Castaic school district balancing enrollment projections with budget outlook 

Castaic Union School District Building. Dan Watson/The Signal
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The Castaic Union School District is set to see a modest increase in its enrollment over the next few years, according to a demographics report presented last week, leading district officials to take a closer look at its budget projections. 

The governing board also approved emergency information technology expenses related to a cybersecurity incident that occurred at the beginning of February. 

The demographics report, presented by David Kaitz, vice president of Davis Demographics, shows that the district should expect a 58% increase in enrollment over the next seven years, representing more than 1,110 more students than what the district provided for the report in October. Kaitz added that with approximately 3,325 active or planned housing units planned for development within the district’s boundaries, those numbers could vary depending on how those shake out. 

Many of those developments are slated for 2026-2030, according to the report. Should the projections match what actually happens, Kaitz is projecting the district, which offers transitional kindergarten through eighth grade, to add roughly 200 students over the next three years before the enrollment balloons to more than 3,000 students. 

The Castaic district currently has just under 1,900 students. 

According to Irene Boden, assistant superintendent of administrative and business services, that outlook is not quite as high as previous reports but still represents a sizeable increase that must be reflected in the district’s multi-year projections and local control funding formula. 

“We are still projecting an increase in enrollment for the out years, but less growth than originally projected,” Boden wrote in an email to The Signal. “When the demographic report is approved (as it was at the March 14 meeting), we then adjust our projections in the LCFF calculator and other resources affected by enrollment. This allows us to predict the funding that is needed to educate the students in our district. We also use the enrollment projections and actual enrollment to determine our needs for staffing for the out years, so that we ensure we have the required ratios to meet the needs of our students.” 

The second interim financial report that was approved last week shows the district is expected to have just under $30 million in expenditures at the end of the current school year, with $21.8 million of that coming from the LCFF, which is based on state funding for average daily attendance. 

In the 2024-25 school year, the district is expected to have an LCFF of $22.7 million, followed by $24.4 million the year after. 

Boden said the updated budget projections are contingent on enrollment increasing at the rate that is projected. Next year’s budget is set to be finalized in June, with bargaining unit contracts already built in to the projections.

“This allows us to have a clearer picture moving into the next year’s budget in relation to salary and benefit cost,” Boden wrote. “We then build out the expenses from each budget period.” 

An expense the district has had to recently project for is due to a cybersecurity incident in early February that Superintendent Bob Brauneisen said the district would work to fix. At the time, the district’s schools were without internet access after district officials noticed suspicious activity on their computer network, he said. 

The governing board approved contracts with financial impacts not to exceed $49,000 to combat those threats and further improve the district’s network infrastructure. 

“The district is working with our partners to resolve the cybersecurity incident and strengthen our systems to mitigate the chance of this happening in the future,” Boden wrote. 

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