Lodi Unified School District trustees approved the district's $211 million financial plan for the 2011-12 school year on Tuesday. It is the third consecutive budget year the district has faced unprecedented program and personnel cuts as well as ongoing swelling class sizes.
"It looks like a budget everybody can live with. Everyone worked together on it," board president George Neely said following the meeting. "It was kind of a leap of faith since we don't have a state budget yet."
The district will operate with a $19 million deficit through 2013-14. However, it could be higher if the state continues to defer money, according to Chief Business Officer Tim Hern, who received accolades from trustees.
Although the state budget has yet to be approved, it appears that less will be spent on education than in years past, according to district officials.
Add to that yet another deferral from state coffers; approximately 32 cents per dollar will be owed the district in the next fiscal year, or $34.6 million.
If the district's funding remains flat, estimated reserves for 2011-12 will be $52.5 million but cash flow could become a problem and a low-interest loan necessary to make payroll come spring, Hern said Tuesday.
Some of that money could be used to fund the previously agreed-upon early retirement program for teachers.
The 2011-12 budget is $28 million less than last school year's, due to one-time federal stimulus money that went to save jobs.
The state continues to defer money owed to school districts. Coupled with that, districts up and down California are receiving fewer dollars based on declining enrollment.
More than 80 percent of the district's $215 million in revenue comes from the state, according to Hern's budget report.
For the third year, the district has laid off dozens of teachers and support staff, and has cut programs.
In separate action Tuesday, a number of classified positions were expected to be eliminated. However, 14 bilingual translators, many of whom spoke out against cuts at the last school board meeting, were saved from the chopping block due to board inaction, according to Neely.
He said the cuts will have to come from elsewhere, although where is not yet clear.
In the end, under the budget approved Tuesday, an estimated 60 teachers could be called back to work. That process should begin this week.
"We're trying to stop these layoffs from ever happening again," Neely said of future financial planning.
Class size reductions
Hern believes class sizes will remain large through at least 2013-14, although there are plans to make them smaller than last school year.
In 2011-12, staffing ratios are expected to be 29 students to 1 teacher in kindergarten through third grade; 32 to 1 for fourth through sixth grade; and 34 to 1 for seventh through 12th grade, according to Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer.
During the meeting, Neely asked for a public report a couple of weeks after school starts to receive an update on the number of students in each class and how many combination classes are in place.
Even with Tuesday's budget approval with a 6-0 vote, the district has a number of long-term concerns such as paying for instructional materials and continuing declining enrollment.
Trustee Bonnie Cassel was absent.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at email@example.com.