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The Carlsbad Unified School District offices. Courtesy photo
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CUSD ends Fiscal Year 2018-19 in the black

CARLSBAD — Thanks to one-time money and strategic budget planning, the Carlsbad Unified School District ended its last fiscal year in the black.

The district saw a surplus of $1.5 million for Fiscal Year 2018-19, Assistant Superintendent Chris Wright said, recapping his presentation to the district’s board of trustees on the budget actuals during their Sept. 18 meeting.

For comparison, the district was short about $2 million to start the FY 2018-19 year, he added. One philosophy, Wright said, was to allow purchases based on a need, rather than a want.

“From a combination of that discipline and the lottery … we got an extra half million dollars from the lottery, which was great,” he explained. “We also got some other revenue from the redevelopment agencies.”

Carlsbad Unified received $425,000 from two lottery sources, $263,000 from redevelopment funds, $175,000 thanks to higher interest rates and $97,000 for special education through Assembly Bill 602. In all, the additional one-time money totals $960,000.

As for the expenditures, Wright said the district withheld spending about $1.5 million in grants and donations, instead focusing on longer-term strategic budgeting plans. Those funds, though, will carry over into Fiscal Year 2019-20, he added.

The district’s total budget is about $123 million, Wright said.

“We finished in the black by $1.5 million, which was fantastic,” he said. “We had about a $2.5 million swing from June to September from when we finally closed the books and saw what we have.”

However, when reading the budget, there is a $4.1 million increase in state revenues for the State Teachers Retirement System and Public Employees’ Retirement System. Wright said the state calculates a number and mandates districts to include it in their budget to show as revenue and an expenditure.

“It’s a wash and you actually don’t see a dime of that money,” he added. “It’s an actuarial accounting entry that you have to show. I don’t like because it messes with your budget a little. It’s not real money. It artificially inflates your revenues and expenditures.”

Looking forward, the district’s General Fund revenues for FY 2019-20 are estimated at $119.5 million with $123.1 million in expenditures. The district is also projecting to cut a $3.4 million deficit next year to just $116,468 by 2021-22, Wright said in a previous interview.

As for the surplus funds from FY 2018-19, Wright said the district has not committed the funds. Instead, the district will return to the board in December with a budget update for the current year and FY 2020-21 and potential direction.

Trustee Ray Pearson asked about the enrollment growth and how the district felt about those numbers, which is at more than 11,000. Wright said the district is continuing to budget flat, and any enrollment increases bolster those financial decisions.

Board president Kathy Rallings said she was “a little” disappointed in the totals from June to September. Pearson, though, said he hopes the state will make it easier for school districts to forecast, which was Rallings’ main concern.

“My concern in this is that when we try to hammer things out we want to see in the LCAP … and we don’t feel we can and we find out we had more money than we thought,” she said of the budget and Local Control and Accountability Plan. “I don’t feel we are being as clean as we can.”