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Faced With Shrinking Revenues, South Pas School Board Agrees to Revised Budget

By Eric Licas
The Review

The SPUSD Board of Education approved a revised budget for the year, after hearing reports of potential financial hardship for the district on the horizon.
The rising costs for special education classes and health benefits along with cost-of-living adjustments for employee salaries have added an additional $4.6 million to the district’s expenses, Assistant Superintendent Business Service Dave Lubs said.
Lower than expected revenue from parcel taxes also contribute to a challenging financial outlook for the district, Lubs said. Meanwhile, analysts from the governor’s office and the state Legislative Analyst’s office project a statewide budget shortfall ranging between $38 billion and $73 billion.
“The future does not look good for public education in the short term,” Lubs said.
The district will be able to bolster its finances with a one-time injection of $2.6 million via California’s Learning Recovery Emergency Block Grant program. Administrators also plan on shaving $400,000 in funding for textbooks and $350,000 for retiree benefits from SPUSD’s budget.
“Does that put pressure on us three or four years down the road?” Lubs asked rhetorically in reference to the budget cuts. “Potentially, yes. But we have proper reserves in those accounts and we can afford to not make those contributions in these three years in order to help out a problem.”
Combined, those efforts should prevent the district from laying off staff this year while keeping the district’s books balanced through 2026, Lubs said. However, SPUSD’s reserve funds are projected to shrink from about $6.7 million in 2023 to $3.8 million in 2026. They must retain at least $2 million in order to be considered solvent.
However, the district could fall short of those reserves if conditions wind up even worse than what analysts project, Lubs said. If that happens, even more austere measures may be required.
“There’s no such thing as a program that doesn’t include people,” Lubs said. “That’s just an important thing to keep in mind that when we get there; budget cuts mean people cuts.”

First published in the March 15 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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