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La Cañada Unified classified employees given raises; district’s financial picture ‘comfortable’

The district offices for the La Canada Unified School District in La Canda Flintridge on Monday, Jun
During its meeting Tuesday, the La Cañada Unified school board took a last look at 2018-19 finances before closing the books on the past fiscal year and imagining the financial picture in the school year ahead.
(File Photo / La Cañada Valley Sun)

The La Cañada Unified school board held a productive and efficient meeting Tuesday, taking one last look at 2018-19 finances before closing the books on another fiscal year and imagining the financial picture in the school year ahead.

Associate Supt. Mark Evans told board members the district is “pretty much on target” in terms of general fund revenue matching earlier estimates. For 2018-19, the district’s incoming revenue of $48,611,993 exceeded its expenses by $448,847.

Money from the Local Control Funding Formula — the model by which state funds are delivered to school districts — saw a statewide increase of $3.65 billion in 2018-19, a figure that could climb by another $1.95 billion in 2019-20. The governor is expected to soon sign the state budget, which was approved by lawmakers June 13.

LCUSD’s revenue was 1.3% higher than budgeted this year while general fund expenditures are at or below the target, Evans added.

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“It’s really quite remarkable our district is comfortable given that we are one of the lowest-funded districts in the state,” board member Dan Jeffries said. “We’re very fortunate that our community is very supportive, not just with their time but also with their money.”

Meanwhile, the district’s average daily attendance remains solid at 97.72%, an “enviable” mark, according to Evans. The recently negotiated salary increases for both certificated and classified employees of 2.5% each effective July 1 will incur a combined annual cost of nearly $940,000, Evans added, while the health and welfare district will automatically increase with state funding.

Evans reported that continued but slowing growth in the national economy as well as slowing and uneven growth in California may lead to tighter budget constraints in coming years. He stressed the importance of making wise spending decisions in times of plenty so that if and when a recession hits, the district will remain protected.

Moving forward, building sustainability into programs, monitoring deficit spending and saving money for expenses like facility maintenance, textbooks and retirement benefits are priorities for the district, Evans told board members.

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Quality instructors, student well-being top priorities for LCUSD

The board approved the latest draft of the Local Control Accountability Plan, a three-year living document outlining the district’s plan on how it will apply state funds. Since 2018-19 marked the end of the most recent three-year period, LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette led the charge of revising and updating the district’s LCAP goals, which were consolidated from seven to four:

  1. recruiting, retaining and training the highest quality teaching, support and administrative staffs;
  2. providing a high-quality instructional program to all students;
  3. providing resources and programs to promote social and emotional health, wellness and interpersonal connectedness; guaranteeing diversity, equity and inclusion;
  4. maintaining safe districtwide facilities and initiating capital improvement projects.

“We just feel like the people who are working in the classroom daily, whether delivering instruction or supporting our students, that’s the most important job that we do — making sure that those people are the most qualified and the best able to deliver a world-class education to our students,” Sinnette said.
Sinnette said class-size reduction will remain a continued goal, as individualized attention is “something that the community values.” Sinnette announced LCUSD’s enrollment has remained steady, though other Californian districts have seen declines. Current enrollment is up to 4,124 from 4,080 in 2015-16.

Also Tuesday, the school board:

  • Approved the La Cañada Flintridge Measure LCF Citizens’ Oversight Committee’s 2018-19 Report. Committee Chair Mike Leininger confirmed that the projects being completed identified by the $149-million bond measure passed by voters in 2017 to repair and modernize classroom and school facilities.
  • Approved the $4,000 purchase of textbooks for a new Oceanography course to be taught starting in the 2019-20 school year. Each book costs around $179.

James Faris is a contributing writer to Times Community News.

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