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Lodi Unified School District approves budget for upcoming year

Without changes at state level, more cuts will come in 2014-15

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Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:19 am, Wed Jun 20, 2012.

Lodi Unified School District will enter the 2012-13 school year with a balanced budget after Tuesday's Board of Trustees meeting. But district staff say they can only guarantee a stable budget for another year unless the state makes some significant changes.

The budget was approved unanimously.

Tim Hern, chief business officer, said the budget is based on the public voting to pass Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increases on the November ballot. If the tax increases fail, budget triggers will be pulled, and the district budget will fall into the negatives as soon as the 2014-15 school year.

There is no new money coming from the state to the district. The only possible boon is an increase in cash flow if the state is able to make good on deferred payments to the district.

"It's a crystal ball guess at this time. We'll have to wait to see how it pans out," said Hern.

Hern outlined several spending increases the district must take on.

Over the years, the district has absorbed costs for several required programs the state didn't have the money to pay for. On the off chance those moneys come in, they will go to refreshing classroom technology.

Another change in expenses goes to credentialed employees, including teachers. A normal move forward on the step and column salary schedule was deferred in June 2011 until the end of the 2011-12 school year. Now the deferred increase kicks in, along with the scheduled move this year. That makes for an increased expense of $3.4 million and overdue raises for some teachers.

There are also increased costs this year for TDAP immunizations, utilities, hazardous materials removal (including mold), security, Internet and technology. The total increase is about $1.5 million. There is a potential increase to cover the cost of transitional kindergarten, just in case it doesn't remain on the state budget. Lodi Unified plans to open the program this year whether or not the state offers funding.

Hern advised trustees that the district still had deficit spending of about $1.5 million.

"That's not a way to run any kind of organization. We cannot continue to go down that path," Hern said. "Be prudent and always be careful in how you're spending money."

The district does have a certain amount in reserves as a kind of dam against more decreases in state funding.

About $12 million is held from average daily attendance, or about $441 per student. Those funds are available for one-time spending needs, but Hern suggested not dipping into reserves too quickly.

"That's the only thing protecting us right now from what decisions are being made in Sacramento," said Hern.

In the past few years, enrollment has been on the decline. But this year, there is a major jump from the number of high school seniors to the number of kindergartners. It's enough to encourage Hern that enrollment is improving.

Trustee Ralph Womack thanked Hern and the business department for presenting a clear, if not cheerful, budget outline.

"It's ugly, but at least we understand what we're facing," he said.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com. For more information about local education issues, read our Education Café blog.

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