Del Mar school district representatives voice concern about state’s proposed cap on reserves


By Karen Billing

Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) Superintendent Holly McClurg, as well as board president Doug Rafner, expressed concerns at the school board’s June 25 meeting about a proposed new state bill that targets school district reserves. California Governor Jerry Brown’s budget trailer bill includes a 6 percent cap on school district reserves when the state begins to put money away in its “Rainy Day Fund” in 2015-16. The proposal will go before voters on the November 2014 ballot, seeking to create local budget transparency and “smooth school spending.”

“For Sacramento to tell us how to manage our reserves is somewhat offensive and I don’t like that the language takes the power to manage our finances away from the school board,” Rafner said. “That’s an area we’re going to have to talk to our representatives about and see what we can accomplish to unwind that language…it could be detrimental to all basic aid districts across the state.”

DMUSD board members have approved a reserve level of 15 percent and in the 2014-15 budget they are projecting to carry a reserve of 18 percent, $7,868,073. The district maintains a certain level of reserves for economic uncertainties as well as funds committed for future projects, such as school modernization, according to Cathy Birks, assistant superintendent of business services. The Rainy Day Fund’s cap on reserves would force them to spend those funds down.

McClurg said the cap on reserves is a “grave concern” and they will continue to advocate for the best interests of their district with local state representatives.

At the June 25 meeting, the board approved the district’s 2014-15 budget, which includes $43,750,157 in revenues and $43,750,157 in expenditures.

Since the first read of the budget in May, Birks said revenues have increased by $523,866 due to an increase in assessed valuation and property tax revenues.

Since May, expenditures in the budget have increased $207,900 to reflect changes to salaries and benefits, including the addition of a special day class and a decrease in the employees’ STRS (State Teachers’ Retirement System) contributions from 9.5 percent to 8.88 percent. Expenditures related to Common Core instructional materials and pilot programs were also added to the budget.