Merced officials see no major changes for schools in revised budget

05/14/2014 6:38 PM

05/14/2014 6:49 PM

Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget revision has provided no surprises to local educators. Back in January, the governor’s budget promised more money to local school districts, particularly those serving English language learners, economically disadvantaged students and foster youth.

Leonard Kahn, assistant superintendent for business services with Merced Union High School District, said state revenues are increasing for schools but so are expenses.

“The big elephant in the room is $71 billion in unfunded liability for the state teacher retirement system,” Kahn said. “We may need to brace ourselves for a 6 percent increase in employer costs.” He says he expects the liability issue to trigger a big political battle in the state Legislature.

Kahn and Superintendent Scott Scambray will be attending an informational program on budget revisions by School Services of California consultants Wednesday in Fresno. Scambray said there haven’t been many changes for the high school district but he’s unsure about retirement costs for local school systems.

Greg Spicer, associate superintendent of business services for Merced City School District, said he expects to attend another budget workshop Tuesday in Sacramento.

“There’s not that much significant or earth-shattering,” Spicer said.

Spicer said preliminary information indicates the state Department of Education will be paying back all the state revenue that has been deferred in past years.

The state has been 18 months behind on paying local school districts and 40 percent of its budget funds have been delayed, according to Spicer. The district needed to buy up to $10 million in tax anticipation notes to cover the delayed payments.

RoseMary Parga Duran, Merced City School District superintendent, said she is pleased with what she’s heard about May budget revisions.

“It sounds like it will be pretty rosy,” Duran said. “No gloom and doom. I’m very optimistic; it sounds like it will be to our benefit.”

Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, said Brown’s May budget revision reaffirms California’s commitment to local control over education dollars, and continues the state’s progress toward empowering local administrators, teachers, parents, students, and school communities to determine how best to serve students.

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