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January 17, 2013
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Governor’s initial budget brings hope for schools

Governor Brown’s new budget plan suggests an improved financial situation and an increase in funding for education.

“Any budget containing increases rather than cuts is a welcome change in education,” said Holly Hermansen, Nevada County superintendent of schools.

“The budget increases per-pupil funding for the first time in more than four years.”

The plan, released Jan. 10, proposed that there would be an $851 million operating surplus in 2013-14, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Such a surplus is contingent on higher tax revenues from personal income and sales use tax, $700 million in higher savings from a decrease in redevelopment agencies and $300 million in savings from cap-and-trade revenues to offset programs traditionally supported by the general fund, according to the LAO.

The administration also proposed extending the hospital quality assurance fee, totaling $310 million, and reauthorizing the gross premiums tax on Medi-Cal managed care plans, totaling $364 million.

The budget also contains a new funding formula for K-12, which allows for more local control because it has virtually no state requirements for programmatic spending and includes funding to pay down existing deferrals, reducing the need for school districts and community colleges to borrow to meet their cash needs, something Hermansen said will bring improvements for particular students.

“We have little information on the details of the proposed Local Control Funding Formula but understand it starts with a base-level funding for all school districts with enhancements for students that are not English language proficient, are from low-income families or are in foster care,” Hermansen said.

Corporate tax revenues will be increased from Proposition 39, which requires that half of the new revenues fund energy-efficiency programs in schools, and the budget proposes to use that funding for projects at schools and community colleges.

The budget package proposes a 5 percent base increase in 2013-14 for the University of California and California State University.

This funding is in addition to the $125 million that last year’s budget provided to these university systems for 2013-14 in exchange for not increasing tuition levels in 2012-13. The increase in funding extends to community colleges as well.

“What the governor’s proposed is that the California community colleges receive an increase in funding for growth so that we could provide essentially more classes for students,” said William Duncan IV, president of Sierra College.

“We don’t know exactly yet how much that will be for us in particular, but I think in general we view that as very positive.”

Sierra College has had to reduce the number of students able to attend, and the proposed budget allows for more students, Duncan said.

“I’m just glad that we’re talking about adding more classes, not taking them away,” he said.

The governor also proposed a multiyear plan that would provide a 5 percent base increase in 2014-15 and 4 percent increases in the subsequent two years.

“As a result of these increases, the governor expects tuition levels to remain flat through 2016-17,” the LAO report said.

The Sierra College enrollment fee, which has spiked in cost over the years, is expected to remain the same because of this, Duncan said.

“We’ve had to reduce the number of students we serve, and tuition has gone from $18 a unit to $46,” Duncan said.

“Our tuition is controlled by the legislature, so my assumption is they’ll leave ours the same.”

Though there have been proposed solutions to fix the budget situation for years to little avail, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported a change of course and a more realistic budget situation with this year’s projection.

“Now, however, the state has reached a point where its underlying expenditures and revenues are roughly in balance,” the LAO report said.

The report is contingent on a stable economy with moderate job growth and consumer spending.

Potential changes in federal policy, consumer spending, gas prices affected by relations with the Middle East and the condition of the stock market comprise some factors that would change the budget.

Nevada County schools remain hopeful.

“The governor’s projected increases to schools rely heavily on the continued economic improvement in the state,” Hermansen said.

“We will continue to hope for improvements in that arena, realizing it could take several years of good economic times to overcome the last several years of cuts.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4230.

“Any budget containing increases rather than cuts is a welcome change in education.”

— Holly Hermansen,
Nevada County superintendent of schools


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The Union Updated Jul 19, 2013 02:34PM Published Jan 17, 2013 07:01PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.