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Galt school districts wary of mid-year budget cuts

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Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:36 am, Thu Dec 1, 2011.

Galt’s two school districts are among the state’s smaller districts eyeing California’s mid-year budget cuts with the keenest eyes.

When the California Legislative Analyst’s Office announced a $3.7-billion state shortfall in mid-November, local officials started recalculating figures already forecasted when the state pulled the so-called trigger.

When California lawmakers reached a deal to close a $10 billion budget gap in June, critics warned the agreement relied too heavily on $4 billion in additional tax revenue projected to materialize with a rapidly rebounding economy. Now, with the state's recovery stalling, the new revenue is not coming in.

In fact, according to the state controller's office, revenue since the start of fiscal year has fallen $705 million short of projections.

Some superintendents have warned districts will not only need to cut spending, but tap into reserves or borrow money just to get by. Layoffs are off the table, as the California Teachers Association won a guarantee against that as part of the state’s budget negotiations.

“Our district is bracing, like all other districts in California, for mid-year funding cuts from the state as state revenue receipts over the last few months have not been meeting their projections,” said Audrey Kilpatrick, Galt Joint Union High School District’s chief business official.

The district has a reserve of approximately $350 per student that could be used this year, she said. The exact figure will be unknown until Dec. 15 when the department of finance releases its revised revenues.

Superintendent Karen Schauer said Galt Joint Union Elementary School District will face mid-year cuts, although she too is still unclear exactly how much funding will be cut.

“I anticipate more information from the state concerning budget triggers (this month) that will make conditions clearer for us to work with,” she said in an email.

Meanwhile, district staff is in the process of completing the first-interim budget report that will provide short- and long-term budget information. A report will be heard at the Dec. 14 school board meeting.

Already in place are employee furlough days and a shortened school year. On top of reduced salaries due to furloughs, teachers, admins and confidential staff also have salary freezes for the 2011-12 school year to serve as a contingency plan should mid-year cuts happen, Schauer said.

State funding for education is at a historic low, and spending cuts have put area school districts at “dangerous levels” of personnel, according to top regional educators at a recent symposium in Southern California.

“California, ranked 46th among the nation’s 50 states in education, pays just 80 cents on the dollar of what schools should receive,” Riverside County Deputy Superintendent of Schools Paul Jessup said at the symposium held last month.

“But the state doesn’t have the money to cover that, so a large portion of that is deferred, which means the state says, ‘We’ll pay the money later.’”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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