RSF School District board to approve balanced budget

R. Roger Rowe School
(Karen Billing)

The Rancho Santa Fe School District board is set to approve a “healthy,” balanced budget at its June 19 special board meeting, ending two years of deficit spending. The district is projecting to close out the 2018-19 school year with a $570,000 deficit and approve a budget for the upcoming school year with a surplus.

“A balanced budget for 2019-20 and beyond will allow for long-term planning and competitive salaries,” said Brad Johnson, chief business officer offering an overview of the budget during a board hearing on June 12.

The biggest reduction in the $11.1 million expenditure side of the budget comes in staffing, following the layoffs that were approved by the board last month. The layoffs resulted in reductions of $1.3 million in certificated salaries, $132,342 in classified salaries and $216,970 in benefits.

Christi Walter, co-president of the Rancho Santa Fe Teachers Association, said R. Roger Rowe School’s faculty is small and close knit and it was hard to say goodbye to some dedicated and professional educators.

“The departure of our colleagues at this time is a loss that will be felt not only in our classrooms, but in our hearts as well,” Walter said. “We appreciate and have felt parent support during this time of change and we are so very grateful.”

Johnson said in the 2019-20 budget they are projecting revenues of $12 million, which includes an estimated property tax increase of 3 percent and the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation’s tentative agreement of a $994,315 contribution.

As $204,000 of the Foundation’s contribution is from the endowment, the district would be receiving a decrease in Foundation contributions from $1 million in 2018-19 to $790,000. Johnson said they expect the Foundation contribution to continue to decrease in the future due to declining enrollment and the structure of the Foundation may change slightly as Barbara Edwards, development director for the Foundation, has resigned effective June 14.

On the agenda for the June 19 meeting is for the board to discuss amending the position from a full-time to a half-time position.

In the budget, the board has shown a commitment to school safety, Johnson said, with $55,155 budgeted for items such as radios, security cameras, emergency supplies, a front door monitor, fencing modifications and a $3,500 radar trailer to help monitor speeding in the parking lot. In March, the board approved the installation of electronic locks for all classroom doors and perimeter fencing (the $424,000 expenditure came out of the district’s capital facilities fund).

The district is projecting to have a surplus of $949,977 in 2019-20 based on all the changes that have been made, however, that does not include the $420,000 to $440,000 cost of the proposed salary increases. At the June 19 meeting, the board is scheduled to approve the tentative agreement with the RSF Teacher’s Association for a 2 percent salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2018 and a 4 percent salary increase for the 2019-2020 school year.

Johnson said the district will be using the bulk of the surplus for the coming year, for things such as deferred maintenance and technology reserves, which will reduce the 2019-20 surplus to $25,000 to $50,000.

Looking ahead, the district is projected to continue its slow decline in enrollment, with about 570 students expected in 2019-20. Class sizes will remain small, with a 20:1 student-teacher ratio in elementary school and an average of 14:1 in middle school. Last year, there were some middle school elective classes where there were only four to seven students and Superintendent Donna Tripi said they will not be continuing that practice and will look to combine under-enrolled classes.

“It’s been a year with a lot of tough decisions,” said RSF School District Board President Sarah Neal, adding that she believes that the budget reflects the community’s priorities for small class sizes, robust enrichment and quality teaching. “With the recent agreement with the faculty association, I think we’re really making a commitment (to quality teaching).”