Merced City School District approves $77.2M budget

Board members expecting more funds from the state

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comJune 30, 2013 

— In approving a 2013-2014 budget that's likely to change in the next few weeks, Merced City School District Board of Education members are optimistic more funds are coming from the state.

At Tuesday's bimonthly session, the board voted 4-0 to adopt a budget that spends $77.2 million and takes in $75.2 million for the fiscal year beginning in July.

When Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature agree on the budget, the figures for education are likely to increase and the $1.9 million deficit may disappear, Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for business services, said.

Board member Susan Walsh said the unknowns at the state level are hard to handle, but added that she is delighted the Legislature and governor are saying more money should go back to the schools.

"We know what we can anticipate," Walsh said. "We are confident there will be at least the same amount of money, perhaps a little more. This is the first year we haven't had to talk about closing a school or layoffs."

No public comments were made on the budget during a brief public hearing.

Board member Gene Stamm said there should be more money coming in from the state through the new Local Control Funding Formula, and trustees will need to look at the budget again, discussing options at future public forums.

Board President Adam Cox said he is glad the budget talk is focused on restoration instead of cuts.

School districts are required to pass a final budget by the end of June. Spicer said if the LCFF is included in the state budget, that will mean an additional $361 per unit of average daily attendance, or an additional $3.6 million, for the district.

The district anticipates planning for how the new revenues will be allocated through open budget forum meetings to begin in early fall, Spicer said.

The 2013-2014 budget shows $49.4 million in state revenue figured in traditional methods, $8.3 million in federal restricted funds, $15.2 million in state money set aside for specific programs and $2.2 million from local taxes.

More than $40 million goes to teacher and administrator salaries, $10 million for classified or nonteaching employee wages and $15.4 million in health benefits.

Spicer said the district will have 45 days to approve an amended budget after state funding is firmly established, maybe later this week. He expects a revised budget will be brought to the board in mid-August for approval.

The board also approved a resolution allowing the district to temporarily utilize money from all allowable funds to meet cash flow needs. Spicer said the state still is deferring 35 percent of what it owes local school districts for at least a year. The district has had to borrow up to $10 million in tax anticipation notes to cover the delay in state payments.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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