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School district drawing down its budget reserves
schoolsS1 8-27-08
Students cross the Lathrop High quad. - photo by HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

Manteca Unified is “losing” nearly $1,500 on every student they educate in a regular classroom.   
The district is now dipping into reserves to balance its budget as per student expenses push $10,500 while the state is providing only $9,000 per student.
And based on current data and spending patterns, the three-year budget outlook that Manteca Unified is required to put in place puts undesignated reserves for the current 2017-2018 year at $30.7 million. They will then drop to $15.2 million in 2018-2019 and completely disappear in 2019-2020.
Senior Director of Business Services Jacqui Breitenbucher noted four years from now — based on current spending and revenue patterns — Manteca Unified will have “serious” financial issues.
“I tend to be Chicken Little looking out to the fourth year,” she said.
That said, the district has a balanced budget per se. They are now in a structural deficit that means expenses in a given year exceeds revenue forcing the district to draw down reserves.
It is against that backdrop that the administration will be asking the board to consider embracing its  proposal to not fill 10 vacant certificated positions that trustees added to the current budget to meet needs brought up by teachers and site administrators. Those positions include two elementary vice principals, five high school librarians, one teacher on special assignment and a behavioral specialist.
The positions are currently vacant and represent $11 million in costs.
The bid to cut expenses also entails six additional teachers the district has already hired to get ahead of class size reduction requirements imposed by the state that — if not met — will  trigger the loss of $10 million in annual funding from the state for that specific purpose.
Those six teachers are already hired. But instead of being used to further reduce class sizes at the kindergarten through third grade levels that go beyond this school year’s target numbers, four of the teachers will be used to handle student growth. In doing so, the district will avoid the cost of hiring four more teachers this school year to deal with growth. The other two teachers will still be used to get a bit ahead of the class size reduction goal.  No teacher will lose their job.
Breitenbucher said the other way the board could balance the budget if they elect not to leave the positions all vacant and instead to direct staff to fill some or all of them would be to cut back on programs.

Teacher raises represent
$7 million annual cost
going forward for MUSD
The need to adjust the budget comes in the wake of the school board agreeing to a new contract with the Manteca Educators Association.
The raises for the district’s 1,220 fulltime equivalent teachers (based on a 7.5 hour workday) will cost $4.5 million in the current 2016-2017 fiscal year. The cost jumps to $7 million in 2017-2018 and represents an ongoing annual cost of $7 million in years to follow.
Overall, teacher salaries are $106.6 million. That is in addition to $24.5 million in benefits. When the support staff of 2,662 fulltime equivalents that encompasses everything from bus drivers, aides, and office staff to custodians, food service workers and others, are added into the equation it brings all salaries and benefits paid by Manteca Unified to 82 percent of the overall $246 million general fund budget.
Breitenbucher noted while the state’s nearly 1,000 schools districts are funded by Sacramento using various formulas that seem convoluted at best, it is how California funds its schools. Increases in local property taxes that Manteca Unified is experiencing that in many areas of the district such as the City of Manteca is in excess of 5 percent, makes no difference to what Manteca Unified has to spend. That’s because after the state determines what a specific district will receive, it then takes the local property tax collected and deducts that from what funding they will send that district.
Breitenbucher, who said she purposely goes on the conservative side when piecing together state required budgets that are three years out from data Sacramento provides that is known as “the dart board,” noted there are other reasons why not taking districts to the edge is prudent.
Given that personnel is the big cost item, if the state changes its funding as it often does districts that budget too tight could be placed  in a situation to have to reduce staff to avoid being placed on a financial watch list.
By the same token the original decision in this year’s budget to hire six teachers for class size reduction that goes beyond the state mandated target for this school year, was to ease the district into funding for future years so any hiccup when there is an unexpected  shortfall doesn’t jeopardize the class size reduction program. Failure to meet the state mandated student-to-teacher ratio would cost the district $10 million a year.
Kindergarten is now at 25 to 1 students to teachers while the ultimate mandated goal being 24 to 1. The district in first through third grades is now at 27 to 1 with the mandated goal being 24 to 1.
Also weighing on the district is the rising cost of pensions. The average contribution this year to the California State Retirement System is $13,000 and to the Public Employees Retirement System is $8,100.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email