The proposed 2015-16 budget, along with the Local Control Accountability Plan, were presented at the Hemet Unified School District board meeting Tuesday, June 2.
The proposed budget for next fiscal year (beginning July 1) is about $22 million more than the current-year budget. Total projected expenditures will be about $226.7 million compared to $204.8 million this fiscal year. The proposed budget is a 10.8-percent growth over last year, which was 18 percent more than the 2013-14 budget.
Almost all of the increased revenue is from state programs, although Vince Christakos, assistant superintendent for Business Services, stressed that $11 million in 2015-16 will be one-time funding.
The LCAP is a product of the school district with input from the public, parents and students. This document shows how the district is using its state funding and what steps are priorities to achieve state and local goals.
For example, “All students will graduate from high school ready for college or a career,” is one the local HUSD goals. To encourage college preparation, next year HUSD will use $135,000 to pay student fees for PSAT and SAT testing.
“We want to make the fee payments for students and schedule the tests on school days rather than Saturdays,” Dr. David Horton, assistant superintendent for Educational Services, told the board Tuesday evening. “It’s a great idea and takes the burden off the families.”
Horton led the development of HUSD’s first LCAP last year and this year’s rendition. He described the numerous sessions to obtain community feedback and elicit the community’s thought about the local educational program.
“When we asked what was missing, we heard input,” he said. “Elementary schools didn’t have a big role compared to the middle and high schools. Consequently, there’s more emphasis on reading support and early intervention between kindergarten and second grade.”
The LCAP also recommends lengthening the school day to a zero or seventh period. This will expand the number of class choices high-school students will have and also offer English-learning students an opportunity for an elective class. The cost of this initiative will be about $380,000 according to Horton.
The budget tends to identify the costs by expenditure category such as salaries, benefits and utilities. The LCAP discusses the programs and initiatives the district is pursuing and their costs.
HUSD is continuing to hire teachers in order to lower class sizes. Nearly $6.6 million is allocated to this objective, which is also a statewide trend. Fewer people are acquiring teaching credentials, and college enrollment in teacher-preparation courses has fallen, too.
Another important local goal is literacy. The district commits that, “All students will read at grade level or above,” and, “All English learners will acquire English proficiency in no more than five years.”
Several programs and activities will focus on helping students read and learn English. Next year, Horton said, one of the actions to help these students will be hiring reading-intervention special teachers for each kindergarten- through fifth-grade site. This effort will cost about $1.2 million.
“Every elementary school will focus on literacy,” Horton stated.
Also, counseling support will be expanded. While most activities are district-wide, the increase for counseling will add support to the “outlying” schools. When Trustee Megan Haley asked about the details, Horton replied that one counselor will be assigned to Hamilton schools, and Idyllwild and Cottonwood will share a counselor.
Local Trustee Vic Scavarda also asked Horton to ensure that the outlying schools will have access to the proposed pupil-intervention program, which will begin next year.
After Horton finished his presentation of the proposed LCAP, Pam Buckhout, director of Fiscal Services, described the proposed 2015-16 budget to the board.
Overall, state funding, now called “Local Control Funding Formula,” provides about $180.5 million (64 percent of total revenue) to the district. Because more than 80 percent of the district’s enrollment is considered low income, English-language learners and foster youth, HUSD receives another $32.4 million (13.6 percent) to help these populations. Some of this funding can be used district-wide.
At the beginning of 2015-16, Buckhout estimates the district’s general reserves will approach $21.4 million. By the end of the fiscal year, she said reserves should increase $2.8 million to a total of $24.2 million.
Nearly 80 percent of HUSD’s budget will pay for salaries and benefits, including 52 new teachers. “There’s a conspicuous shortage of teachers … and one cure for shortage is to raise prices,” said William Valenzuela, new president of the Hemet Teachers Association, to encourage the board to raise teacher salaries above the negotiated increase.
Local sources, such as property taxes, provide only 6.5 percent of HUSD’s total revenues.
At its June 16 meeting, the HUSD board will vote on both the 2015-16 LCAP and the proposed budget.