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Proposed Santa Monica-Malibu School District Budget Rises Five Percent as Enrollment Remains Flat


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

June 21, 2017 -- Tugged by rising employee benefits costs, the Santa Monica-Malibu public school system is proposing a $179 million budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year that represents a 5 percent increase over the current budget, even as enrollment remains flat.

Total spending in the proposed General Fund budget is $155,371,152, with a fund balance of more than $23 million, according to the budget, which will be presented to the School Board at a public hearing Tuesday, June 27, at 5:30 p.m. in the District Administrative Offices at 1651 16th Street.

Between the two categories, the General Fund budget is about five percent higher than the current fiscal year, which closes out June 30.

Enrollment, meanwhile, is projected to remain flat, at between 10,768 and 11,003 students.

The School Board on Thursday also will hold a public hearing on its Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which details its proposed spending and is a component of the way the state now apportions funding to schools.

Local property taxes account for almost $84 million of revenues, with the state making up most of the rest.

As proposed, employee salaries total $95,790,328 and benefits total $38,276,015.

But though spending is flat to decreasing in some of those areas, health care and pensions each post double-digit hikes.

SMMUSD contributions to the California Public Employees' Retirement System jump 16 percent, from almost $3.57 million in 2016-17 budget to $4.34 million in the proposed budget.

SMMUSD joins other public-sector employers across the state dealing with some jolting increases in costs for CalPERS, as the pension fund lowers its assumed rate of return on investments and leaves employers to fill the gap.

Health and welfare costs for SMMUSD are pegged at almost $14.47 million now, and rise 10 percent to $15.95 million as proposed for the coming year.

Together, wages and benefits total more than $134 million, or 86 percent of all general fund spending, about the same as this year's outgoing budget.

Funding for textbooks, additional reading material and supplies -- only a sliver of the budget at $7.48 million -- drops by a third in the proposed budget for next year, to about $5 million.

Money set aside from fund balances begins shrinking as well.

Already down from the current year, the fund balance for the proposed 2017-18 budget drops to a projected $21.7 million in 2018-19 and to about $19.3 million in 2019-20, officials said.

Overall, basic state aid inches up about 3 percent but local revenue sees some welcome bumps -- including funds from Measure GSH, which was passed by voters in November and adds a half cent to the sales tax.

About half of the total revenue, or $8.2 million, goes to the district under the proposed budget. The rest of GSH revenues go to the City to address Santa Monica's affordable housing shortage.


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