Castaic district’s budget gets OK with full transportation 

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

The Castaic Union School District governing board approved a budget for the 2024-25 school year that includes an operating transportation department that should allow for the same routes to be offered as in previous years. 

The adopted budget calls for $29.3 million in revenues, a roughly 1.1% decrease from this past year, against $32.1 million in expenditures, about 1.4% less than this past year. 

The multi-year projections show the district is expected to have increased enrollment in each of the next three years, going from 1,938 students in 2023-24 up to 2,074 in 2026-27. Board member Fred Malcomb said the district should look into ways to ensure that the projected increases actually come into fruition as families move into the homes being built in the Castaic area. 

Funded average daily attendance is also set to see a spike, which means more funding. The district was at just under 1,840 students per day for this past school year and is expecting to see that rise to just more than 1,969 students per day in 2026-27. 

What’s eating into the district’s budget are a steep decrease in the cost-of-living adjustment and the Consumer Price Index remaining above 3%. 

The COLA was at 8.22% for this past school year but is set to be at 1.07% for the 2024-25 school year. It is not expected to rise by more than 2% in each of the following two years. The CPI is expected to be at 3.1% for this school year before dropping down to below 3% in each of the following two school years. 

While the district’s transportation department is now expected to be fully operational, the expenditures for that are expected to be less than what the district has been paying to contract out those services, according to Irene Boden, assistant superintendent of business services. 

Boden said three drivers have been hired and have start dates, meaning there are four regular bus drivers and three for special education students, who must have an option for home-to-school transportation by law. 

The routes that were offered last year — from Templin Highway to Northlake Hills Elementary and Castaic Middle School, and from Val Verde to Live Oak Elementary and Castaic Middle School — are currently set to be offered again for the upcoming school year. 

“Our hope is that we will be able to provide more home-to-school, but should be able to provide the same amounts as last year’s routes,” Boden wrote in an email. 

Boden credited Arlene Alcaraz, the district’s foreperson, for reaching out to the community to find the needed drivers, as well as a memorandum of understanding that guarantees those workers eight-hour days. 

Board member Laura Pearson asked what those drivers would be doing for the entire day, as the transportation of students would not take the full day. 

Alcaraz said some of that time will be spent driving some of the 16 buses the district owns, as they all need to be driven at least 100 miles per month. Boden added that cleaning buses and other small duties at different sites would help fill up the days. 

There is also the option of helping out other nearby school districts that may be in need of extra drivers for field trips and other events, Boden said, adding that if things were to go really well, it could even be profitable for the district. 

Superintendent Bob Brauneisen threw some water on that idea, saying it would likely be more of a break-even proposition when all is said and done. 

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