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Sound budget puts MUSD on firm footing
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Manteca Unified is on the cutting edge when it comes to financial stability.
Unrestricted reserves — a critical budget component to weather economic uncertainty as well as the fickleness of state funding — hasn’t dipped below 12 percent since 2008 and has climbed as high as 40 percent in 2013.
The board policy for this year’s $224 million budget is a 3 percent reserve or $6.3 million for economic uncertainties and 75 percent of one month’s cash flow or $13.2 million.
The current adopted budget after $14 million in negotiated salary increases are factored in will have a projected ending balance of $38 million with unrestricted reserves of $31 million.
While that sounds as if the district is sitting on a pile of money, it actually means they are operating prudently allowing them to undertake initiatives such as the $40 million Going Digital endeavor while having the ability to roll out additional style programs and grant salary and benefit increases.
On Tuesday, the board will be able to authorize the signing of positive certification declaring that the Manteca Unified School District will be able to meet its financial obligations for the remainder of the current fiscal year and subsequent two years.
That may seem like bureaucratic mumble jumble but it means Manteca Unified meets the state requirement for financial stability deemed essential to assuring quality education can be delivered in the classroom.
“A stable financial situation means there is no disruption to what goes on in the classroom,” Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer noted.
It also means employment stability for teachers and staff that in turn eliminates upheaval at the classroom level. It also puts the district on solid financial ground for long-term initiatives.
Part of that financial stability was obtained by the district’s relatively early decision to tap into solar power to stabilize and reduce energy costs that rank as the general fund’s biggest line expenditure after salaries and benefits. And even before the drought emergency was declared, Manteca Unified started trimming costs associated with water that is also a high cost budget item. Since the drought emergency was declared, the district is working on ways to accelerate water savings.
Districts that cut too deep into unrestricted reserves run the real risk of not being in a position to maintain the ability to meet financial obligations two years out. It increases the risk of layoffs and typically sets in motion budget cuts all the way down to the classroom level.
It is why some of Manteca Unified salary increases were one-time affairs to reduce the compound impact on the budget.
The Manteca Unified financial model is also paying big dividends for taxpayers. It helped secure stronger bond ratings allowing the district to refinance Measure M debt to save taxpayers millions. It also translates into lower interest rates for the Measure G bond series approved in November 2014 that also means property owners will be paying less than originally projected.
The board meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the district office, 2271 West Louise Ave.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email