With Gov. Jerry Brown proposing to allocate nearly $1.8 billion in one-time dollars for K-12 education and calling for fully implementing the Local Control Funding Formula two years early, Del Norte schools could see more money from the state in the 2018-19 school year.

But Jeff Napier, assistant superintendent of business for Del Norte County Unified School District, warned trustees on Thursday not to expect further increases to state education funding beyond a cost of living adjustment in the years following 2018-19.

Napier warned the portion the district pays in retirement benefits for teachers and classified employees is expected to increase. If faced with a recession, he said, local school boards statewide will need to make tough decisions.

“We’re going to have to really choose on increased ongoing expenditures or really focusing on what is working and we’re going to prioritize that and that’s what we’re fully funding and maybe things that aren’t working much, those are going to have to go by the wayside,” Napier said.

Based on Brown’s proposed budget, Del Norte County Unified School District is projected to receive $10,039 in per-pupil funding based on average daily attendance, Napier said. With a projected average daily attendance of 3,416 for the 2018-19 fiscal year, Napier said the district expects a total of $34,293,131 in state funding. The school district is also projected to receive about $1 million in discretionary one-time funds from the state, Napier said.

Meanwhile, district payments into the California Public Employees Retirement System and the State Teachers Retirement System are expected to increase, according to Napier.

“We’re basically looking at $4 million next year that we’re going to be paying to STRS and PERS,” Napier said. “It will be going up about $500,000 every year.”

The district can expect to receive a cost of living adjustment in 2019-20 of $850,000, Napier said. But $500,000 will go toward employee retirement benefits, he said.

Implemented in 2013, the Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, replaced the prior school finance system, which the governor’s budget calls inequitable, overly complex and administratively costly. The new system established a base grant for each school district in California based on the average daily attendance of its students and offered additional dollars to school districts based on the number of English language learners, low-income students and foster students.

Along with implementing the LCFF, the state also required school districts to put together a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that determines the goals, actions and budget priorities for the district using input from students, teachers, parents, community members and staff.

On Thursday, Napier noted the state’s minimum funding level for K-12 education and community colleges, or Proposition 98 funds, has increased every year since 2011-12 when the state allocated $47.3 billion to California schools.

Next year, the governor’s proposed budget calls for increasing Proposition 98 funding to $78.3 billion.

Next year’s funding proposals for K-12 education calls for allocating $2.9 billion to school districts to fully fund the Local Control Funding Formula; $167.2 million to expand child care and state preschool for youngsters up to 5 years old; and $59.2 million to county offices of education to facilitate improvement to school districts in need of assistance.

District Superintendent Jeff Harris said Proposition 98 was once thought to be the minimum allocation of state funding districts would receive. Now it’s become the most districts get paid, he said.

“If you look at where we are today with this for 18-19 and $78.3 billion and then you look at where we were in 11-12 at $47.3 billion, if our district had to absorb that kind of cut....” Harris said.

Before the LCFF was implemented, states allocated funding for specific categorical programs such as transportation and school libraries. According to Harris, when those categorical funds went away, many schools simply cut those programs.

“With this, we know that it’s flat funding,” Harris said, of how state education dollars will be allocated in the years beyond 2018-19. “Whereas our staff has had step and column increases every year, whereas we’ve had raises every year, whereas we’ve been able to bring more counselors on board, more music teachers on board, we’ve been able to restore programs that were cut, expand programs, do different things. When (funding) goes up by 2 ½ percent, then you can look and say how do we make that adjustment (by) 2 ½ percent? What do you do when it goes down 10? Your total state revenue is at $34 million; now you’re looking at cutting $3.4 million.”

Harris noted with a new batch of legislators and a new governor coming into office, school districts won’t be sure what future funding could look like. He said he and Chris Hartley, Humboldt County’s superintendent of schools, have already reached out to some lawmakers.

“(We) said there’s a cost of doing business whether you’re in LA or Del Norte,” Harris said. “The cost of doing business is more in Del Norte than it is in LA even though we’re smaller. There’s more travel, there’s more, there’s more there’s more. There’s less for our kids. There’s less for mental health. We need to backfill and look at these things differently.”

For more information about Brown’s proposed state budget, visit ebudget.ca.gov.

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