Budget cuts loom in the future for Del Mar Union School District

By Karen Billing

The Del Mar Union School District will be facing some difficult yet necessary cuts as the district is projected to deficit spend by $4.5 million in the 2012-13 school year. At a special meeting on Dec. 12, the board approved its first interim budget and admitted to some grim realities.

“We have reserves for a rainy day but that won’t last forever,” said board president Scott Wooden. “We need to start whittling down the amount we’re deficit spending.”

For 2012-13, Cathy Birks, assistant superintendent of business services, reported the district is projecting a revenue of $39.3 million with $43.8 in expenditures.

Salary and benefits represent 84.9 percent of the district expenditures.

There could still be changes in the projected deficit balance, brought on by property tax revenue, the impact of Proposition 30 (still “unknown at this time,” Birks said), carryover from unrestricted/restricted funds and additional funding for special education is just a projection at this time.

“We’re able to maintain fiscal stability in the district this year and next, but not the third,” said Birks in regard to their multi-year projections. “We will be implementing budget solutions and await to see how revenues change at second interim.”

The district was able to find some savings in eliminating the Chromebook purchase, freezing the assistant principal position, and reducing the department supply budget. The district also saw some savings in the superintendent change. Wooden says more will have to be done as salaries and benefits continue to increase, expenditures get higher and revenues decline.

“Next year we can’t be deficit spending $4.5 million,” Wooden said. “We can deficit spend for awhile but we’re going to have to close the gap…We have to make some cuts and that’s unfortunate but that’s the way it has to be.”

In looking at their multi-year projections, Birks said the district could see a 1 percent boost in property taxes in 2013-14 and a possible 2 percent increase in 2014-15.

However, teacher salaries will increase 2 percent annually with step and column and the district’s fair share contribution to the state has continued to rise over the past few years.

Fair share contribution is estimated at $1,049,103 in 2012-13 and $1,044,868 in 2013-14.

The status of the district’s reserves is also a concern for the board.

The board approved maintaining a 15 percent reserve and the district is required to maintain a 3 percent reserve by the San Diego County Office of Education.

As it is now, the district is not projected to meet that 3 percent target in 2014-15.

“The third year out is not good for us,” Birks said.