California’s new $300-billion budget is a breath of fresh air for the Las Virgenes Unified School District.
At a June 28 meeting of the LVUSD Board of Education, Karen Kimmel, assistant superintendent for business services, said the 2022-23 budget recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, which includes more than $234 billion in general fund spending, will send an extra $3 million per year to the local district.
Additional funding for schools comes as what Kimmel—who has since left LVUSD for a position with Los Angeles County—described as “extraordinary revenue growth for the second year in a row” for the state, with an estimated $52 billion general fund surplus to allocate in the 2022-23 state budget.
The governor’s budget includes a $33.5 billion surplus “within the school and community college budget to allocate to discretionary purposes,” Kimmel said in a report for the board. The boost will help backfill some of the revenue loss that has accrued from the school district’s slow but steady loss of state funding due to declining student enrollment. LVUSD suffered a record 6% decline in enrollment in 2020-21.
The district’s 2022-23 enrollment is projected at 9,672, down about 3% from the previous year. The pandemic and student defections to other school districts have eaten away at the LVUSD attendance numbers.
Superintendent Dan Stepenosky looks at the bright side.
“Declining enrollment has upside, specifically it has helped us with space and staffing,” he said.
The 2022-23 budget adopted by the school board totals $143.6 million with a healthy $23 million in reserves by next year.
Despite the mostly rosy outlook, the school district is spending more than it takes in. Total expenses are expected to exceed total revenue for the next several years.
“We work to be very responsible with our funding,” Stepenosky said. “State budgets frequently change, yet we strive to remain prudent and focused on supporting our students and staff, providing academic excellence and expanded opportunities.”
He said the district’s spending plan pays for key programs such as International Baccalaureate, which focuses on intellectual, emotional, personal and social skills; AP Capstone, a diploma program; dual immersion, which helps develop proficiency in English and a partner language; Waldorf-inspired education, which takes into account a child’s physical, behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual aspects; and Career Pathways, which includes water management, fashion and other opportunities that students can continue after graduating.
Stepenosky said the new budget will also pay attention to a variety of important hard costs around the 15-campus district.
“We are expanding school safety through infrastructure including fencing, digital alarm systems, emergency communication software and more, (and) working to increase school safety personnel to ensure our commitment to maintaining safe and healthy schools,” he said.
Access to counseling services are being expanded for students and families, and new social-emotional and mental wellness programs are being launched for all grades, the superintendent said.
He said he’s most proud of the district’s forward-thinking Universal Transitional Kindergarten program, which will put 4-year-olds under school district tutelage.
In a nutshell, Stepenosky said, the district continues to invest in “high-quality professional development and new curriculum for our students.”
Follow Scott Steepleton on Twitter @scottsteepleton.