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Luke Ontiveros board meeting

Santa Maria-Bonita School District Superintendent Luke Ontiveros listens during a school board meeting on Wednesday. Board of education members approved both the district's $222 million budget and Local Control Accountability Plan on a 4-0 vote.

Santa Maria-Bonita school board members on Wednesday approved their 2019-20 budget and accountability plan update, a spending and goals package that includes $50 million in funding to support high-need student groups.

State law requires the district approve the $222 million budget and Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) — a three-year plan that outlines actions the district will take in the upcoming year to meet their goals and improve student outcomes — by July 1. Both documents were approved by board members on a 4-0 vote, with board member John Hollinshead absent.

Revenues and expenditures in the 2019-20 budget fell by $1.5 million (0.7%) and $3.4 million (1.5%), respectively, compared to 2018-19. Multiyear budget projections show the district plans to engage in deficit spending for the next three years, hire as many as 50 full-time staff — both credentialed and classified — for the new Measure T school, and make approximately $7 million in cuts by 2021-22 to maintain their state-mandated reserve.

“The main reason is that the additional funding from the governor's budget … were outpaced by decline in revenue from enrollment decline,” Matt Beecher, the district’s assistant superintendent for Business Services, said prior to the meeting. “The way a decline in enrollment impacts a district financially is an echo a year later.”

When 182 fewer students than anticipated enrolled last year and average daily attendance shrank by 213 compared to the 2017-18 school year, district revenues were not as high as expected. The new budget was projected using estimates from the prior year’s (2018-19) under the assumption that neither enrollment nor average daily attendance would fluctuate.

Roughly 90.8% of the school’s budget is provided by the state through the Local Control Funding Formula (which includes property taxes), lottery revenues and other sources; federal revenues and other local sources make up the remaining 9.2%.

Brian King, the district’s budget coordinator, said the breakdown illustrates how dependent Santa Maria-Bonita is on the state economy and state revenues. He plans to bring the budget back to the board in August for review of any revisions in regard to revenue and expenditures to account for changes to the state's final spending plan. State lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom have until June 30 to come to an agreement, which could potentially include one-time funding to ease district contributions to state-run retirement systems for teachers (STRS) and other employees (PERS). 

Beecher called the budget "a living document" and said any change to average daily attendance, additional sources of one-time funding, or expenses that come in under budget could have an effect on the planned deficit. Administration of LCAP programs in the 2018-19 budget cycle, for example, is expected to come in $2.5 million under their budget due to midyear hires and undeployed services (programs and initiatives that were written into the budget but not initialized due to staffing levels). 

"I'm not planning for it, but I'm expecting something like that will happen this next year," Beecher said. "The goal is to continue to get more and more of those services deployed throughout the year so we don't end up with that surplus."

Multiple grant-funded positions — English Language Development (ELD) interventionists, college and career counselors, bilingual instructional assistants — and programs will return in the 2019-20 school year with funding reauthorized by the newly updated LCAP. Though the document establishes actions needed to meet goals for all students, the plan specifically identifies three student groups — English learners, foster youth and low-income students — as focus areas for the upcoming school year.

Approximately 92.6% of district students fall within one of three groups, according to the LCAP.

Reach reporter Mathew Burciaga at 805-739-2205 or mburciaga@leecentralcoastnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @mathewburciaga

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Education Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.