(Bad) news from the budget committee

Tonight the Budget and Business Services Committee met, and among other items, we got a blast of bad news in the form of the state budget update. It went like this:  Last week, the state Controller John Chiang announced that California’s tax receipts for the first month of the new fiscal year were over 10 percent– or more than $500 million– lower than expected. That’s bad, because the budget signed by Governor Brown in late June contained $4 billion in what the state euphemistically called “speculative” revenues.

Most of us who exist on a budget instinctively grasp that speculative revenues are not the same as, say, a regular paycheck. And in its wisdom, the state of California acknowledged this law of nature in its 2011-12 budget, inserting “triggers” for various levels of mid-year budget cuts if those hoped-for revenues didn’t actually materialize. (More about the triggers in this Sacramento Bee article from June).

Things start to get really bad for Californians (as if they aren’t bad already) if the state’s revenues as of November of this year are more than $1 billion behind projections; schools take a big hit if revenues are $2 billion or more behind projections.  Mid-year cuts are pretty much impossible for SFUSD due to our labor contracts, and the district will have enough cash on hand to pay our bills through next June. After that, though — things could get very difficult.

Commissioners stressed the need to start planning NOW for possible disaster, and asked staff to consider proposing another two-year budget like the one we developed for 2010-11 and 20011-12. We’ll all have to watch the state’s monthly tax receipts very carefully in order to have a better idea of what’s coming. Stay tuned.

The committee also heard:

  • A renewal petition for Metro Arts & Technology Charter High School, now quartered at the old Gloria R. Davis Middle School site in the Bayview district. The committee asked for some additional budget information to be presented to the full board, and passed the petition on with no recommendation;
  • A report from the Information Technology department with more detail about the district’s budget for the new Student Information System (dubbed the Student Data Redesign project) approved by the Board last year. Over the next five years, the district will spend $8.6 million to completely upgrade our student information systems and enhance schools’ ability to capture and track data on student achievement, demographics and other variables in order to better target our programs to student needs (the budget includes training for staff, new technology for school sites, and temporary positions needed to help us implement the new system). It’s a big effort, but the sorry state of district technology and data management makes such an investment imperative.

3 responses to “(Bad) news from the budget committee

  1. @Kate there is a proposal on the November ballot to reinstall the sales tax increase for sf residents, but it wouldn’t benefit schools directly –the money would go to the City budget.I think the proposal is Prop G.

  2. Rachel,
    Is it possible for the District and/or Board to impose a small sales tax within SF City limits to support the schools? In a terrible State budget where tax payers received a pennies on the dollars budget plan, our State sales tax was lowered by 1 percent and our vehicle registration was also lowered. The impact was that the average family was to “save” $1000 per year while public education and other public programs got slashed. When buying a burrito, the woman in front of me asked why her burrito was 4 cents less; it was the lower sales tax. Can the City of San Francisco simply increase our sales tax by that small difference and retain the money for our public education? A few cents on everyday purchases really make an impact on our total budget.
    Thanks for all your work!

  3. Thanks so much for the concise description of how state machinations impact us locally.

    Is there to be any public access to the 5 year plan provided by IT?

    I am curious how they intend to deal with apparent overlaps between School Loop and the new Edupoint product. Also, whether the “sorry state” of district technology is best remedied by buying products as opposed to attracting higher quality staff.