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School district officials explained while the school district's budget is in good shape, there are potential risks down the road. Photo by Samantha Nelson
School district officials explained while the school district's budget is in good shape, there are potential risks down the road. Stock graphic
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Oceanside Unified expects first budget surplus in five years

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside Unified School District’s budget is in the black for the first time since 2017.

During a June 28 meeting, school board trustees approved the district’s $1.5 million-surplus budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which began this month. According to its combined summary of funds, the district expects to bring in $280.9 million and spend $279.4 million next year, leaving the district with an end balance of $1.5 million.

“I’m excited to see that we’re balanced,” said Board President Stacy Begin during a June 17 budget discussion. (Begin was absent for the district’s final approval of the budget on June 28.)

Associate Superintendent Andrea Norman, who oversees the district’s finances, explained that although the budget is in good shape, for now, there are potential risks down the road that could change things.

According to Norman, those risks include a broken economy, inflation, supply chain issues, the volatility of the stock market, the Ukraine-Russia War and a potential resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

As part of its actions to ensure fiscal solvency, the district plans to continue working with the San Diego County Office of Education while closely monitoring its student enrollment and reducing staff as needed. The district also intends to evaluate its health and welfare costs and identify potential reductions in contracted services.

“We are in great condition, but we need to be thoughtful and continue collaborating with the county,” Norman said.

Conservative projections of the two upcoming fiscal years show that the district will begin to overspend by $13.2 million in 2023-2024 and by nearly $14 million in 2024-2025 due to the loss of state and federal COVID-19 funds, declining student enrollment and average daily attendance numbers, and increases in expenditures.

Public schools in California receive funding from the state based on the average daily attendance of their students. This year, the school nearly had a 92% attendance ratio, lower than the usual 94%. The drop in attendance is due primarily to COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.

“When we have fewer students enrolled and coming to school, we have less money coming into our schools,” Norman said.

Each year, the district projects losing approximately 410 students. This year the school district only lost 112 students, which left the district better off than administrators had initially anticipated.

“We make sure to budget conservatively,” Norman said.

Todd Maddison, a parent of a recent El Camino graduate, was also pleased to see a balanced budget for the first time in five years.

Although Maddison said he welcomes the idea of new teaching positions in the district, he questioned if the district could sustain those positions long-term. He also questioned the need for additional raises on top of existing staff’s already scheduled annual raises.

“Instead of giving out every dollar to existing employees… maybe we should think about projected declines in enrollment and do more of the things parents want to have for their kids to help slow that decline,” Maddison said.

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