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LCUSD keeps its mind on its money, reviewing interim budget, mulling funding commitments

On Tuesday, La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board members considered finances for the current and upcoming school years, passing a resolution calling for better school funding in California and considering various contracts and proposals.

Interim budget report

Mark Evans, assistant superintendent of business and administrative services, provided a rough sketch of how the district’s budget is shaping up in the five months since its June passage, presenting a first interim report for 2018-19.

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Anticipated revenues for this school year are $48.4 million, while expenditures are around $47.5 million. Due to a slight enrollment decrease, state funding will be about $33,000 less than the adopted budget.

“Enrollment remains flat in the multiyear (projection),” Evans said, putting the current level at just over 4,100 students. “But our [Average Daily Attendance] is very strong at 97.2%”

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The district is seeing slight increases in other state revenues and the $2.23 million raised by the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation, which exceeded the budgeted $2 million.

In future years, cost of living adjustments from the state will rise — from 2.57% next school year to 2.67% in 2020-21 and 3.42% in 2021-22 — but LCUSD’s contribution to employee wages and pensions will also climb steadily.

The governor’s budget proposal is due in January, although there’s uncertainty about what newly elected Gavin Newsom’s priorities will be. The first interim report will return to the board for approval next month before a Dec. 15 submission deadline.

Resolutions passed

With district finances in mind, school board members adopted Tuesday a resolution calling for full and fair funding for California schools.

The document asks the state legislature to fund public schools at the national average in per-pupil funding or higher by 2020 and at a level equal to or above the top 10 states by 2025. The current national average is $12,526 per student, while the California average is $9,417 and LCUSD’s average is around $7,800.

Board member Ellen Multari said disparities between states are big.

“We’re so far away from where we need to be and where our sister states are,” she said.

The board also passed a resolution promising that, if a territory transfer of students living in westernmost La Cañada from Glendale Unified School District boundaries to LCUSD were successful, the district would honor all requests for students wishing to remain in GUSD.

Supt. Wendy Sinnette said the county agency considering the transfer petition has yet to vote on the transfer and will not do so before its regular meeting in January.

Also Tuesday, board members:

- Agreed to accept proposals for school-based mental health services for a wellness center at La Cañada High School next school year. Services will include receiving referrals, assessing individuals and providing therapy. Offers will be accepted through Dec. 10 with approval in February.

- Committed to funding half the cost for resurfacing eight tennis courts on Cornishon Avenue, with the city of La Cañada Flintridge shouldering the remaining half. Evans estimated repair costs at $140,000, but said exact figures will be known once proposals are in.

- Approved an addendum to LCUSD’s contract with Compass Group USA’s Chartwells division for the provision of school lunches, acknowledging an increase in the billable meal cost from $2.005 to $2.055. The district entered a five-year contract in June 2015 and approved a third annual renewal in June. The increase will not be passed onto students, who currently pay $3.75 at elementary schools and $4.50 at the high school, but adjustments may have to be considered in the future, Evans said. Last year LCUSD sold 690 lunches per day for an annual total of about 125,000. This year, the daily average is nearer 800. For every $3 sold by Chartwells, the district pays $2.

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