The Hart district’s operating budget for 2013-14 was approved unanimously Wednesday, authorizing a $179.5 million spending plan for the Santa Clarita Valley’s nearly 23,000 junior high and high school students.
District officials are anticipating improved revenue levels, however, Joe Messina, William S. Hart Union High School Governing Board president, seems to be greeting the news with cautious optimism.
The state hasn’t funded local school districts since fully allotted share since the onset of the Great Recession.
“We’ve got the state telling us that we’re going to receive more money, that revenues are up,” Messina said. “They’ve told us this in the past, but we’ve had to re-adjust what they’re going to give us.”
With the possibility that of more funding due to the voter-approved Proposition 30, which earmarks a portion of the state’s sales tax revenue for education, Messina said the top priority is restoring programming for the students.
“We’ve cut a lot of programs over the years to stay fiscally solvent, even though we’ve been operating with a surplus,” Messina said. “And it’s with the help of the teachers we’ve been able to create that surplus. However, we’re not out of the woods.”
The Hart district is in the middle of negotiating the teachers union contract, as well as looking at prioritizing what programs will be restored, with increased funding levels.
“Right now, the teachers over the years have taken five furlough days,” Messina said. “Currently, the negotiations are to restore those furlough days or a portion of them.”
Despite paying for several unfunded state mandates out of the district’s operating reserves, the Hart district has accumulated approximately $37.5 million in reserves of the last several years.
The state requires approximately 3 percent reserve for all schools districts, which the Hart district has exceeded.