Despite a projected $4.2 million budget shortfall this coming year, and fears this could expand with finances that may go to a new charter school, officials in the San Mateo Union High School District have mixed opinions on how things will pan out.
The district’s total revenue for the 2014-15 school year is $121.6 million, while the total expenditures are $125.8 million, according to the budget approved in June. The district is basic aid funded, meaning it gets its money from property taxes. This has happened in prior years. For example, in the 2013-14 fiscal year, the district saw a $3.9 million deficit.
“(In the past) It’s tended to go down and been somewhat less of what’s predicted because some of the expenses don’t get expensed,” said Trustee Peter Hanley. “I would imagine there’ll likely to be some deficit still that the district has.”
Meanwhile, the financial impacts of the brand new Design Tech High School, located on Mills High School’s campus, on the district are still unknown. The district’s Board of Trustees delayed a vote until September on giving a $150,000 grant to Design Tech, or d.tech, but board members are still concerned about the school’s effect on the district. The school opened for classes last week.
“If you’re going to encroach on the reserve, it should be for the neediest students,” said board President Linda Lees Dwyer. “I definitely have concerns about d.tech making that (the deficit) worse. Unless we find out for certain, there’s a way to recoup the costs of outside students, that is going to be an encroachment in our general fund.”
The deficit is always a concern because things come up that aren’t budgeted for, she said.
“Until we know what their (d.tech’s) true cost to our district for students from our district, would I even consider it. I don’t see a reason to give them any money; they have a lot of grant money they received and I don’t understand where it’s gone to.”
Eighty students who plan to enter d.tech are from within the district, while 55 are from outside the district. The district could lose $429,550 minimum for costs associated with the new school. Still, it’s not clear how state funds will play into funding the school. The Sequoia Union High School District, which has 18 students slated to attend d.tech, will reimburse San Mateo Union for costs associated with its students if the student remains enrolled for the entire year. The South San Francisco Unified School District, with 10 projected students attending d.tech, is not interested in reimbursing the district for its students’ costs.
Although there is a budget shortfall, the district is financially stable thanks, in large part, to a healthy reserve, positive forecasts in property taxes and prudent spending throughout the organization, said district spokeswoman Sheri Costa-Batis.
“We practice responsible financial planning, and we sometimes find that we underestimate the amount of dollars coming in to support education,” she wrote in an email. “We will know more specifics as to how we can continue our financial stability going forward when Gov. Brown shares the state budget in January. At that time, we can see the impact on education from a state perspective and plan accordingly.”
The district’s full 2014-15 budget is available on the district website.
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