and materials and programs and many other things are very important we say again that your people can work without these things but these things cannot work without your people.”

Colby, in his presentation, warned about a state revenue increase slow down period with moderate growth. He pointed out that the revenue provided by the temporary taxes via Proposition 30, which is set to expire, would perhaps be extended.

“One of the challenges with the proposition is it’s actually tied to the most volatile taxes there are, so it could go up and down as well,” Colby said.

In regards to “hitting” target areas, Colby said that, once it happens, the district’s stream through LCFF will “probably be funded at inflation.” Things as current as oil prices, he remarked, have the ability to adjust and keep down future ranges for cost-of-living adjustments (COLA), which could “temper increases” as much as a million or two.

When a budget summary-sourced graph on “Proposition 98 Funding Over Time” was displayed, Colby made reference to comments from board president Madhavi Sunder that “people look at this graph and they say, ‘Education is doing great, education’s fully funded.’”

Colby said “perception-wise” it would be difficult to ask for more education funding in the near future, because of current levels (at an all-time high of $71.6 billion), yet in reality the amount is what it really should be, especially when compared to the state’s down-turned funding numbers from 2008-09 to 2011-12.

Board member Tom Adams asked to confirm that, under the governor’s proposal, the district would not have to offer transitional kindergarten, which, at the moment, is mandatory.

“That’s a controversial topic,” Colby said. “It was controversial when it was talked about a few years ago and it was put in during the time of a budget cut.”

One clarification Colby made during the analysis of projected fiscal year numbers for LCFF was the state growth (5.6%, or $489 per ADA, or average daily attendance) compared to that of the district (4.52%, $348 per ADA) in per-pupil funding.

“We’ve talked about that before, our number is always going to be lower than the state average because it includes the funding for concentration and supplemental funding….” he said.

Following the staff presentation, the trustees, plus the two student representatives, had their chance to ask both Colby and Best questions about the update.

Board vice president/clerk Barbara Archer inquired about a timeline regarding the district’s awareness of its responsibility for an increase in pension costs ($930,000), which is a state-required expenditure as a part of LCFF.

Colby’s explanation was that when the figures for the State Teachers’ Retirement System (STRS) were first released, the numbers had been smaller and more spread out over time, which according to him, “shocked some school districts so they halved the number in the first year and doubled-down in the following years the STRS got larger.”

The rate for the state’s Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) is not set by the legislature, but rather decided on a yearly basis.

Archer followed up with a question about the district’s structural deficit, which Colby estimated at “$300,000 to $500,000 depending on how everything counts out in the end.”

Trustee Susan Lovenburg piggybacked off the topic of budget considerations. She noted that judging by the $320,000 listed in the less expenditure column that all $3 million in revenue generated by the LCFF would be accounted for in 2016-17.

“I said this before,” Colby said. “The state gives us money and they spend it for us. They never talk about in the Governor’s speech the things that he’s telling us we have to spend our money on because we have local control.”

The Board Policy subcommittee, comprised of trustees Lovenburg and Alan Fernandes, who made the announcement, will meet on Friday, February 5, at 11:30 am.

Board member Fernandes said that, since the committee’s previous meeting, they had mulled over many of the new policies granted by the state legislature. He also said a number of the policy updates will appear on the agenda for the next BoE meeting, scheduled for Thursday, February 4.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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    1. Frankly

      Unsustainable labor costs due to the city absorbing all the healthcare cost increases and the gap in returns required to fully fund the defined benefit pensions.

      1. Barack Palin

        We got a taste of it the last two weeks but it’s really going to get ugly when the stock market no longer can justify the high projected retirement fund returns.


      2. wdf1

        But defined contribution IRA’s are also predicated (in significant part) on a more consistently rising stock market. If the Fed raises interest rates, then it would pull money out of the stock market.

        1. Frankly

          If the fed raises interest rates enough then money market investments can be utilized to pull money out of the stock market and that will help prevent it from overheating.

          Today, with the artificially low Fed interest rate, we have basically eliminated deposit savings as an investment choice.

          I see ultra low interest rates as just more can-kicking.

          But defined contribution plans don’t have their costs impacted by market changes.  That is the point.  If the market swings away from returns that support a comfortable retirement at a certain age, then the employee would need to work longer.   That is the way it works for 95% of the working world because anything else is unsustainable.

      3. wdf1

        During the recent recession, CalSTRS (California State Retirement System) was reporting that it didn’t have assets to meet retirement obligations in the nearer future.  I haven’t heard that news recently.  This article (Wall Street Journal) suggests more current stability than instability.

        1. Frankly

          I read into this any indication or suggestion of stability.   I read that the investors are thinking about a better risk strategy but at lower returns.  I think it is likely that the price tab for teacher retirement will go up more than expected.

        2. wdf1

          I don’t subscribe, either.  Sometimes the entire article shows up, sometimes it doesn’t.  I guess I was lucky with the lottery when I clicked it and got to read the whole thing.

        3. hpierce

          wdf… was taught, “luck beats skill, any day”… my father-in-law subscribes… maybe he’ll let me “in” (he doesn’t use computer)…

          Still, thx for the cite…

        4. hpierce

          Frankly… business so bad you are hawking papers?  [If I knew how to do emoticons, there would be big winks, smiles]

          [It’s nearly a full moon, so am trying to be pleasant…]

        5. wdf1

          Frankly, on WSJ:  Best national newspaper. 

          Not for education issues covered in newspaper format.  I have found WSJ coverage to be thin.  Washington Post or sometimes NY Times is more robust in this area.

          hpierce: luck beats skill, any day

          A rule to rely on only if one is consistently lucky. I am not such a person in this area.

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