Merced City Schools District Board says budget picture is improving

While short on specifics, Merced City School District Board of Education members heard encouraging words about upcoming state funding and some of the requirements attached to it.

At their hourlong meeting Tuesday night at Cruickshank Middle School, Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for administrative services, said he attended a recent workshop on school funding in Sacramento.

At that session, administrators were promised greater allotments in future years to restore districts to prerecession levels, Spicer said.

Superintendent RoseMary Parga Duran said the funding picture from the state is very optimistic, and the Merced district is going to get more than officials thought they would.

Board President Darrell Cherf said it appears the district will be getting back money it has been owed by the state. These funds were called deferrals and amounted to several million dollars a year.

Board member Gene Stamm said local educators will have to wait until May when revised allocations are announced by the governor’s office, but the funding picture for the district looks good at this point.

Spicer called attention to the district’s “transparent budgeting process,” which has been in place several years. Parents, staff members, businesspeople and members of the community are invited to attend a series of budget workshops.

The first is from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Cruickshank Middle School and will be followed by another session a week later at Tenaya Middle School. A Feb. 19 session likely will be the first meeting of the District Community Oversight Committee, a group similar to the Citizens Advisory Committee from years ago.

The oversight committee is part of the Local Control Accountability Plan the state wants local school districts to adopt. The local committee is expected to have a bigger role under new state funding than originally expected, Spicer said.

Parga Duran said the local district has always had that budget transparency, but now it’s a state requirement. She’s unsure how many people will take part in the four Wednesday budget sessions at area middle schools.

Board member Lorraine Walsh said she wants the district’s transparent budget process to continue and urged community members to get involved, telling educators what’s important and how state funds should be spent.

Cherf said the district is looking for people to be on the oversight committee.

Pretty much anyone with a vested interest in education, including community residents and business people, can be part of the committee. Cherf expects committee members to have more of a role in deciding how money is to be spent on education.

Spicer expects the committee meetings to take place at least through March 11, when the district must submit its second interim budget report to the Merced County Office of Education and then the state.