Manteca Unified school buses will continue to roll after Jan. 1 despite the state eliminating $248 million to cover the cost of to and from school transportation.
“We’ve got it covered for this school year,” said Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer.
Messer said as of the moment the status of transportation for the 2012 school year starting in August is not in question.
The $1 billion in overall automatic spending cuts that Gov. Jerry Brown implemented this week due to a revenue shortfall were not as bad as the district had feared.
Manteca Unified was prepared for a worst case scenario of losing $260 per child enrolled through average daily attendance payments from the state for the balance of the current school year that ends in May.
The new state budget cuts will reflect a loss of $13 per student.
Had the district been hit with cuts as high as $260 per student, the scenario called for shifting funds from other sources and essentially freezing other programs and/or borrowing money from other sections within the budget to keep the basic school programs running.
“It’s not that we have a bunch of money lying around,” Messer noted. “We had plans in place such as an immediate spending freeze on supplies.”
Site principals were well aware of that strategy. They stocked up on essential supplies they couldn’t operate without such as toilet paper while voluntarily not spending any other discretionary funds that they could delay doing so.
With the new state budget cuts clear, that means school sites can now use money that was “frozen” to buy instructional supplies such as paper and pencils.
Manteca’s share of the $248 million in bus transportation isn’t money that the state had but rather money they promised to pay the district but now won’t.
“We prepared for the worse,” Messer said. “What we know is the state writes checks that they can’t cover. Manteca Unified has to write checks that we can cover.”
Messer noted that the midyear budget adjustments don’t mean that state funding for school transportation is a thing of the past. The governor has left the door open for it to be restored in the 2012-13 budget if revenue bounces back.
Messer noted the district’s budget document reflects money the state promises to pay schools not cash they have on hand.
He added that how well Manteca Unified can continue to navigate the cutbacks depends not just on revenue flowing into state coffers in the coming months but also how much flexibility the state will allow school districts.