Districts take little comfort in governor’s budget proposal, which is banking on a tax initiative

Over the last few years, IUSD has grown accustomed to operating in an environment of fiscal uncertainty, as state lawmakers have often deferred decisions and provided little in the way of concrete information while grappling with California’s budget crisis.

It now appears that uncertainty will continue. This month, Gov. Jerry Brown released his initial budget proposal for the 2012-13 fiscal year, and it seems to have generated more questions than answers.

The key takeaway is that the spending plan, revealed Jan. 5, is heavily reliant on a November ballot initiative that would temporarily raise taxes for high-income earners and increase the sales tax by a half-cent through 2016. If the measure passes, funding for schools would remain flat, according to the governor’s proposal. If the initiative is rejected by voters, K-12 education could be slashed by an additional $4.8 billion.

Either way, school districts are required to submit their budgets by the end of June, and some staffing decisions must be made sooner than that. John Fogarty, IUSD’s assistant superintendent of business services, said Irvine will work to have contingencies in place should the November ballot initiative fail.

Keep in mind that Gov. Brown’s proposal is merely a starting point for budget discussions that could last for months. The next fiscal milestone at the state level is May, when Brown is expected to release a revised spending plan based on the latest economic data.

Meanwhile, representatives from IUSD and other districts are closely scrutinizing details of the governor’s proposal for their own budget deliberations. Education officials hope to learn more at an upcoming budget workshop hosted by experts from School Services of California.