Los Banos School District approves budget for now

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comJune 26, 2013 

— The Los Banos Unified School District has passed its budget but is still waiting to see how much additional money the new state funding formula will provide.

The state Legislature last week passed a budget that revises Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to fund districts based on the number of students learning English as a second language and the number receiving free or reduced lunch. Brown also wants to provide differing amounts of money for kindergarten through third grade than for fourth through sixth grade and ninth through 12th.

Superintendent Steve Tietjen said he expects the Los Banos district to receive more funding but he will not be certain how much more until mid-July, after the district's consultants have received direction from the California Department of Education.

Assistant Superintendent Dean Bubar said switching the funding method is a major shift for schools.

"This is a huge change in the way schools are funded, the biggest change in 40 years," Bubar said. "The real struggle is going to be the (state) finance department and department of education implementing it."

Bubar said the Los Banos Unified School District approved its 2013-14 budget based on the current funding formula, which is calculated based on funds restricted to specific uses and average daily attendance dollars.

The district's budget accounts for $69.2 million in revenue and $71.1 million in expenditures, meaning Los Banos schools will dip into reserve funds to cover a $1.9 million deficit.

Tietjen has estimated that 75 percent to 83 percent of students in the district receive free or reduced lunch, meaning that more funding is inevitable.

Also, the November passage of Proposition 30, which was designed to generate about $6 billion per year for schools, colleges and state services, has California's schools expecting additional revenue.

Tietjen said he expects the district to still face a deficit in the next fiscal year under the state's new funding plan but there will be $6,500 per student available from the state instead of $6,100. He said the state's goal is to return schools to the record-high levels of 2007 when $11,000 per student was distributed. However, it will take a few years before that funding level is reached, according to Tietjen.

"We're feeling better now that the state has passed a budget, but we don't know what the figures are yet," Tietjen said.

Bubar said information from the state on the implementation of the new funding formula changes every day, so it's pointless to guess the final figures.

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