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Deficit Spending Seen For School District
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Escalon's school district budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year is conservative, looking for - but not banking on - passage of tax initiatives in November.

Members of the school board passed the budget in a vote at their June 19 meeting.

"The budget is being passed with the assumption that the tax increases are going to pass," Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Ron Costa said. "That's what the state is telling us to do."

Governor Jerry Brown has some tax initiatives going on the ballot in November and Costa said officials will be watching those closely, as they will have an impact on schools either way.

"We also have to prepare should they not pass," he explained. "The mid-year cuts that the governor has stated, if they don't pass, will be in excess of $450 per student."

For the Escalon district, that would amount to about $1.2 million in lost revenue for the year.

"Our budget is based upon what the state is asking us to do but we are being very conservative due to the possibility of the huge mid-year cut," said Costa.

The budget includes revenues of about $20 million and operating expenditures of about $20,600,000 so the district is in deficit spending.

Costa noted, however, that they started the just completed fiscal year that way as well, but were able to balance it out by the end of the year.

Unfortunately, he said, not all the staff members that were issued pink slips earlier were called back, though some were retained and some classified staff also had hours previously cut restored.

"The budgets are based on the best knowledge we have at the moment we make the budget," Costa explained. "But things are constantly changing."

He also pointed out the difficulty for the district in having to project three years out, as the state requires schools to plan for a three-year block and show that they can meet their financial obligations.

"We will have a more accurate understanding of where we are going when we do our first review, in December," Costa said of the budget.

By that time, the outcome of the November tax vote will be known, and the district will have some breathing room or will have to do some belt tightening.

"Right now the state has a budget built on smoke and mirrors," Costa said.

Escalon's school budget went into effect on July 1 and runs through June 30, 2013. Costa said the goal is to always make it through the year without a deficit and meeting student needs.

"We are working on closing our books (2011-2012), so we will know how we ended the last year," he explained. "We started out the year expecting to deficit spend, just as we are this year, but we made some cuts in expenditures and we postponed purchasing some things and we were able to come in with a balanced budget."