Today the Legislature passed the FY 2015-16 Budget Act and a handful of accompanying trailer bills in order to meet the June 15 constitutional deadline. Negotiations continue between the Governor and the Legislature to finalize a deal on the budget. Today, the Legislature voted to approve the main budget bill, AB 93, as well as four trailer bills to implement various provisions of the budget. Further action will be required for the Legislature to approve additional budget legislation, including the education trailer bill.
AB 93 recognizes revenue assumptions that are $3.1 billion higher than the Governor’s May Revision estimate and it includes $117.5 billion in General Fund spending for 2015-16. The Legislature’s proposed additional spending would fund programs such as child care, health care, and higher education. AB 93 and the four accompanying trailer bills passed today will now go to the Governor for his consideration. The Governor has the authority to blue pencil (i.e. line-item veto) dollar amounts in the budget, and we expect he will use that authority on some of the spending authorizations approved by the Legislature.
Below is a selection of some of the key education and school facilities issues included in the budget as adopted by the Legislature. We await additional information that will become available with the passage of trailer bills to implement the policy changes included in AB 93.
Proposition 39 – Provides $313.4 million for K-12 grants, to be allocated on a per-ADA basis.
Emergency Repair Program – Provides $273.4 million in one-time Proposition 98 General Fund resources to retire the state’s facilities funding obligation under the terms of the Williams settlement.
Office of Public School Construction Staffing – Decreases Office of Public School Construction staff by 37 positions, some of which are currently filled. The reductions equate to a savings of $4.47 million. This is being done to “align administrative resources with the expected workload” for the School Facility Program.
One-Time Funds – Provides $3.3 billion in one-time and settle-up Proposition 98 funds to pay off the K-12 mandates backlog. Funding will be allocated on a per-ADA basis and is available for discretionary purposes such as implementation of Common Core standards (professional development, teacher training, purchase of instructional materials and technology infrastructure) or for other one-time purposes, such as maintenance and deferred maintenance.
Technology Infrastructure – Includes $50 million in one-time Proposition 98 funds to support internet connectivity and infrastructure for schools. The funds will be allocated through the Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grant (BIIG) program administered by the K-12 High Speed Network. Any remaining funds available after all reasonable solutions have been funded through the BIIG program may be used to fund under-connected sites upon approval of the Department of Finance.
Charter School Facility Grant Program – Increases funding by $20 million to reflect the estimated cost of meeting a lower enrollment threshold to qualify.
Career Technical Education Incentive Grant Program – Provides one-time Proposition 98 funding in the amounts of $400 million (2015-16), $300 million (2016-17), and $200 million (2017-18) through competitive grants in three sizes based on ADA. The program includes higher weighting of applicants who do not have a CTE program, serve low-income, English-learner, or foster youth students, have a high drop-out rate, or are located in areas with high unemployment rates.
Additional Action Needed
The following items were contemplated during budget negotiations but have not yet been acted upon by the full Legislature:
Routine Restricted Maintenance Account – Both houses of the Legislature approved a conceptual phase-in return of the 3% required set-aside for Routine Restricted Maintenance (RRM), which was originally scheduled to return in FY 2015-16. The phase-in requires districts participating in the School Facility Program (SFP) to set aside 2% of their annual General Fund budget for RRM by 2017-18 and 3% by 2020-21. The language permits RRM funds to be used for drought-related purposes. We anticipate this change to be reflected in trailer bill language that will be considered by the Legislature at a future date; more information to come.
Military Base Schools – In his May Revision, the Governor proposed to explore ways to help military base schools fund the local match requirement for the Federal Department of Defense school facility grant program for public military base schools, using a possible low-interest loan program. At this time it does not appear that the budget includes any provisions to address this issue, but we will continue to review trailer bill language as it becomes available.
Water and Climate Change – We are awaiting further information the actions of the Legislature regarding funds for drought response, water conservation, and climate change.
~ Rebekah Cearley