San Mateo County schools brace for budget ax 

A budget proposal by the governor would increase funding for K-12 education by $3 billion next fiscal year, but local school districts say the money is not guaranteed and many are still preparing for the worst.

Gov. Jerry Brown released a new budget proposal Monday that reflects an increase in tax revenues, reducing the overall state deficit to just under $10 billion. The governor’s budget proposal combines cuts and tax increases to bridge the remaining state deficit.

The budget “downsizes state government and protects education and public safety,” according to Brown’s office.

Scott Laurence, superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School District, though, said the budget is still a proposal that school districts cannot work off of because of multiple state-mandated deadlines. Districts were required to issue final layoff notices to employees by May 15 and must submit a balanced budget to the state by June 30.

“We can’t build a budget off a proposal,” he said. “But it is a better proposal than the one that came out in January for public education.”

The Peninsula high school district, which serves 8,500 students, is still preparing to cut up to $10 million under a worst-case scenario budget — if proposed tax extensions do not get passed by voters.

Brown pushed for a June special election in order to extend a vehicle and income tax, but was unsuccessful. The governor still hopes to hold a special election with this budget proposal. A timeline for the election was not given, but Brown has said he wants one “as soon as possible.”

In San Francisco, public school officials said the proposal does not increase per-pupil funding, but instead gives districts across the state funding that was intended for education in the first place.

The district is reviewing the proposal to see how San Francisco is affected, but spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said the governor’s recognition that schools have absorbed most of the cuts in recent years is appreciated.

“It’s a good start,” she said. “However, it is important to remember that California’s education budget still hinges on the legislature’s approval of the governor’s proposals.”

The San Francisco district gave final layoff notices earlier this month to nearly 300 employees in order to bridge a budget deficit of $27 million. Officials have said they hope to rescind as many of those notices as possible and are working to bridge their funding shortfall.

Bolstering colleges requires tax extensions

Universities and community colleges throughout California will get $22.7 billion in funding, according to the governor’s May budget revise released earlier this week.

But according to the California State University’s Chancellor’s Office the fate of higher education still rests in the hands of the voters, whom Gov. Jerry Brown hopes to ask to approve tax increases.

Brown’s May revise would give the 10 University of California campuses, 23 California State campuses and 112 community colleges throughout the state a total of $500 million more to work with than was proposed in his January budget. That money would come from a combination of tax extensions, however, without which all three systems face $1 billion in cuts.

San Francisco State University officials, said the budget maintains cuts from the January budget including $500 million from California State Universities.

“If tax increases don’t go through, there will be another cut into the CSU system,” said SF State spokeswoman Ellen Griffin. “That’s a devastating prospect.”

If the tax extensions are rejected, CSU must increase its tuition by 32 percent and begin wait- listing applications.

Additionally, proposed budget reductions of $290 million to the state’s community colleges could mean an estimated 140,000 students will not get the classes they need.

In a statement released by California Community Colleges, Chancellor Jack Scott said the budget proposal is one he supports and that he hopes voters will support it as well by approving tax increases.

“Gov. Brown laid out a fiscally responsible, balanced approach to lead the state in the right direction,” Scott stated. “This will give our colleges badly needed resources in this difficult year and will assist them to provide both job training and the first two years of a college education.”

Math lesson

Governor’s May budget revise:

$10 billion state budget shortfall
$3 billion more to fund K-12 education
$22.7 billion to fund higher education
June 30: When schools must have their balanced budgets to the state

Source: Gov. Jerry Brown’s office

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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