Waiting to take the first step to modify its school funding formula would benefit the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District this fall to the tune of $1.4 million — something that will be explained to school officials during a Board of Trustees meeting tonight.
Understanding education budgets is extra challenging this summer as districts plan for next year without knowing which funding formula to use. Not having clear direction from the state isn’t new. School districts have often been required to pass a budget on June 30 without a state budget on which to base their plan. This year’s challenge is a little different. Gov. Jerry Brown made a promise to overhaul education funding. The proposal, called the Local Control Funding Formula, is aimed at equalizing funding and allowing for more local control. State officials are aiming to get the new rules in place for the upcoming school year. Since those rules have yet to be approved, local districts are forced to prepare multiple budget scenarios using both the old and newly proposed formulas.
Adopting the new formula results in a $1.4 million drop in the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District’s projected funding. It’s not a huge part of the district’s overall budget. As of March, the district was projecting $76 million in revenue next year. Also, since the district has been conservative for years, the drop doesn’t result in any cuts. The plan is simply to set aside money from the ending balance of this year’s budget to cover the possible drop in funding, explained Chief Business Official Laura Phan.
Molly Barton, assistant superintendent for student services, said the hope is to have more information in December, when the board gets the first interim budget update. At that time, if it has access to the money, the board could discuss using it.
It’s a unique situation. As such, the creation of such a budgeting gap is complicated to explain.
Currently, the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District is funded by local property taxes, called basic aid. Next year, regardless of the funding formula used, the district will instead be funded fully though the state, currently called revenue limit. It’s the timing of this change that impacts the per-pupil funding level.
Under Brown’s proposal, the per-pupil funding a district will receive next year will be at least the same as in the 2012-13 school year. Since the San Mateo-Foster City School District wasn’t relying on the state in 2012-13, the amount it received from the state was lower than it would be if it had been a revenue limit district. Waiting a year to make the change, on the other hand, could benefit the district.
San Mateo-Foster City is just one example of the complicated questions facing local school districts as they prepare budgets for the fall. Details of the new funding formula are still being debated in the state Legislature.
At the same meeting, the board will approve an agreement with Foster City to provide crossing guards throughout the city from July 1 through June 30, 2014.
The board meets 7 p.m. Thursday, June 6 at the District Office, 1170 Chess Drive, Foster City.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105