LCUSD officials close the books on 2016-17 fiscal year, approve 4-year contract for Supt. Sinnette

La Cañada school officials reflected on district finances Tuesday — having closed the books on Fiscal Year 2016-17 with nearly $1.59 million on hand — and unanimously extended Supt. Wendy Sinnette’s contract through July 2021 with a salary increase.

Under the new agreement Sinnette’s minimum base salary increases from $240,800 to $255,800, retroactive to Aug. 1 of this year and ending July 31, 2018.

In a presentation on LCUSD’s “unaudited actual” budget from 2016-17, Mark Evans, assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, explained to members of the school board that conservative revenue estimations made during that year’s budget process, in addition to fewer expenditures, played a role in the $1,588,921 ending balance.

“Some of that was our improved enrollment,” he said of the uptick in revenues. “We also had less expenditures than budgeted, and that’s why we came ahead on the expenses side.”

Evans and Director of Fiscal Services Gretchen Bergstrom also provided an overview of LCUSD’s revenues and expenditures over the past five years, showing an upward trend from the 2012-13 school year, where revenues exceeded $34 million.

By comparison, revenues for last school year reached $45,682,113, with nearly 69% of that coming from state funding sources and nearly 19% raised through the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, individual donations and parcel taxes, Bergstrom explained.

During the 2016-17 school year, the district spent $43,761,161. More than 81% of that was dedicated to employee salaries (nearly 46% went to teachers’ salaries) and benefits, while nearly 13% was spent on services and about 5% went toward books and supplies.

Evans warned that increasing revenues don’t guarantee more will come year after year. Some of the increases so far have come from one-time funding that cannot be counted on.

“That does make those revenues look healthier, and they are healthier, but they’re not going to come every year for sure, so we have to be careful of making the assumption that they’re ongoing,” he said.

District staff will submit the unaudited actual budget report to the Los Angeles County Office of Education by a Sept. 15 deadline, anticipating an independent audit report sometime in January.

In their discussion of Sinnette’s contract renewal, board members praised the superintendent’s leadership and continued diligence in handling district affairs at multiple levels.

“Wendy continues to deliver an exceptional level of leadership in this district,” said Board Member Ellen Multari. “There’s not a day that goes by that your core values don’t shine through. Your mantra of ‘what’s best for the students’ is just emblazoned in my mind.”

Sinnette’s pay for the 2016-17 school year amounted to $240,800 in base salary, with an additional $10,000 in merit pay. Under the new contract, her salary increases to $255,800 without a merit pay option.

When the board first extended Sinnette’s contract in 2012, she received a base salary increase from $160,000 to $185,000 and was eligible for additional merit pay of $30,000 annually, for a maximum annual pay of $215,000, according to Valley Sun reports.

“I’m humbled and I’m honored,” Sinnette said after Tuesday’s vote. “I appreciate it very much.”

sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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