Newport-Mesa could face millions in cuts

School district's scenario depends on what the governor passes in his statewide budget, officials say.

May 03, 2011|By Britney Barnes,

COSTA MESA — The Newport-Mesa Unified School District's budget has been slashed by nearly $12 million for the next school year, but other cuts won't be determined until the state budget is approved.

The district's funding for special programs is out $11.8 million, but Newport-Mesa could face an additional $17-million cut and an estimated 20 fewer school days. These possibilities could happen if a state measure for gathering additional revenue isn't approved and Gov. Jerry Brown approves a cuts-only budget, said Acting Supt. Paul Reed.

"Those of us that do so much with so little are about to do everything with nothing," said Reed at the April 26 school board meeting.


Reed, who also serves as the chief business official, said the district will be able to balance its budget for the next two years by dipping into its reserves, but come 2012-13, that may not be the case.

The district has lost $570 in per-student funding for next year since the governor signed a proposal that reduces "basic aid" districts' categorical funding, which are special programs like adult education, class size reduction and home-to-school transportation, Reed said Friday afternoon.

Basic aid districts rely on revenue from local property taxes to fund the mandated per-student amount. A district's property taxes have to meet or exceed the per-student amount to become basic aid.

Districts that aren't basic aid are dubbed "revenue limit" districts, where the local property tax isn't enough to meet the per-student amount, so the state fills the gap.

Revenue limit districts have felt the brunt of the budget cuts, so the state took a "fair share" reduction from basic aid districts so they can share in the pain, said Rick Pratt, assistant executive director of the California School Boards Assn.

Newport-Mesa's funding has exceeded the amount revenue limit districts have received per student over the last 12 years and has received about $2,100 more per student this year.

So far, that is what the district knows, Reed said. What could come next depends on what happens in Sacramento.

Trying to plan the district's financial future has been a seven-day-a-week job for Reed, who constantly checks in on budget updates with Sacramento officials, consultants, colleagues and websites.

"There is no downtime trying to figure this out," he said.

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