Shelley Atkinson | Pine Needles
While a big puzzle piece – the final California budget – is still missing from the Del Mar Union School District’s financial picture, there is an approved operating budget for 2010-2011. The District for now will be deficit spending, using $2.3 million of reserves to cover the current gap.
Expected by October, the state education budget could greatly impact the district. California remains the only state without a passed budget this year, and the clock is ticking. Of the $19 billion-budget shortfall, the governor and the Legislature have agreed to an $11 billion haircut, leaving a sizeable problem.
At greatest risk to the district is the loss of the Basic Aid status. Yet Superintendent Jim Peabody has no greater concern than he has in the past: “There’s not enough political will to change the system. “
He added that he is comfortable with the district’s current budget as it maintains a healthy level of reserves.
But it’s a complex puzzle. For starters, the district this year has 160 new students, but as the Basic Aid status provides no new funding for additional students, the district has to find ways to hire additional teachers for this year’s enrollment bump.
Another complicating piece is the $26 billion federal aid package, signed by President Obama on August 10, allocating $10 billion for school districts to retain or rehire teachers, counselors, classroom aides and other staff . Yet in a district where there were very few layoffs, the federal aid may not be an option. And should the coming state budget force staffing changes, and the district gets federal aid, it’s a short-term fix (the education measure requires states to distribute the money for the current school year).
Many consider the budget challenges to be herculean. And while this puzzle easily falls into the 1000-piece category, Peabody remains optimistic. “The quality of education in Del Mar is very high and will continue to improve.” He added he is encouraged by positive board meetings since April and wants parents to know that he is focused first on the students. He also plans to explore more effective professional development options. “My focus,” he says, “is standing in the middle of the classroom and looking out to see what’s right for our children.”