Hemet school board OKs budget

BY CRAIG SHULTZ

   STAFF WRITER cshultz@pe.com 
   After five years of budget cuts, the Hemet Unified School District’s finance director finally sees a glimmer of hope.

   “I look at this as sort of the dawn of a new era for school financing and budgets,” Vince Christakos said during a budget workshop on Tuesday, June 18. “I think we’re looking at a bright, sunny future 
for California schools.”

   Despite the rosy prediction, the district’s Hemet Unified School District governing board later Tuesday approved a budget, 6-0, that calls for spending almost $7 million more than the district expects to take in during the 2013-14 fiscal year. Trustee Lisa DeForest was absent.

   The spending plan calls for $175.8 million in revenue and $182.5 million in expenses. The difference will come 
from money the district has in reserve.

   It will be the second straight year of deficit spending. The district anticipates spending $700,000 more than it takes in this fiscal year, which ends next week.

   The current year is expected to close with $175.3 million in revenue and $176 million in expenses.

   Thanks to healthy reserves, the district expects to have $28 million in the bank at the end of 2014.

   The optimism for the future comes from a new funding formula expected to take effect in the coming year.

   Schools currently get money from the state based on attendance, with most districts being paid about the same amount of money per student.

   With the new system, districts such as Hemet, which have a high number of students considered economically disadvantaged, will receive more money.

   The newly approved budget is based on Hemet receiving $5,500 per student and an enrollment of 21,678 children.

   Under the new formula, which is to be phased in over eight years, Hemet would get as much as $11,000 per student.

   The new budget does not include cuts to employees or programs and Christakos credited the board with making tough decisions in the past that are paying off now.

   “You told us to cut early, cut deep, cut once and ride it through,” he told the trustees. “That’s what we’ve done over the past few years.”

   Financial Services Director Pam Buckhout said the reasons for the increased spending in the coming year are the elimination of employee furloughs, increased health care costs and the implementation of the state’s new Common Core curriculum.

   Most of the district’s money goes employees.

   Eighty-three percent of the money the district receives goes toward salaries and benefits for its 1,700 workers, which include 900 teachers.

   Tuesday was the final meeting for trustee Bill Sanborn, who after 22 years on the board, is moving out of state.

   Follow Craig Shultz on Twitter @PE_CraigShultz and online at blog. pe.com/hemet 
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