WATSONVILLE — The Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees on June 26 approved the district’s budget for the year, a $262.2 million plan that puts the district in a good financial picture over the next three years.
By law, school districts must submit their budgets by July 1.
The positive certification means that the district can cover its expenses through 2022.
But the budget also projects a loss in revenue thanks to declining enrollment. According to PVUSD Chief Business Officer Joe Dominguez, the budget is projected to lose Average Daily Attendance numbers from 17,805 in the 2019/20 school year, a number that drops by 186 the following year.
That’s compared to the 2014/15 school year, when 18,341 students were enrolled.
Any loss of enrollment translates to a significant loss in Average Daily Attendance state funding, which in PVUSD is more than $17,000 per student.
The decline is due in part to domestic migration, as residents leave the state seeking less expensive pastures.
It can also be attributed to Watsonville Prep, a charter school that plans to open in the fall with 175 students, most of which were drawn from PVUSD schools.
Dominguez has told the trustees to be cautious as they make future budget decisions, as the district faces decreasing ending fund balances for the next three years.
According to Dominguez, the district ended this year with a $26.3 million ending balance, and is projected to end next year with a $10.18 million ending balance. That number climbs slightly to $10.87 million in 2020-21, and rises slightly to $14.25 million a year later.
The declining numbers come thanks to increased salary, benefit and retirement costs, along with special education and transportation services, Dominguez said.
PVUSD has also lost $3 million in one-time state funding, Dominguez said.
Trustee Jennifer Schacher asked whether the district could reduce the amount of money it spends on consultant fees,
“We spend a lot of money on consultants in our budgets,” she said. “I know we are trying to reduce benefit costs.”
PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez said that the district has spent a little less than $700,000 on consultants, and is working to “build capacity” so that it no longer needs to hire consultants.
Rodriguez pointed out that about $300,000 of that was for the implementation of Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words, a reading system also called SIPPS.
The program is being rolled out to all the district’s elementary schools, and once in place the consultant fees will no longer be necessary, Rodriguez said.
The program has been touted for increasing test scores throughout the district.
“If we can make the impact that we are doing on our first and second-grade students, it is well worth the $300,000 in coaching and support for out teachers,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes we have to invest in order to get return.”
Rodriguez said that many of the PVUSD’s expenses have been offset by a newly hired grant writer, who has brought in an additional $6 million to district coffers. About 1.8 million of this recently came in the form of electric busses, she said.
The budget was approved on a 6-0 vote. trustee Georgia Acosta was absent.