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School board mulls $40M budget

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The trustees of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District got their first look at the proposed 2014-15 budget recently, and will vote on the document at a special meeting on Thursday, June 26.

The budget calls for spending $40.4 million on revenues of a shade over $38 million – a deficit of $2.3 million. But the district has a carryover balance of $5.6 million as rainy-day funds that it can tap into.

At the June 10 meeting, John Bartolome, the district’s chief financial officer, told the school board that 83 percent of the district’s budget is in salaries and benefits, 13 percent is in services, while 4 percent goes to books and supplies.

Bartolome also told the board that the district is budgeting a 2 percent increase in tax revenues each year, despite the fact that this year’s taxes came in at about 7 percent. And he said that the district should continue to receive about $1 million a year in residual funds that used to go to the local redevelopment agencies – one in the city and another in the Springs.

The deficit grew by more than $587,000 because of changes in special education revenue and costs – the district will receive $175,000 less in special education income and there will be a $385,000 increase in special education expenses because of additional students.

Bartolome said the district would probably lose its basic aid designation in the 2015-16 fiscal year and receive state funding through LCFF – Local Control Funding Formula.

Basic aid means the district receives all of its funding through local taxes. The district fell into basic aid from its revenue limit status when the bottom fell out of the economy several years ago and the state started cutting funding levels. That caused the district to become a basic aid district by default because its local taxes provided higher revenues than what the state was paying.

Board president Helen Marsh asked Bartolome what sort of tax increases it would take to keep the district basic aid, and he said even if the tax increases were in the teens, Sonoma wouldn’t remain a basic aid district.

“If we had 7 percent (local tax) growth in each of the next three years, we’ll still be in LCFF,” he told the board.

But with a return to state funding, the district will have to start tracking its ADA, average daily attendance, to receive state money. While the district is in basic aid, it doesn’t need to track ADA.

And since ADA is student-based, Deputy Superintendent Justin Frese said the district will lose some state money when enrollments decline.

The trustees will vote on the proposed budget Thursday, June 26.