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SMMUSD Emerges From Midyear Cuts in the Black

District officials say there's no need to talk about layoffs as they prepare to end the year $8 million in the black.

In spite of the midyear state budget cuts triggered this week, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified officials said they expect to wrap up the 2011-12 fiscal year next spring by as much as $8 million in the black.

The Board of Education signed off Thursday night on a "positive certification," assuring the state that based upon its current projections, it will meet its financial obligations through 2013-14.

"I'm certainly pleased that we were able to submit a positive certification, we were all nervous a couple years ago when we had to send in a conditional certification," said . 

School districts rely heavily on state funding. Even with an unusual high proportion of money contributed from the city of Santa Monica and other "local" sources, more than half of SMMUSD revenues flow from Sacramento.

SMMUSD was prepared to see its state funding slashed by $3.3 million this week, but higher-than-expected revenues dealt K-12 school districts across California a slight reprieve. Because the state fell $2.2 billion short of the rosy projections made when the budget passed in June, Gov. Jerry Brown said he would have to pull the trigger on some—but not all—of the cuts called for if revenue forecasts didn't materialize.

As a result, K-12 schools will see a small hit of about $248 million to school bus transportation—a far cry from the $1.5-billion cut schools could have faced. Besides school bus transportation, the state will reduce its funding to schools by $11 per student, $13 less than it what it would be if not for the state's financial crises.

"It turns out the cuts are far less than they would have been," Brown said at a Tuesday press conference.

In total, SMMUSD is about $17 million from where it should be if not for the budget woes, said Board of Education member José Escarce.

"It looks like we're ending up at $5,308 per student for the entire year ... we should be getting $6,632," said the district's chief financial officer, Jan Maez.

That amount is about on par with what the district has received in the past two years, and slightly higher than what it received in 2009-10, but far below the amounts allocated in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

The SMMUSD's transportation budget, devoted to busing students to and from school, will take a $400,000 hit.

The school board will continue assessing its financial picture throughout the year. If nothing else changes, by the end of the 2013 it will have a $3.9 million rainy day account for "economic uncertainties," plus $4 million in reserves.

Maez said, "I don't see that as the kind of pressing need that we had two years ago" to talk about teacher and faculty layoffs."

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