Hemet Unified School District trustees had some good news and bad news about the district’s financial condition at last week’s board meeting.

Vince Christakos, Assistant Superintendent for business services, reported the projected deficit for this fiscal year (ending June 30) is $2 million. The district’s reserves will easily cover this amount.

“We’re fine the rest of the year,” he said in a phone interview. “Going into next year, we’ll make it through with some deficit spending.”

However, the projected deficits for 2013-14 and 2014-15 are $11.4 and $10 million respectively. Unfortunately, these problems do not include the possible loss of federal revenues in future years because of the federal government’s sequestration of funds. Programs such as Head Start would be affected.

As the district’s student population continues to decline, state funding continues to fall also.

HUSD”s reserve balances would decline from $35.4 million at the beginning of the fiscal year to less than $12 million in three years.

The district dropped the six teacher furlough days for next year, a promise made two years ago when the board originally reduced the school year. This would return the school year to 180 days from 175 days this year.

In addition, no teacher layoffs are currently projected for the next two years, according to Director Bill Sanborn.

“There’s still deficit spending which is reason for concern,” Sanborn said, hesitantly optimistic. “It’s improved compared to the last few years, but it’s not as good as it was.”

Few options exist to avoid future deficits according to the budget presentation. Eliminating adult education and even deferred maintenance would save only $1.2 million. Christakos also suggested a temporary relaxation of the district’s reserve requirement from five percent to only three percent. But this creates only a $3.6 million savings.

Besides the unknown consequences of federal sequestration, HUSD may have additional costs approaching $2 million to implement the Affordable Care Act.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposals to shift formulas for allocating state money may have significant benefits for HUSD, Christakos said, but cautioned the final legislative formula has not yet been approved.

School year
The board was presented with a proposed school year calendar for 2013-14, but did not make a decision. The calendar did not include the return of the furlough days and board members had questions about the starting day of school as well as the length of the Christmas holiday vacation.

The proposed first day of school would be Aug. 12. This year, school opened on Aug. 20.

The early start date offers two advantages, Sanborn related. First, it helps to complete the full semester before the Christmas holiday. Secondly, so many of the neighboring districts have already approved the early date and the fall sports calendar begins that week.

The length of the Christmas holiday was also discussed. Traditionally, HUSD recesses for two weeks before Christmas and after New Year’s Day. The 2013-14 proposed schedule provided for a three-week holiday.

This would allow the first semester to end prior to the holiday, rather than continue over into the new year (Dec. 20 compared to Jan. 18 this year). However, the last day of school would be May 30. If the Christmas holiday is shortened to two weeks, school would end a week sooner on May 23.

This issue will be on the board’s agenda for its March 19 meeting.