Conejo Valley School District (CVUSD) facing $25 million deficit for 2020-2021 budget

By Michael Hernandez

THOUSAND OAKS—The Conejo Valley Unified School District budget is facing a $25 million deficit for the $203 million 2020-2021 budget. Currently, the district has potential funds to use of $35 million but the district is not recommending that any of the six million dollars of mandated reserve  be used and that no more than one-third of the remaining $29 million dollars be used in any given year. If each of the remaining potential funds were used the district would be left with a $15 million dollar deficit not counting the additional expenses for reopening because of COVID-19 state requirements. The district spends approximately 85 percent of the budget on personnel and is expecting a current budget stimulus of $1.2 million from the state.    

The ending balance varies depending on choosing one of three strategies based on the projected governor’s K-12 education budget: minimizing year one cuts; equalizing cuts between years; or minimizing overall cuts as either: $11-17 million for 2020-21; $7-12 million in 2020-21; roughly $6 million in 2022-23.  However, all budgets are dependent on a hypothetical scenario of the legislative proposal which assumes that funding returns back to normal levels and shows expenses remaining the same with budget deficits ranging in the next three years of $52 million, $59 million, and $57 million.

The CVUSD met Tuesday to discuss the 2020-2021 district budget and had one phone comment before starting the budget study session with a caller asking two questions:

  • What would be the costs for re-opening with masks especially if more than one mask is required per day for each student and staff member? The caller wanted to ask if masks were a necessary requirement?
  • What would be the size of classes if schools reopened with six-feet social distancing guidelines? Wouldn’t this limit the size of classes?  Did social distancing need to be observed?

Board member Sandee Everett wanted the two questions fully answered before proceeding with budget discussions. A response was given by both Assistant Superintendent Dr. Victor Hayek and Superintendent Dr. Mark McLaughlin. Board President Cindy Goldberg (with support from the other board members) chose to proceed with the budget study session.

The district board presentation made by Dr. Hayek included a 7.92 percent deflation factor (negative Cost of Living Adjustment, COLA)  with declining enrollment factored in and predicated on schools opening and that  the enrollment projections hold of 18,050 students in 2020-21; 17,903 students in 2021-22; and 17,583 students in 2022-2023.  (Note: The Average Daily Attendance is less with 17,634 students for 2020-21; and 17,444 for 2021-2022 and 17,303 for 2022-23 which accounts for a 96 percent attendance rate). The district anticipates reduction of staff by 25 employees due to retirement each year.  However, July 15 tax revenues may impact this and future budgets.

The CVUSD board heard that California would increase spending for special education which goes from $545 per student to $625 per student in future years.   School districts would also be required to make up the difference known as a “gap” between money that has been allocated to the district and the actual amount received with the school district making up the difference through a deferral or TRANS loan which is a loan taken out by the district. The length of deferrals is still not known at this time.

The majority of the money the state receives comes from property taxes received in December and April ($110 million) with $55 million coming from the State and that is money that is borrowed twice each year at a cost of $300,000 each time borrowed (for cash flow). The actual amount borrowed would depend on the deferral loans required by the district.

The five options or strategies were given to the board as follows:

  1. Prepare budget using Governor’s proposed budget with a set level of cuts
  2. Prepare budget using proposed Legislative plan and with cuts
  3. Prepared budget using proposed Legislative plan and with cuts
  4. Prepare budget using alternative factors
  5. Balanced budget discussion

Some key budget items already discussed included:

  • Human Resource costs are 85 percent of the budget
  • Furlough days
  • Reviewing open positions, retirements, resignations
  • Reallocate positions to grant or other funds if possible
  • Examine employee roles in different scenarios
  • What Child Nutrition and Child Care program looks like in different opening scenarios

Some discussed budget reductions:

  • Reduce textbook budget $1 million
  • Stipend adjustment of $500,000
  • Reduce travel and conference budget $250,000
  • Reduce supply budget $250,000
  • Reduce Athletic transportation budget $250,000

(Note:  The district spends approximately $500,000 for athletic transportation but new state guidelines could require 3x the cost for the transportation)

  • Reduce equipment budget $222,000
  • Reduced certificated substitute budget $180,000
  • Cut cell phone program $160,000
  • Reduce substitute custodial budget $100,000

An additional cost not factored in:

  • Home to school transportation likely 3x increase from $600,000 to $2 million

The California Department of Education released on Monday, June 8th  its recommended state guidelines for reopening schools in a document called “Stronger Together:  A guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California’s Public Schools” and held a webinar for local educational agency (LEA) leaders but district staff said they have not been able to fully analyze those guidelines as of yet.  A public hearing of the budget will be held June 16 with budget adoption set for June 30.

 

Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He worked 25 years as a middle school teacher in Monrovia and Los Angeles Unified School Districts. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].


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William Hicks
William Hicks
1 year ago

How any students does 25million dollars represent in lostADA funds?

Jenny George
Jenny George
1 year ago

How about Victor Hayek roll back that big fat raise he gave himself and stop wasting funds on frivolous things? That might help

William Hicks
William Hicks
1 year ago

I heard nothing about a federal bailout anticipated by the governor. Is that not among the wish list of all those who have a stake in public education?