School boards to hold organizational meetings 

The William S. Hart Union High School District office
The William S. Hart Union High School District office
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Hart district expected to approve first interim financial report 

 Local school boards in the Santa Clarita Valley will be holding their annual organizational meetings this week to elect the new board officers for each respective school district. 

The Newhall and Saugus Union school districts will be holding their meetings on Tuesday while the William S. Hart Union High School District and the Sulphur Springs Union School District will be holding theirs on Wednesday. 

The Castaic Union School District was scheduled to hold its organizational meeting on Monday. 

Along with electing new presidents and other board positions, each school board is also scheduled to approve its meeting schedule for the next calendar year and elect representatives to various committees. 

In other governing board news, the Hart district board is scheduled to vote on certifying its first interim financial report, with a recommendation to certify “with qualified certification based on current projections that the district may not meet its financial obligations for the current fiscal year or one of the two subsequent fiscal years per Education Code 42131.” 

A “positive” certification would mean that the district is expected to meet its financial obligations for the current school year and the two subsequent years. The recommended “qualified” certification by district staff would indicate that the district does not expect to meet its financial obligations during that time period. 

According to the agenda, the Los Angeles County Office of Education is directing school districts to expect the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for the 2024-25 school year to be significantly reduced. Rather than the expected 3.94%, the agenda indicates that the COLA could be reduced to 3% or as little as 1%. 

Those reductions would have a significant impact on the district’s revenue. 

Should the COLA be 2.5% or higher, the expected reduction in revenue for the district would be just more than $7.04 million, according to the agenda. Should it be 2%, the expected reduction in revenue would be greater than $9.5 million, and if it is 1%, the expected reduction in revenue would be nearly $14.5 million, per the agenda. 

Funding could also take a hit with average daily attendance slipping. The first interim report shows that the projected ADA for the district in 2023-24 is 19,612. That number is expected to drop by nearly 600 for the 2024-25 school year and over 1,000 the following school year. 

According to Ralph Peschek, the Hart district’s assistant superintendent of business services, the district lost approximately $7 million in funding since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic due to a 3% decline in attendance, he said in October. Peschek also said at the time that the district receives about $12,500 per student. 

In a phone interview with The Signal on Monday, Peschek said that updated enrollment and ADA numbers are moving in a “positive” direction for this year, but that they are still expected to decline in the next two years. The district recently switched from a five-year projection model, which was used for over a decade, to one that looks at a three-year average, Peschek said, which should help to be more reflective of where the district is at today. 

The new projection model should also help to improve funding, Peschek said. 

“We anticipate that the work that staff proactively reviewed with the board in October, and continues to work on, will move the district back to a ‘positive’ certification at budget adoption in June 2024,” the agenda reads. 

The Hart district is also scheduled to vote on approving a scholarship from the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation that would see $193,000 in scholarships be awarded to college-bound students in June. Each of the seven comprehensive high schools in the district would see $26,000 in scholarship money be awarded to students, according to the agenda. 

“The directors join me in extending our best wishes for the continuing success of the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation Scholarships in enabling Santa Clarita youth to pursue higher education,” reads a letter from Natasha Hunt, president of the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation, to Mike Kuhlman, superintendent of the Hart district. 

The Hart district governing board meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the district’s office, located at 21380 Centre Pointe Parkway. 

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