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Bishop school board deals with $820K deficit

July 16, 2012

In a universal era of belt tightening, the Bishop Unified School District will be working with a budget that reflects an $820,647 difference between income and expenses, and not to the good.
The money picture was not entirely without some good news. Due to the focus of recent money-raising efforts, instructional aides for grades K-5 will be reinstated, at least for this school year.
The district board unanimously approved the 2012-13 budget at its June 28 board meeting. This year’s shortfall will be drawn from the district’s reserves. Depending on the outcome of two tax initiatives on the November ballot, that shortfall may be erased.
The primary source of district funding, 65 percent, comes from local property taxes supplemented by the state in the form of Revenue Limit funding, based on Average Daily Attendance.
Since 2007-08, the state has reduced Revenue Limit funding by more than 20 percent.
Bishop is the only district in Owens Valley dependent on Revenue Limit funding. The other districts are Basic Aid districts with property tax allotments at a level that the state supplement does not come into play.
The elementary school’s teacher aides will be reinstated for the 2012-13 school year thanks to higher than expected federal Impact Aid monies.
Federal Impact Aid compensates local districts for students living on government-owned land that is not subject to property taxes. According to Midge Milici, the district’s financial officer, this is a one-time boon that cannot be written into future school year budgets.
The magic number to reinstate the instructional aids was $60,000, according to Bishop Elementary School Principal Betsy McDonald, who had been engaged in fundraising efforts to cover the cost.
The music program in the elementary school was also the recipient of good news.
Individual donations totalling $3,425 have come in to help fund the music program. The donations amount to approximately a third of the annual cost, according to Milici.
One potential flickering light at the end of the school budget’s dark tunnel is the possibility of recouping $441 per ADA if one or both California school funding tax initiatives pass in November.
The Our Children, Our Future initiative would raise state income taxes on a sliding scale, starting with incomes of $40,000, for the next 12 years.
The second initiative, referred to as the Governor’s Tax Initiative, would raise the sales tax by one-quarter cent for five years and increase income tax for seven years on those individuals making more than $250,000.
If both initiatives pass, the one with the most votes goes into effect. And, the additional funding will put the $820,647 deficit back into Bishop’s budget.
Board President Jim Tatum wasn’t happy with the tax initiative concept. “Education is being held hostage,” he said. “Education and public safety are non-partisan triggers. They’re (the state government) not looking at alternatives.”
Other potential good budget news does not come
in the form of additional funding, but in deeper cuts not realized. The Weighted Student Formula that would reallocate state money to those schools with high percentages of economically disadvantaged and English-as-a-second-language students is still being analyzed in Sacramento. When or if that shoe drops, the loss to Bishop would exceed $1 million.
No staff reductions were reflected in the 2012-13 budget. Milici explained that staff layoffs would be unavoidable if mid-year state funds are cut. Individual district budgets are based on proposed funding levels; whether those levels will be reduced or postponed is not known until the year progresses.
Multi-year projections include a loss of three teaching, or certificated, positions in 2013-14 and an additional two the following year, anticipated to be non-replacement of retiring teachers. The total of five classified positions eliminated over the two school years would have to be in the form of layoffs.
According to Milici, the only additional savings in services and operating costs could be achieved through negotiated contracts for pest control, propane, trash, fuel and heating oil.
Other costs in this budget category are non-negotiable.

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