Thank you to all of you who have participated in our Thoughtexchange Districtwide survey! If you haven’t yet, there’s still time: the survey closes tomorrow. I am pleased to report that we have had 8,600 participants so far, the most participation ever to help shape PUSD’s goals and priorities, which are directly tied to future funding. As such, I wanted to provide you with a budget update, based on Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal for 2019-20 and what that means for PUSD.
State Budget Update – February 2019
Governor Gavin Newsom’s first budget proposal for 2019-20, released last month, provides some optimism for California schools. Based on the state’s continued economic growth and tax revenues that outpace expectations, Newsom is utilizing projected budget surpluses to demonstrate a solid commitment to funding K12 education.
In addition to a cost of living adjustment (COLA) increase, the Governor’s proposed budget addresses some major fiscal challenges that school districts have been facing by providing additional resources for special education, as well as a substantial investment of one-time funds to provide pension cost relief to districts. Governor Newsom also proposes substantial funds for a new early childhood learning initiative which focuses on children ages 0 to 5.
Additional good news for schools in the Governor’s January budget proposal is the acceleration of the sale of bonds associated with Proposition 51, a voter-approved initiative (2016) that funds California’s State Facility Program. While California voters approved $9 billion of funding for K-12 and community college facilities through Prop 51, former Governor Brown sold only $1.2 billion of Prop 51 bonds over the past two years. Newsom’s proposal to sell an additional $1.5 billion of Prop 51 bonds this coming fiscal year is welcome news to the educational community. For Poway Unified, this ensures that the District will receive its State Facility grant reimbursement – approximately $28 million – that has been due to us since the spring of 2014.
A common misconception is that the state reimbursement is tied to community facility district (CFD or Mello Roos) monies. It is not. All Poway Unified taxpayers are paying towards the bonds from Prop 51, not just CFD residents. Approximately 55% of our taxpayers reside in SFID’s (school facility improvement districts or non-CFD areas) and 45% of our taxpayers live within CFD areas. Historically, the District has used state reimbursement monies to benefit all schools and all students by focusing on high priority facilities projects throughout PUSD. If you have additional questions about the State Facility Program, the reimbursement funds, or CFDs, the District is hosting an informational community meeting to discuss these topics on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, from 5:30-6:30pm at the PUSD District Office.
Governor Newsom’s budget proposal will be revised again in May, then shared with the California Legislature for consideration and negotiation. If passed as is, it would result in approximately $11.5 million of additional ongoing revenues for Poway Unified School District. However, as shared with the Board of Education at its Budget Workshop last month, even with this significant boost of resources, we project that the District’s operational expenditures will exceed its revenues next fiscal year by about $7 million.
This is due, in part, to the fact that California has historically underfunded K-12 education. Compared with other U.S. states, California consistently falls to the bottom of the list in terms of the level of resources committed annually to educate its K-12 students. To make matters worse, Poway Unified is the lowest funded unified district in San Diego County, receiving less money per student than any other school districts in our area. To put it simply, we do more with less, and we have had to rely heavily on the generosity of parent and community donations to supplement the rest.
Dipping into our reserves to balance our budget year after year is neither sustainable nor responsible. As directed by the Board of Education, District staff has begun the work of identifying ways to reduce next year’s budget while maintaining the high quality programs and staff that our students and community expect and deserve. We are optimistic that we can accomplish this by working smarter, increasing efficiencies, reevaluating and reducing existing operational costs, and shifting our priorities based on your feedback.
Thank you for your hard work, support, and partnership in ensuring the success of our students!
-Marian Kim Phelps, Ed.D., Superintendent