School Board Gets Look at Budget By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday June 28, 2005

The Berkeley School Board got its first public look last Wednesday night at the district’s proposed 231-page, $51.5 million 2005-06 budget that anticipates spending some $4 million more than last year, runs a preliminary projected surplus of $1.4 million, sets aside the state-mandated $2.1 million 3 percent reserve fund, took long staff hours to prepare, and will almost certainly have to be significantly changed. 

That has less to do with possible amendments and spending priority changes by school board directors, and more to do with that fact that: 

1. Close to half of the district’s revenues come from a projected $22.2 million in direct state aid. 

2. The state has not yet decided if that’s how much the Berkeley schools will get. 

“A whole lot is up in the air,” BUSD Superintendent Michele Lawrence told board members last Wednesday. “They’re still debating the budget in Sacramento.” 

BUSD’s preliminary budget is based partly upon what is called the “May Revise,” the adjustments to the governor’s proposed state budget that include the latest revenue calculations and the governor’s suggestions of state education revenue transfers to the states. Ideally the district’s budget, which, by law, must be approved in final form by June 30, would include the actual revenue figures as passed by the state legislature, which is due on June 15. But the state legislature missed the constitutionally-mandated June 15 date (according to the California Budget Project, the last time that date was met was 20 years ago), and the state budget is now sitting in limbo while legislators scramble around for the two-thirds vote necessary for passage. 

Meanwhile, BUSD has scheduled a public hearing on its 2005-06 budget for the board of directors’ regular June 29 Wednesday night meeting. 

Another budget uncertainty is the inclusion of the financial projections based on preliminary contract agreements with the district’s five employee unions. Those preliminary agreements must be approved by the Alameda County Office of Education. 

Ratification of those proposed contracts appeared on the board’s agenda last Wednesday, but consideration was tabled pending county approval. 

Lawrence mentioned the contract settlements, which were reached in late May and early June, as one reason why she said “putting this year’s budget together was exceptionally difficult, more so than in other years.”