School district receives positive certification first interim report, budget overview

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By Katharine Simpson
Express Correspondent

Members of the Winters Joint Unified School Board approved the 2020/21 First Interim Report & Standards and Criteria Report and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) Budget Overview for Parents at a Special School Board meeting held on Thursday, Dec. 10. 

The report reflects the district’s adherence to the budget during the period from July 1 until October 31 and received a positive certification. In addition to ensuring that the district can meet its financial obligations for the current fiscal year, a positive certification indicates that the district will also be able to meet financial obligations for two upcoming fiscal years. 

Superintendent Diana Jiménez described the report as a “mile-marker” and “snapshot” of the district’s overall financial health at a given time. Like Jiménez , Trustee and Board President Carrie Green said that the report looks at the budget from the “30,000 foot level.” 

“The budget is really fluid. You have to be flexible,” said Green. “There’s going to be shifts and changes, especially this year.” 

These “mile-markers” are important as the school district adjusts to changes in the budget throughout the year. This year for example, the district’s federal revenue increased by $26,8221 this year due to funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), while the state revenue decreased.

Funding from the CARES act allowed Winters JUSD to cover pandemic related expenses including, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), food services, professional development for teachers as they adjusted to distance learning, and additional support for students.

“I think the big takeaway for our current fiscal year is how the adoption of the CARES act was so critical in helping us stay solvent,” Green said.

The report was originally scheduled for Dec. 17, and would have been available Dec. 11. Due to the COVID pandemic, an additional budget report, the LCFF Budget Overview for Parents was required in December and had to be approved sooner than the Dec. 17 meeting. The Second Interim report, reflecting the budget from Oct. 31 to Jan 31., will be presented and approved in March 2021. 

With the uncertainty about when students will return to in-person instruction, the budget will likely remain in flux as expenses related to distance learning will persist into the future.

“The school districts are very much right now on the same par as the rest of the country, just kind of waiting and seeing,” said Jiménez.

The system will evaluate the possibility of budget relief measures made closer by the stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump this week. The bill commits $54.9 billion to K-12 schools, about $6.8 billion of which will be awarded to California school districts and charter schools.

Green also said that Governor Gavin Newsom will provide school districts with more information about potential additional state funding at a conference on Jan. 15. The budget process for the 2022/23 school year will also begin in January or February Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) process will be reinstated, after its suspension this year due to the pandemic.

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