Castaic school district projecting to be OK despite decline in funding 

Castaic Union School District Building. Dan Watson/The Signal
Castaic Union School District Building. Dan Watson/The Signal

As school districts across the state continue to finalize their budgets for the upcoming school year, Castaic Union School District officials are confident that they will have no issues over the next three years. 

That positivity comes despite an expected drop in both state and federal funding, due partly to the end of one-time COVID funding and a projected decline in Proposition 98 funding, according to Irene Boden, assistant superintendent of business and administrative services. 

In a presentation delivered to the governing board last week, Boden said the district is projected to have about $7.6 million in its ending fund balance at the end of the current school year, with that number dropping to about $4.8 million after the 2024-25 school year. 

Over the following two years, that balance is projected to be about $3.9 million in 2025-26 before jumping back up to approximately $5.1 million in 2026-27. 

Boden said the district will have no trouble meeting its mandated 5% reserve for economic uncertainties in each of the following three years. 

The biggest reason for the projected drop in funds in the 2025-26 school year is movement from state funding to general funding for projects that are already in place, Boden said. 

“This is what we will probably be seeing moving forward as we get into what people call the ‘new normal,’” Boden said, adding that the district will continue to monitor funding so that students and teachers can have the resources they need. 

A large portion of the budget is funded through the local control funding formula, which is based on both the local control and accountability plan and the district’s average daily attendance. 

Using the lowest projections from the demographics report received earlier this year, Boden said the district should expect enrollment to increase from 1,938 this year to 2,074 in 2026-27, while ADA is expected to be at 93%. For this year, funded ADA was 1,842. 

Also eating into the district’s general fund expenditures, Boden said, is the projected cost-of-living adjustment being at 1.07% for next year, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s May Revise, a steep drop from its current 8.22%. 

That means the district is only receiving about 1% in additional funding to offset inflation, while the Consumer Price Index for 2024-25 is projected to be at 3.1%, Boden said. 

The May Revise also had a projected steep decline in Proposition 98 funding, due largely to an overfunding over the past two years to the tune of $8.8 billion statewide.  

Boden said that was because of the tax deadline being pushed back and the state not knowing exactly how much it would be receiving in taxes when budgets were being adopted last June. 

The district is also adding two full-time art teachers, new shade structures for outdoor play areas and technology upgrades throughout the district, Boden said. She said she is assuming that the district’s transportation department will be fully staffed in the projections. 

Filling that department for next year has proven to be difficult, but Boden said two new drivers have been hired, leaving only one more driver and a driver trainer needed to fill it out. 

Superintendent Bob Brauneisen said that in talking to other superintendents, other school districts are having the same trouble with getting enough funding, but the good news for Castaic is that the enrollment projections are looking good while other districts are projecting lower enrollment numbers. 

“A lot of districts are experiencing low enrollment, and the one good thing about us is that our enrollment’s finally increasing,” Brauneisen said. “But they don’t compare it to being as terrible as it was in 2008, where it took years to bounce back from, but they’re sharing with all the superintendents and CEOs to tighten their belts because it’s going to be a bumpy ride for a couple of years.” 

The governing board is expected to adopt the 2024-25 budget at its meeting next week. 

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