Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 14, 2013

School budget relies more on local funds, less on state and federal

Board to vote Tuesday on $170 million operating budget for 2013-14

by Chris Kenrick

Increased reliance on local funds and diminished state and federal funding mark the Palo Alto school district's proposed $170 million operating budget for 2013-14.

The budget will be up for a vote by the Board of Education Tuesday, June 18.

Local sources provide by far the largest share of revenue — a total of 85 percent — with 72 percent coming from property tax; 7 percent from the $589-per-parcel-per-year parcel tax; 3 percent from the foundation Palo Alto Partners in Education and another 3 percent from other local sources such as the PTA, said district Chief Business Official Cathy Mak.

State and federal sources comprise just 9 percent of general-fund revenue, even with the additional $2.4 million generated for Palo Alto by California Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure that passed last November.

On the expenditure side, staff salaries and benefits take up by far the largest share, at $143.7 million, or about 85 percent.

This spring teachers and staff were awarded a 3 percent raise plus a onetime bonus of 1.5 percent retroactive to the start of the 2012-13 school year. That raise cost the district $4.9 million, Mak said.

The district is currently in negotiations with employee unions for the 2013-14 year.

Board of Education members Tuesday questioned Mak about Brown's proposed "local control funding formula" aimed at shifting resources to districts with high concentrations of poverty. They also asked about summer school revenues, which Mak said have been removed from the budget after the district announced it would refund summer school fees, which have been outlawed by recent legislation.

In other business Tuesday, the board voted unanimously, with Barb Mitchell absent, to postpone a decision on the location of a new elementary school until May 2014.

Kindergarten enrollment for this fall so far is "significantly below projections," and officials said they are interested in "expanding discussion (of a new school location) to include the district's entire elementary program with the expectation that such a discussion might yield a more optimal solution."

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

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