On Wednesday, Sept. 13, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) School Board convened in order to discuss the end of the 2022-23 fiscal year, along with where the district would be budget-wise. The meeting was held in the school district’s office building but left the option for participants to join the meeting virtually as well. During this meeting, the board discussed BUSD’s spending and budget, while also leaving time for public comment.
Last year, the district met the three percent reserve required by the state of California and ended the year with unspent balances across a multitude of school programs and other projects. Despite the slight amount of overspending in certain pay grades, the district ended the year with a fund balance that exceeded their predictions by $700,000.
In fact, the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) for the 2022-23 school year showed a 20 percent increase in balance, from the goal of $1 million all the way to $1.2 million. This was partly due to a myriad of LCAP programs that did not use the entirety of their budget, like the Site Coordinators for Family Engagement and the Advancement Via Individual Determination program.
Another, though smaller reason for the increase in balance was an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) error in the Extended School Year (ESY) budget. Apparently, the ESY ADA had been overstated for several years, and portions of the budget weren’t being used. This mistake has now been fixed, and the “impact will be in the out years due to three-year averaging,” according to a slideshow created by Pauline Follansbee, BUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Business Services.
However, due to the fact that ESY represents less than 1.5 percent of the district’s ADA, this didn’t make a large difference in the LCAP.
Another topic of discussion at last week’s board meeting was the Gann limit, as it was expected to be triggered last school year. The Gann limit was established in 1979 with the passage of Proposition 4, which forces both local and state governments to spend any revenue, above a certain amount, on K-12 education and colleges, or to return it to taxpayers. However, although it was expected to be triggered last year, it had no impact on 2022-23 funding.
The Board Policy’s Committed Reserve was also a subject of discussion, as it has to be reached every year that its conditions are met. The policy was approved in October of 2017 and the policy requests an annual commitment of an additional 1 percent reserve.
Any year when the reserve is under 1 percent, the budget has a positive certification, and when the general fund balance is greater than the general fund expenditures, an additional reserve must be set up. The reserve is required to be equal to half of that year’s increase in the budget.
During last year’s 2022-23 school year, three out of three of the mandated conditions were reached and the additional reserve was set up to be ready for use. It will be committed at the first interim reporting period.