Tough Years for CUSD Budgets

Posted by: District 1 year, 6 months ago

Tough Years for CUSD Budgets

It’s no secret in Coronado that our school budgets have been under distress since the beginning of the 2008 recession. At the time, we weren’t too worried. During the good years we diligently built a rainy day fund. We were prepared for the hard times. 

After studying historic trends on recessions and reduced education funding, we were confident that within five years of the start of the recession that funding would be restored. This led to our plan to systematically pull from our savings to cover spending deficits for five years. When funding returned to normal, the intent was to not only cover expenses out of the regular budget but to also work to restore our rainy day fund.

Unfortunately, the storm in education funding far outlasted five years, depleting our rainy day fund.

As predicted, funding did resume after several years. There was one unexpected caveat to that, though. In the 2013-14 school year, California implemented a new Local Control funding plan. This plan gives more money to schools with a higher number students that need additional resources, such as students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and English language learners. As a result, Coronado received over $1,000 less per student than San Diego Unified, and that gap has continued to grow.

The state moved the landing runway from our initial plan. With no solution in sight, we ran out of “fuel.”

We had to implement tough budget cuts. Overall, we reduced the budget by 8% in 2014-15. These cuts primarily eliminated positions in the district, particularly support staff and enrichment teachers. 

A small reprieve from the substantial budget cuts appeared in 2015. The dissolving of Redevelopment Agencies in California freed up 2% Pass-Through Funds to be used by some school districts in more ways. We reallocated those funds, traditionally earmarked for building maintenance, to educational measures. While beneficial to the district, these funds merely helped to fund existing programs and cover the substantial yearly expenditure increases due to pension, health insurance and utility costs.. These funds also allowed us to refrain from implementing an additional round of cuts.

Fast-forward to today and the economic situation hasn’t improved dramatically. If voters don't approve extending Proposition 30 taxes on the wealthiest Californians this year, we will likely be looking at a 3-8% budget cuts in the 2017-18 year. 

There is a silver lining in the future, though. In the next eight to ten years we anticipate reaching basic aid status, which will mean more local Coronado property tax dollars stay here to support our school district.  If we are able to be sound stewards of our funds, by carefully managing a planned degradation of our facilities to minimize expenditures, we may just make it to basic aid status before running out of “fuel” again.  We will always maintain safe and clean facilities, but we won’t be able to keep them in the great state of repair that they are currently.

This fall we will be holding two workshops to build projections on when we will reach basic aid status and devise a plan on how to best proceed until then. 

While the next couple of years will be economically challenging for our school district, know that we are all committed to providing the best education possible with available resources.