By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
No tax extension could mean major cuts for schools
Placeholder Image
If temporary taxes that generate $11 billion a year for the state aren’t extended, school districts such as Manteca Unified and Ripon Unified will take a loss of up to $350 per student.

That is on top of double-digit state cutbacks that have whittled the biggest single source of funding for California schools - Average Daily Attendance (ADA) - down from the peak of $6,362 four years ago to $5,219. The loss of the temporary taxes would drop the ADA down to $4,869 instead of the $5,200 that Governor Jerry Brown vowed to deliver in his original no cuts to education budget proposal. That was predicated on getting California voters to OK extending the taxes on income and vehicle registration.

Manteca Unified’s 23,000 students generate roughly $120 million of the revenue needed to cover the current $150 million budget. The district in the past four years has slashed $56 million from its budget.

The additional $8 million cut in revenue for Manteca Unified would put the district in a bind but not as severe as at 186 other districts in California that have been put on a financial watch list.

Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer said the district is prepared to cope with the $19 per ADA loss that would reduce revenues by $437,000 by considering cutting several vice principal positions and some programming that has already been identified. But something on the scale of a $350 per ADA hit would force the school board to go back to the cutting block.

Messer warned it would essentially get close to the point where “it just isn’t going to work anymore.”

He noted the district has already received a waiver from the state to exceed California’s class-size limits. It also benefited from acting on salary cuts about a year earlier than many districts that are now facing major layoffs, salary reductions or both.

Even so, Manteca isn’t facing the problem that 186 districts are - running out of cash in the coming year.

The problem isn’t fiscal mismanagement on the part of the districts as much as it is the state not sending districts money that they have been promised. What used to be three- to six-month lags are now becoming longer and - in some cases - are being “suspended.” The result is creating a cash flow problem.

Messer said Manteca Unified based on current projections is OK for the next fiscal year in terms of cash flow to meet budgeted expenses such as payroll. But beyond that, Manteca and the remaining school districts in California could all experience major cash flow issues.

Against the backdrop of four years of cuts, Manteca Unified has restructured its offerings in many areas and actually has added programs out of necessity. For example, the dropping of summer school forced the need to implement things such as on-line instruction and other efforts to reach kids who are at risk of failing to pass grade level proficiencies.

“It is the (state’s) job to send us money,” Messer said. “Our job is to deliver education to students.”

Messer noted politicians in Sacramento - who have historically micromanaged local school systems - are concentrating on ways to change the rules thinking that will change things when in reality it has gotten to the point the bottom line is sending money to local schools.