Last Tuesday, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education heard the annual report from the District’s Financial Oversight Committee (FOC).
FOC chair Paul Silvern said, “In general, the District is making significant progress in improving its management of District finances. This includes significant efforts to identify new revenue sources, containing costs, and improving management of expenditures in an uncertain physical environment which has been made more unclear by the Governor’s decision to place several measures on this November’s ballot that include one item that could severely undercut Proposition 98, a principle source of financing for school districts in California.”
One of the committee’s responsibilities is overseeing the approximately $6.5 million generated annually by Measure S, the $225 parcel tax approved by the voters of Santa Monica and Malibu in 2003.
In Fiscal Year 2004-2005, 50 percent of Measure S funds were spent on classroom teachers, 19 percent on the library program, 15 percent on music and art and just under 10 percent on physical education.
Projections for Measure S revenue expenditures in Fiscal Year 2005-2006 are about the same — with slightly less allocated to teachers and physical education and a little more to music and art and the library program.
The committee recommended that the Board approve the draft budget for fiscal year 2005-2006 because it “appears to carefully balance the Board’s instructional and program priorities with the need to provide for higher reserve levels and to maintain a sufficient general fund undesignated fund balance.”
FOC members also noted that it is “not acceptable for the District to have an operating deficit in its general fund” and were concerned that “the District desires to increase staff at the same time they are trying to reduce enrollment.”
Board member Julia Brownley responded to the second concern, saying that the “overall goal of the School Board is to close the achievement gap and continuously improve the conditions for learning. This element of increasing staff as well as reducing the student ratio to staff members is part of improving conditions for learning for students.”
In the coming year, the committee will work on budget process improvements, a more generous budget development timetable, improving communication with the community about the District’s budget and financial position, developing a more consistent reporting format, producing a focused analysis of enrollment trends, helping staff with cost containment strategies and evaluating the work of the ad hoc facilities committee.
The only member of the public to comment was Jim Jaffe, a former District teacher, who said that he found the “preliminary budget materials and enrollment projections presented [at the last two Board meetings] incomplete, difficult to track and often confusing.”
The fiscal year 2005-2006 budget is $107,808.000 Projected District enrollment is 12,545 students, a reduction of 235 students from the current academic year.The public hearing and adoption of the budget is scheduled for 4 p.m. on June 24 at the District’s administrative headquarters.