The Sacramento City Unified School District faces a $5.6 million budget gap next school year, smaller than in recent years but still leading to cuts such as the closure of seven elementary schools.
Despite an improving state education budget, the district faces rising costs for health care and employee pay, as well as less revenue due to falling enrollment.
While state leaders could still provide more education money than Gov. Jerry Brown proposed in January, the district is obliged to balance the budget "based on the information we know now," said Gabe Ross, district spokesman.
"By statute, we don't have the discretion to project a rosier picture, even if we believe that's the case," he said.
In the city district, a $5.6 million shortfall in an interim budget is small compared with the district's overall $400 million budget. By comparison, in 2012-13, the district slashed $28 million.
On Thursday night, district trustees heard and then adopted the staff's proposal for closing the gap, described in a staff report as a worst-case scenario, Ross said.
The district has not yet considered its full 2013-14 budget, which it must adopt by July 1.
The remedies proposed for this year's $5.6 million shortfall run the gamut from using bond funds instead of the general fund to pay for technology equipment, saving $200,000, to the recent decision to close seven elementary schools because of falling enrollment, saving nearly $1.1 million.
What's unknown is how the state budget negotiations will play out and, with them, Brown's proposal to overhaul how California distributes funds to each district.
For now, the interim budget exercise at the local level enables the district to show the county Board of Education how it will balance its budget for the current fiscal year and the one that starts July 1. That process, in turn, will qualify the district for short-term borrowing at competitive rates to meet cash flow needs. The funds are repaid after expected property tax proceeds arrive.
Among the other cost cuts being proposed:
Using existing benchmark tests to measure student growth instead of an outside contractor. Savings: $200,000.
Eliminating or reducing central office positions, including one high-level administrator. Savings: $315,000
Eliminating a maintenance foreman position and a trades position. Savings: $175,000.
Funding an instructional coordinator with federal Title I money dedicated for low-income students. Savings: $50,000.
Relying on state money outside the district's general fund to train teachers on new California standards. Savings: $650,000.
Using one-time reserve funds for adult education. Savings: $841,000