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Carlsbad Unified
Prior to the pandemic, the district was tracking to have a surplus, but those projections have been pushed out several years. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad Unified projects budget deficit for next 3 years

CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad Unified School District is in for a bumpy financial ride for the next three years thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Assistant Superintendent Eric Dill reported to the board of trustees during its June 9 meeting that the district is projecting an $8.3 million deficit for the fiscal year 2021-22.

Despite the deficit, the district had a General Fund surplus of $4.9 million from last year due to Assembly Bill 86 and other federal funds as well. Those are one-time funds and must be spent this year, Dill said.

“The bulk of that is state dollars that were part of the Expanded Learning Opportunities Grant,” Dill said of AB 86. “That’s just over $6 million we’re receiving. It really was starting with summer school and the next school year to provide opportunities for students.”

Dill and the CUSD staff also projected deficits for FY 2022-23 at about $2.5 million and $120,000 in 23-24. As for this year, though, CUSD won’t have its final budget ready until the state legislature passes its budget, which allocates much of the district’s funding.

Prior to the pandemic, the district was tracking to have a surplus, but now those projections have been pushed out several years while the economy recovers. Additionally, decreases in federal funds are pegged at $9.4 million and state revenue is reducing by $4.6 million, according to Dill’s presentation, which helps explain the current financial state.

However, there was a boost for revenues as property taxes increased and help with the Local Control Funding Formula. In total, Dill said there was a 1.5% increase, or more than $1.4 million, based on the 2020 calendar year.

As for the General Fund, the district is estimating a budget for revenue of $131.5 million for this year, $129.3 million for 2022-23 and $133.3 million for 2023-24. Expenditures come in much higher, although Dill said despite the appearance the district is in relatively decent shape.

“If not for COVID, it would be a relatively normal budget,” Dill said. “We’re in a completely different place than we were a year ago. You see climbing fund balances through the year and as additional revenue came in from state and federal governments, that filled the holes.”

As for future board meetings, the California Department of Public Health is lifting many of its COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration will still require masks on school grounds.

The public will be allowed to attend in-person board meetings starting July 21.

Employees will need to be separated by six feet and required to wear facial coverings unless in a room with all fully vaccinated people, according to Churchill. Trustees are not employees, per Cal/OSHA, therefore they can be unmasked during meetings, even with the public in attendance, as long as there are six feet of distance.

Also, the board approved changing public comment back to three minutes per speaker and discontinuing comments over Zoom, although a telephonic option will be available in the coming months.