RSF School District projects deficit in 2018-19 budget

The Rancho Santa Fe School board held public hearings for the 2018-19 budget and Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) at a special meeting on June 13, learning about goals to increase student achievement and about some budget challenges they may face over the next few years.

The board is expected to approve the budget and LCAP at its Friday, June 22 meeting, held at 9 a.m. at the school.

“We engaged in a collaborative approach to developing the budget,” said RSF School District Superintendent David Jaffe of the effort that included all leadership staff. “It’s a bit of a shift, just getting more voices in the room.”

While the numbers for the 2017-18 budget won’t be official until the fall, the district is projecting a deficit of $744,497 for the past school year.

According to Chief Business Officer Brad Johnson, the deficit of $744,497 is attributed to funding the $353,000 iPad device purchase, salary increases for classified and certificated staff, adding healthcare access to 10-month employees, increasing teacher support positions to full time, increasing special education costs and the cost of the April 24 special election.

The special election cost the district $70,126 which includes the $66,220 charged by the San Diego Registrar of Voters and attorney fees of $3,906.

For next year’s 2018-19 budget, the district is proposing $11,855,483 in revenues and $12,839,791 in expenditures, projecting to deficit spend by $984,308. The ending fund balance of the district reserves is projected at $904,101.

Johnson said the biggest budget pressure, like all California school districts, is coming from the district’s retirement system contribution rates that continue to rise.The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) contribution has gone from single digits four years ago to 18 percent in 2018-19 and could be as high as 25 percent by 2024-25. In 2018-19, the contributions for CalPERS and CalSTRS (California State Teachers’ Retirement System) represent a total of $154,690 in the budget.

“Overall, expenditures are expected to increase faster than overall revenues,” Johnson said, noting they are looking at deficit spending of $1.13 million and $1.2 million over the next two years if they don’t make any changes to expenditures.

Even though the budget assumes a property tax increase of three percent for 2018-19, President Todd Frank said “any revenue increases we get are already sucked up and spent by all these growth items that we don’t control.”

The district’s enrollment has decreased over the last 10 years from a high of 804 students in 2006-07. In 2018-19 enrollment is projected to decrease from 654 to 602 students—the largest decrease coming in the kindergarten class. So far there are only 23 students enrolled in kindergarten with 13 packets out for a total of 36 students, down from 56 students in 2017-18. Things could still change with summer enrollment as Elementary School Principal Kim Pinkerton noted, “The numbers change every day.”

During public comment for suggestions on the budget, parent Heather Slosar spoke up about the deficit spending.

“It sounds like with the deficit you guys are going to have to start making some pretty big cuts and looking at ways to cost-save,” Slosar said. “It seems like a lot to get rid of a million dollar deficit, you’re going to have a lot of work to do there.”

Board reviews LCAP goals

The district is in its second year of a three-year LCAP, required by the state to outline how the district plans to spend state funding from the Local Control Funding Formula. The formula is based on the average daily attendance and the percentage of English learners, students eligible for free and reduced-price meals and foster youth in the district. Rancho Santa Fe has allocated $1.6 million to achieve the goals in the LCAP although the amount received from the state is about $280,000.

The goals include ensuring 100 percent of students show growth on their assessments; to improve the percentage of the district’s 28 English learners by at least one performance level; and to improve school-to-home communication and have more opportunities for parent engagement.

“We have done a tremendous amount to extend and expand input from the community,” Jaffe said, noting in the last school year the district has formed two advisory committees, held superintendent and principal forums and issued a climate survey to parents, teachers and staff.

Based on feedback received from district stakeholders, the LCAP includes areas of focus such as enhanced character development and leadership program, a revised student code of conduct, ensuring academic support and individualized instruction are available to students to promote growth, and a continued increase in parent engagement.

Other steps the district will take this year include a math and English language arts program evaluation, implementing the arts strategic plan with special focus on the degree that the curriculum and course work is providing quality standards, continuing professional development to promote effective instruction using multiple forms of assessment to identify student growth, more than just Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test scores.

During public comment, Slosar expressed some concerns about the district’s test score performances and how it reflects on their California School Dashboard report, a component of LCFF. In the dashboard, a school’s performance is represented by colors blue, green, yellow, orange and red — blue being the strongest representing very high status level; red indicating very low.

“I know that we like to measure ourselves with better tests than the SBAC,” Slosar said. “But the world outside measures us with the SBAC so when you see a green instead of blue on English and math that is reflected in how things like GreatSchools ranks us. When realtors show people properties it will show how the school is ranked. People may not like that, but we are ranked a nine, so it is important.”

Pinkerton explained that GreatSchools, operated by real estate companies, uses rankings that are based on a different algorithm—RSF School automatically gets an eight out of 10 because its subgroups like socioeconomically disadvantaged and English learners aren’t large enough to get data.

“I agree it’s not fair that we’re ranked this way because we’re a small school,” Pinkerton said.

The dashboard also reflects chronic absenteeism rate and as RSF has a very high chronic absenteeism rate that would also skew such rankings, Pinkerton said.

In regard to the green rather than the blue in middle school math and English test scores, Middle School Principal Garrett Corduan said that last year there were 22 eighth graders who opted out of the tests and that greatly affected the district’s scores. Jaffe said the principals have stressed the importance of test participation so they were able to convince some parents and only 12 students opted out this year.

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