Amid uncertainty about the district’s fiscal future, the 2012-2013 budget for the Poway Unified School District was approved at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. Projected budgets for the following two years were also approved, although the outcome of tax initiatives in November will have a profound impact on the amount of money the district will receive from the state.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative would impose a quarter-cent sales tax increase for four years as well as an increase of up to 3 percent in the personal income tax rate for people that earn $250,000 and more. The income tax increase would last for seven years.
A competing measure from civil rights attorney Molly Munger, supported by the California State PTA, would increase the personal income tax for all but low-income workers, ranging from .4 percent to 2.2 percent for those making more than $2.5 million. The income tax increase would last for 12 years.
Malliga Tholandi, PUSD associate superintendent for business support, told the school board that voter approval of the governor’s initiative is “uncertain at best,” noting that a recent poll found that only 54 percent of voters surveyed support the measure, and the competing measure could draw support from Brown’s initiative. Tholandi also noted that 75 percent of voters in the state do not have children attending public schools.
Passage of one or both of the initiatives does not mean that the district will receive more money from the state.
“If the tax initiatives pass, it will be flat funding, the same funding at in 2011-12,” Tholandi said. “But if they don’t pass, we are looking at bigger cuts to education, $5.5 billion total in K-12. … For us that’s approximately $14.8 million in reduction.”
The budget for the 2012-2013 school year includes $35 million in deficit spending, but also includes a projected beginning balance of $48 million, leaving a projected ending balance of $12 million.
But the figures for the following two years are more troubling. Assuming that both tax initiatives fail, the 2013-2014 budget includes possible cuts of $39 million, with the 2014-2015 budget including an additional $8.5 million in cuts.
Superintendent John Collins acknowledged that asking the board to approve the budgets is a “tough pill to swallow,” but is necessary to keep the district running.
“Absent this, we don’t have a budget and we are out of compliance and we can’t move forward with the funding for anything for the next school year,” Collins said.