June 4, 2021
For all the academic impacts the pandemic caused to students and staff in the Denair Unified School District over the past year, the district has emerged in a relatively strong financial position thanks to an infusion of extra state and federal COVID relief money.
District trustees were presented Thursday night with a proposed $18.2 million budget for the 2021-22 school year, which includes $2.33 million in extra state and federal assistance because of the pandemic. Much of that will be spent on one-time expenses – like textbooks, school supplies and technology upgrades – over the next couple of years rather than be plowed into ongoing items like staff salaries, trustees were told.
The upcoming budget also anticipates California finally beginning to catch up on what it owes public schools in payments deferred during the pandemic. The Cost of Living Allowance – a “mega-COLA” in the words of Chief Business Official Linda Covello – is projected to be 5.07%, much higher than in normal years.
That still could change between now and when the state is legally required to pass its budget by the end of June. Denair, like all school districts, has to approve its own budget before July 1, which is why Covello said she planned conservatively when projecting for enrollment and other areas. It’s always easier to figure out what to do when revenue is higher, she said, as opposed to trimming expenses mid-year because of overly aggressive assumptions.
Still, the proposal 2021-22 budget – which trustees are expected to take action on at a special meeting June 10 – is quite a bit different from the bare-bones $14,539,016 spending plan enacted in June 2020 when all the financial implications of the COVID crisis were still uncertain. That budget projected spending about $800,000 less than the year before while dipping into reserves by $151,000.
Contrast that to the situation now, when Covello anticipates the district will finish the next school year with a fund balance of $1,471,443.
“It’s likely we’ll have carryover COVID relief funds from federal and state since we won’t spend them all next year,” she said.
As in most years, most of the proposed 2021-22 budget is devoted to people – salaries and benefits account for 75% of the spending. If not for the extra government money, that share would be closer to 80%, Covello said.
Despite an uptick in new residential construction within the district’s boundaries, Covello is planning for an increase of just three students across the district’s four campuses. The proposed budget projects Average Daily Attendance will be 1,256 students.
“It’s a conservative number that doesn’t really account for any growth we may have,” she said. “We also know some students left the district last year because of COVID. We don’t know how many of them may come back.”
When classes resume in August, Superintendent Terry Metzger expects almost all students to return to campus. When Denair reopened classes for face-to-face instruction in mid-April, about 85% of students returned. The rest remained on distance learning.
In the next school year, distance learning for all grade levels will be coordinated through Denair Charter Academy, Metzger said. DCA offers home schooling for K-8 students and independent study for high school students.
Metzger also said bus service will resume in August for students who qualify.
In other action Thursday, trustees:
- Held a moment of silence for the three family members killed in a house fire in the early morning hours of May 30. Sergio Inostros, 25, Mason Mulgado, 8, and Bennet Inostros, 3, lost their lives. Mason was a student at Denair Elementary Charter Academy.
- Congratulated the Denair High Class of 2021, which graduated all 63 of its seniors on May 28. Principal Kara Backman said all the students participated in the Sober Grad night party that same night.
- Voted 5-0 to spend $77,000 of lottery money on a new science curriculum for Denair Middle School and Denair Charter Academy.
- Held a public hearing on the 2021-24 Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), a strategic document that lays out for parents and the community how the district will spend the millions of dollars it receives each year from the state. Metzger said the driving objective for the next three years is that all children will have a foundation for post-secondary success. That means preparing high school graduates to enter a two- or four-year college, or having the skills to go directly to the military, a trade school or another kind of vocational field in order to begin their professional careers. The 2021-24 LCAP will come back for board approval on June 10.
- Added courses in kinesiology and anatomy/physiology to the Health Science Career Technical Education (CTE) pathway at Denair High.
- Applied for a $20,528 Agricultural Incentive Grant from the state, which will be used to “to create and develop programs that motivate students to accept challenges, take pride in their achievements and work to their highest potential.” The district also received a $20,000 Farm to School Innovation Grant, which will fund a program in which students grow fruits and vegetables that will be used in the district’s food program.
- Approved two upcoming student trips: June 22-25 to Disneyland for members of the football program and a FFA leadership retreat Aug. 5-7 in Camp Connell.
- Heard a report on mental health services provided by district in the past year for students, their families and staff. Metzger said 341 students in all age ranges were helped with issues like anxiety and depression, substance abuse, anger, self-abuse and health/hygiene.