By Jason KUROSU
Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. continued his line of austerity budgeting with his latest budget plan, released Jan. 5. The governor has already enacted steep cuts to various state programs in order to combat budgetary deficits and the newest plan may call for more cuts from education. While the deficit has improved from last year’s $26 billion gap to $13 billion this year, Brown will push for cuts to programs such as welfare and Medi-Cal and will also make cuts to education unless the gap can be reduced to around $9 billion.
However, this scenario is dependent upon voters approving Brown’s proposed tax hike in the ballots this November. The tax hike would include a half-cent sales tax increase and would also increase income taxes up to 2% for those earning $250,000 a year or more. Brown said that the tax hike would generate tax revenues of up to $7 billion a year through 2017. But the combination of tax increases and cuts to social services may make it difficult for Brown to convince either Republicans or Democrats to endorse the plan.
Should the tax hikes not be approved, California’s public school system could face the repercussions of a trigger cut of about $4.8 billion in cuts to K-12 education funding, to be enacted about January of 2013. Despite these cuts, which would only add to cuts already made to K-12 education from last year, Brown has urged schools to budget optimistically, with Brown confident that the deficit will be where it needs to be to avoid trigger cuts.
However, with so many unknowns, schools must plan for a worst-case scenario and soon, as teacher layoff notices must be sent out by March 15.
Other unknowns include the status of certain programs available to some schools such as transitional kindergarten and school bus funding, both of which Brown proposed to cut. The overall losses that these cuts to funding and programs would incur are uncertain, but many project at least three weeks from the school year would be lost.
“We’re being told that they might plan on a reduction if the election doesn’t pass of $370 per ADA (Average Daily Attendance),” said Eva Lueck, chief business and financial officer for the Glendale Unified School District. “That would be $9.4 million to us and that would be a reduction that would pass in 2012-13 and all subsequent years if the election should not pass and they approve the governor’s budget. That’s a whole lot of ifs.”