Schools across California breathed a sigh of relief with the passage of Proposition 30 Tuesday, which removed the threat of trigger cuts slated to be implemented had the proposition not passed.
“I’m certainly feeling relieved,” said Nevada County Superintendent Holly Hermansen. “But again there, due to the crisis, is still uncertainty in the future.”
The automatic cuts would have included shorter school years, less money for local police, possible fee increases at the University of California and the California State University systems, as well as a $20 million cut in grants to city police departments and a $1 million cut in state Justice Department’s law enforcement program, according to the Associated Press.
Though the passage of Proposition 30 means increased funding to schools, the increase will not take effect after the current school year because of payment deferrals the State had made for years, ultimately meaning flat funding without any new money coming into schools, officials said.
“It’s like you had a checkbook, and you know you’re supposed to pay people and the money doesn’t arrive,” said Grass Valley School District Superintendent Eric Fredrickson. “They keep pushing it down the road.”
Proposition 30 is estimated to generate $6.8 billion in annual revenue, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, through a quarter percent sales tax increase for four years and an income tax increase for seven years of 1 percent for those who make $250,000-$300,000 a year; a 2 percent increase for $300,000-$500,000 a year; and a 3 percent increase for incomes at $500,000 and above.
Between 40 and 60 percent of the funds will go to schools and community colleges; the rest goes toward public safety realignment and the state deficit.
Fredrickson stressed that he is grateful for the passage of Proposition 30, but said it is also true that a reformatting of the state’s budget is still vital to the health of California’s schools.
Fredrickson said the funding the state is offering offsets increased cost of personnel pay and that overall the funding will be balanced, not increased.
“Each year the personnel pay scale is based on years of service. It’s usually about 2 percent, so if we’re dealing with fixed costs, the state’s not considering we have increased costs, they are just giving us flat funding,” Fredrickson said.
In order to anticipate the trigger cuts that would have gone into effect without Prop. 30’s passage, some schools held back additional funds.
“We’ve been experiencing limited cash flow so we need to find out if they are going to release the money back to us or hold onto it until June,” Fredrickson said.
Pleasant Ridge Union School District has been deficit spending up to $700,000 a year to avoid cuts to programs, board members say. The district put forth Measure K in south county to generate revenue, but the parcel tax lost Tuesday night.
“Our firm belief is it’s like an arm, once you cut off the arm, it doesn’t grow back,” said Pleasant Ridge Union School District board member Scott Hopper.
“So if we have to go out and cut, for example, elementary music, it’s not coming back. We know that. History repeats itself. It’s not coming back.
“That’s our fear, that we’re going to try to hold off and fight it off as hard as we can through a collaborative effort with all stakeholders having a voice in the restructuring of Pleasant Ridge School District.
PRUSD experienced a striking blow to its potential to reclaim funding with the failure of the passage of Measure K, which would have generated revenue for schools through parcel taxes.”
Although Hopper is hopeful that Prop. 30 can result in extra funding, he said times ahead will be difficult for PRUSD, and cuts may be inevitable.
“Anything shy of a vibrant and robust economy, accompanied with legislative fiscal restructuring, and future cuts are likely,” Hopper said.
Although Prop. 30 will mean increased funds in future years, the dollar amount is dependent upon tax revenue, which is an unknown number.
“The governor will release a new budget proposal in January,” Hermansen said.
“So we’ll have a better idea of what the state looks like next year.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4230.