The schools get a budget … sort of
Last Monday night, the school board went through the formality of passing an $86.7 million budget for next year. I say formality because until the folks in Sacramento pass a state budget, budgets for our school district and countless others are little more than piles of used paper. “It’s a lot of make-work, and not for anything. You can’t conclude anything until we get a final (state) budget,” school board president Bill Schaff told the handful of folks in attendance when the budget was passed. “I consider it a waste,” Schaff said, adding that he is frustrated with the process that requires districts to put together a budget by July 1 – without knowing how much money they’ll have to spend on our kids’ education for the coming year. With Measure H money coming its way, the board felt confident enough to restore a whole slew of programs facing the anticipated budget ax next year, including class size reduction, high school sports and elementary school music programs. And this budget shows a Measure H surplus of $1,678,000 for the coming year, and the funds to avoid school closures (more on that later this summer). But there are a lot of little things the board doesn’t know, like whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts will stick, or whether the state Legislature will agree to purchase bonds against the state lottery, which could create an additional impact to school funding, let alone a dollar amount from the state for next year. And with a showdown looming over slashing services versus raising taxes (tastes great! less filling!), a wee bit of time could pass before any of those minor details are available. And when they do, school districts across the state will have 45 days to reinvent the wheel. Well, at least we can take heart in our decreasing dependence on the state to fund our schools: With the passage of Measure H, Alamedans are directly contributing 8.4 percent of the funding for our schools, under the current budget scenario.