School District officials have begun their budget process with a workshop last week that focused on the local ramifications of the state budget.

The Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board held a Budget Workshop on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The Budget Workshop was presented by Associate Superintendent, Businesses Services, Janece Maez.

The release of the Governors’ Budget Proposal for 2017-18 began the process for legislative consideration of the Budget and it also provides critical information for development of school agency budgets like SMMUSD. The purpose of the meeting was an opportunity for board members to begin thinking about potential budget cuts and to receive projections. The overall budget process can take months and a final budget will not be approved until June.

For the 2016-17 school year, SMMUSD has a total revenue is $100,299, 367 with expenditures of $111,881,738, leaving the district with a $11,582,371 deficit. SMMUSD listed $87,132,301 in funds from the state and $2,693,336 in one-time income.

The one-time payments come from the state and are a result of past changes to school funding. Those payments are due to expire soon and the loss of that income combined with the ever-increasing cost of employee benefits is forcing the district to anticipate budget cuts.

Maez said SMMUSD should aim for a $4 million reduction, but not all at one time.

“The size in reduction in any one year would be very dramatic and have a long-term consequence, and we want to do it more gradually,” she said.

The district is considering cutting $2 million for the upcoming year, then another $1 million each of the following two years.

While officials discussed the tiered cut approach, they were also aware that uncertainty at the state and federal level can rapidly change the local budget picture.

“Today is an awareness of the challenges we will face. In between now and three or four months we will be working hard with the budget committee, to come up with some ideas to benefit the school district,” said Superintendent Ben Drati.

The presentation included seven different functions where reductions can be made. These areas included instruction, other instructional staff such as staff training, site administration, instructional media, pupil services, instruction supervision, maintenance and operations and district administration.

During the workshop Maez asked the board to choose the top four functions to address, in other words reduce. Maez wants the staff and the budget committee to focus in on the areas for reduction, ultimately asking the board to provide guidance.

Discussion over the specific cuts will be ongoing over the next several months but the board stressed the need to make cuts in a way that will create a sustainable funding model.

“We do need to reduce but for me, I want us to spend money that enhances the learning, and defines who we are,” said new boardmember Jon Kean.

Boardmember Craig Foster said fresh eyes on the problem might identify new efficiencies.

“I think judgment is going to most important thing here. If Dr. Drati can build a culture where our leaders are goal oriented and focused on excellence through equity then a person can look at a department and see what needs work,” he said.
No action was taken at the workshop but staff will continue to work with the budget committee and establish recommendation for the Board to consider in early March.