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County school districts compared in budget presentation to Mt. Diablo school board

By Theresa Harrington
Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 at 1:00 pm in Contra Costa County, Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The Mt. Diablo school board held a special meeting last week to prepare for its Monday budget discussion, where it approved its Second Interim Report.

John Gray, a consultant from School Services of California, gave an interesting presentation comparing districts in Contra Costa County in terms of spending and revenues. The presentation is at

Gray looked at enrollment growth and decline in the county, which showed that the Liberty Union High School District in Brentwood has grown the most — about 18 percent from 2006 to 2011 — while the Antioch Unified District has lost more than 6.5 percent of its students during the same time period. Mt. Diablo’s student population has dropped about 2.5 percent, which means its state funding is also declining. If the district’s student population falls below 30,000 students, it will have to set aside 3 percent of its budget in reserve, instead of the 2 percent it now sets aside. The district’s current enrollment is around 32,000 students.

Gray also showed the difference in state per-student funding in Contra Costa districts, with Acalanes at the top of the heap with about $7,319 per student and Moraga at the bottom at $6,050 per student in 2010-11. Mt. Diablo ranked 10th with $6,346 per pupil. Gray said that high school districts receive more per student than unified districts, which receive more per student than elementary districts.

But the total amount of money each district has to spend varies even more, due to parcel taxes, education foundations and large parent donations in the wealthier areas of the county. The Orinda district topped this list, with a whopping $4,111 per student in “other local and prior-year revenue” per student n 2010-11, while Mt. Diablo had the smallest amount, with $408.43 per student.

In comparing teachers and other certificated employees who are not managers, Acalanes spent the most on salaries per student, with $4,387, while John Swett paid the least, at $3,035. Mt. Diablo ranked ninth in this category, at $3,534.

When looking at school and district administrator salaries, Canyon spent the most — at $1,040 per student — and Brentwood spent the least, or $381 per student. Mt. Diablo ranked 16th in this category, at $412 per student, in part because it is such a large district. Canyon spends more because it only has about 66 students.

Due to the fluctuating state budget, most districts statewide have accumulated large reserve funds, Gray said. This is because they have been bracing themselves for cuts that haven’t materialized thanks to the passage of Proposition 30.

Canyon has the highest reserve per student, at $6,496, while Liberty has set aside the least amount per student, at $1,060 in 2010-11, Gray said. Mt. Diablo ranked ninth in this category, with a set-aside of $1,795 per student.

All districts must submit their budgets to the County Office of Education this month, certifying whether or not they believe they will be able to pay all their bills in the next three years. When Mt. Diablo prepared its last budget, it projected that it would need to make cuts or raise more revenues in order to meet its financial obligations.

The board reviewed the budget in detail Monday and approved a “positive” certification, after CFO Bryan Richards told trustees the district will be able to pay its bills through the next three years:

The board on Monday also heard dozens of recommendations for spending cuts in special education during a FCMAT special education report presentation:

The district’s Budget Advisory Committee expects to review the budget in more detail at 5 p.m. Wednesday:

Do you think the district should make budget cuts to reduce its deficit-spending?

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7 Responses to “County school districts compared in budget presentation to Mt. Diablo school board”

  1. Jim Says:

    Theresa — In reporting these funding differentials, it is important to explain the difference between a high school district (e.g. Acalanes) and an elementary/middle school district (e.g. Moraga). It is generally acknowledged — except perhaps at MDUSD during the CVCHS funding scandal — that educating high school students costs more on a per student basis than educating students in the lower grades. Facilities, equipment and salaries for teachers with more specialized backgrounds all tend to cost more in high schools. So, under almost any funding arrangement, a district with a younger or blended population is going to get funded at a lower overall per student rate than a district serving only high school students.

  2. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Jim, Yes, that was inserted into the published version of the story, so I am inserting it into this blog post. Gray did make the point that the state believes it costs more to run a high school, in part because teachers are only paid to teach five periods, but there are six periods in the day. So, even Gray indirectly affirmed the idea that the district should spend more on its high schools than on its elementary schools.

  3. vindex Says:

    Maybe I’m missing it, but I’m not seeing the percentage of the budgets of any of the districts that are held in reserve. Legally mandated is 3% and a percentage would be more helpful than a per student. Does the district have a 10% (3 times required), 20% (borderline hoarding) or at 30% (hoarding)? What does WC or Lafayette or Moraga hold and why? Does this include Fund 17? Numbers can be spun, and more transparent numbers would be helpful to the board and public. This is a good start, but not as helpful as I would have hoped.

  4. g Says:

    Trying to actually decipher the Interim Budget a couple of things stood out.

    1) K-12 students are supplementing Adult Ed to the tune of about $3million.

    2) The kids (IF the report is true) have an attendance average of about 95%. But they’re lucky if their assigned teacher is there 89% of the time.

    3) The non-descript word ‘Other’ is used 828 times.

  5. Teacher Says:

    G clearly has too much time on his hands!

  6. g Says:

    Just doing what a good board SHOULD be doing if they plan to wisely spend the $300+million loose money coming their way.

    The real “bottom line” frequently comes in the middle of the document.

    Actually READ those reports, SCAN those fiscal warrant reports. LOOK for trouble before it comes back to bite you!

    Then, go look at the $billion+ in bond debt!

  7. Theresa Harrington Says:

    For anyone interested, I have uploaded videos shot at the Contra Costa County Board of Ed. meeting about the superintendent’s report on Common Core implementation and the board’s 4-1 vote on the Clayton Valley Charter HS proposed expansion to CSU East Bay, Concord, at

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