Due to increased enrollment, two years of deficit spending and ongoing cuts from the state, the Dixie School District will face $362,000 in reductions for the 2012-13 school year.
In the last few years, the district had been able to dip into its one-time reserves and federal funds to "weather the storm," according to Business Manager Robert Marical. Now, a combination of increased enrollment, lower property taxes and states cuts have created the "perfect storm" for the upcoming school year and district staff are not sure where the cuts will hit their $19 million budget, he said.
"At this point, we really just wanted to indentify the amount [of reductions] and we're not sure where there will be reductions," Marical said.
The district serves approximately 1,750 students and includes four schools – Dixie Elementary School, Vallecito Elementary School, Mary Silveira Elementary School and Miller Creek Middle School.
The state cut $3.2 million from the district in the last three years as part of statewide categorical funding reductions to basic aid districts. These districts are funded largely through property taxes as opposed to revenue limit districts, like San Rafael City Schools, that rely on a larger amount of funds from the state. The reductions are ongoing, and the district expects $1.1 million to be cut each year, according to Marical.
From the beginning of the recession to the 2009-10 school year, the district made several reductions to deal with the first wave of state budget cuts. These included furloughs for employees, a 15 percent reduction in school site, administration, maintenance and custodial budgets, canceling summer school, reductions in purchases of new textbooks, cuts to transportation staff and salary freezes.
In May 2011, the community approved Measure A, a parcel tax that increased the levy to $107 a year. The parcel tax, which will last eight years, was approved by an 80 percent majority of the vote and helped shield the districts from more reductions.
In the 2011-12 school year, the parcel tax raised close to $2 million in additional revenues that mostly went to hire 11 full time employees for the fourth and fifth grades. Funds also went to the music, science, art, drama and French programs.
"We've been fortunate that we haven't had to make cuts to staff like other districts have," Marical said.
Despite the tax, the district was still deficit spending for the last two years. Enrollment, which had been flat until recently, jumped up 4.5 percent, or 85 students.
Property tax projections also fell short by around $250,000, according to Marical. District staff are still trying to analyze all the reasons for the shortfall. One explanation is that the Marin Commons property on 1600 Los Gamos Road fell off the tax roll when the county bought it for $29.5 million in October 2011 to convert it to a new emergency operations and sheriff’s headquarters.
Now that the district knows the size of their budget gap, they will begin seeing where they will make reductions. "I really can't say where the cuts will occur," Marical said. "It's a process to work through that with district budget committee."
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