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School Board Hears Pandemic-Battered Budget Creates $1.3 Million Deficit

Approves ‘Unaudited Actuals’ report, showing both expenditures and revenues drop

Published on Friday, September 18, 2020 | 5:04 am

In a school year battered by the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pasadena Board of education Thursday unanimously approved the District’s Unaudited Actuals Report, a financial snapshot of the District’s economic landscape.

Dr. Leslie Barnes, PUSD Chief Finance and Operations Officer, outlined for the Board the numerous impacts of the pandemic on the District’s expenditures and revenues since the District began online teaching March 16, 2020 during the online ZOOM meeting.

There have been no school site staff or programs at PUSD school sites since then. In addition, there have been no after school or preschool programs, and no athletic or extracurricular events, resulting in a number of reduced costs.

Along with the lack of programming or even students on campus, bussing was suspended for Special Ed students, field trips and athletic events. Non-public schools and other outside agencies also paid only for services provided during distance learning, and substitute teachers were not needed for many classified school site positions.

In addition, vacancies were not filled for site classified positions for the remainder of the school year. Curbside meal service for students and families were paid from COVID-19 Relief Funds.

On the revenue side of the equation, said Barnes, State Senate Bill 117 (SB117) provided  $273,000 for 2019-20, which was spent on maintaining nutrition services, cleaning and disinfecting facilities, personal protective equipment, and materials necessary to provide students with opportunities for distance learning

The Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) program , which was approved but not received in 2019-20, provided $4,603,000, to be used between March 13, 2020 and September 30, 2022.

According to Dr. Barnes’s projections, the District will see a projected ending balance of $27.3 million, with projected deficit spending of $1.3 million.

The Actual Fund Balance for 2019-2020 was $34.9 million, with an increase to the fund balance of $ 6.4 million. The numbers reflect a total change from a May 2020 projection of $7.6 million.

As Barnes told the Board, “The financial Impact of COVID-19 will be with us for years.”

The District is also facing the loss of a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) in 2020-21, 2021-22, and 2022-23, said Barnes, and the “Hold Harmless” status in school enrollment will soon end. Since the State provides funding for schools based on their attendance, the State had been funding the District at its March 2020 attendance number.

Revenue losses related to current year enrollment will impact revenues partially in 2021-22, and fully in the school year 2022-2023, Barnes reported.

Without federal aid and/or a strong economic recovery, said Barnes, there will likely be funding reductions over and above the loss of COLA for the next several years.

A number of board members viewed the Actuals with concerns for the current and subsequent school years, with Board Member Kimberly Kenne saying, “‘There are still a lot of complexities within this budget, and we need to study it further.”

Board Member Lawrence Torres, agreed, saying, “There are a lot of fiscal uncertainties. We need to be mindful of our spending, as these are unprecedented times.”

Moving forward,  said Barnes, the District will soon be preparing its First Interim Report, a more formal budget document for the LA County Office of Education, as well as assessing the impacts of reduced enrollment figures in current and future school years.

The District will also be reviewing its final school site staffing, revenue and enrollment projections for future years, and determining what budget reductions may be needed.

“Much of the budget projections and calculations are dependent upon if the State reduces our revenue more than currently projected, or if we receive additional Federal funding,” said Barnes.

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