State delay sends schools scrambling for cash

California’s failure to approve a budget leaves seven San Mateo County school districts wondering how much borrowing they will have to do to cover fall expenses.

The state was scheduled to send the districts’ 14 percent of their funding in September and no funding in October. But, now that payments are delayed, schools will receive 5 percent in September and the rest in October, said Peter Burchyns, spokesman for the San Mateo County Office of Education.

There are 24 school districts in the county, but only seven — Bayshore, Jefferson, Redwood City, Millbrae, Pacifica, Ravenswood City and San Carlos Elementary — will be affected by the state’s deferral of cash. According to Burchyns, there are two types of school districts: revenue-limit districts, which receive state funding based on individual student enrollment, and basic-aid districts, which are funded by local property taxes.

The majority of districts in the county are basic aid and are better off than the seven revenue-limit districts, since they benefit from high property taxes in more-affluent areas such as Hillsborough and Woodside, Burchyns said.

Local taxes provide more money than the state can give per child, especially now that California could alter its budget to include less funding for education.

“The reality is that for those revenue-limit districts, those budgets are based on estimates of how much they think the state will give them, but we still don’t have a state budget, so we don’t know how much the state will be providing,” Burchyns said.

Now that school has started, the problem is that some districts may already have large bills to pay in September, but without state funding, many districts will have to start tapping into other accounts, such as emergency reserves, to cover maintenance fees or payroll.

“The bottom line is each district will have to look at how to adjust its finances to ensure they can get through the time period before state-deferred cash comes in,” Burchyns said. “The deferral will not prevent schools from opening. Some are already open and the rest will open imminently. Kids will continue to have somewhere to go.”

shaughey@sfexaminer.com

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