The recent 2005-06 California State budget passed by a legislative conference committee and signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated the governor’s shift of teacher retirement costs to local school districts, but what effect it will have on Berkeley Unified School District’s finances is yet to be determined.
BUSD Deputy Superintendent Glenston Thompson was poring over budget information last week, and said he didn’t want to comment on possible effects until he’d worked out all the numbers.
In his original budget, Governor Schwarzenegger had proposed that local school districts pick up—for the first time—the government’s portion of State Teacher Retirement Systems (STRS) costs which had previously been paid for out of the state budget. That proposal would have shifted $700 million in costs from the state budget to local school districts.
In May, under pressure from school districts, the governor cut that shift, proposing that $469 million of the STRS costs come from the local districts.
Relying upon those May figures, the BUSD 2005-06 budget, passed by the school board last month, included close to a million dollars in additional STRS costs to Berkeley Unified.
But after the BUSD budget was passed, the legislative conference committee reversed the governor’s actions completely, putting all of the STRS payment responsibility in the hands of the state.
Does this mean that BUSD’s budget now has close to a million dollars in “extra money” that was originally budgeted for STRS, but can now be shifted over to other district programs?
Thompson says that such a conclusion can’t be drawn because it is still unclear how much the new state budget actually earmarks for distribution to local districts. Such state aid is set out in complicated formulas, and those formulas have yet to be worked out into actual numbers by BUSD staff.
California Federation of Teachers Media Consultant Steve Hopcraft outlined one of those complications in a telephone interview: in making up the money in the state budget from the reversal of the governor’s STRS proposal the conference committee eliminated at least $235 million in state reimbursements to local districts for programs mandated by the state.
BUSD had not counted on any of that money (the district’s 2005-06 budget notes that “no amount has been projected in the budget” for state-mandated costs reimbursement), but Thompson said that other state aid listed in the district’s budget might be affected.
School board directors are expected to receive an update on the budget numbers sometime after their monthlong summer meeting break.