The Orange County Department of Education is finalizing a budget for the next fiscal year that outlines $222.7 million in spending.
In a brief presentation to the Orange County Board of Education on June 6, OCDE Associate Superintendent Renee Hendrick said the state’s current spending plan calls for county offices of education to receive modest cost-of-living increases of 2.71 percent for the year that starts July 1. However, OCDE’s base revenue is expected to remain flat based on state aid and property tax formulas that divert additional funding to the county’s Juvenile Court program.
Although most traditional school districts are anticipating cost-of-living increases of 3 percent for 2018-19, Hendrick said their revenues are also starting to flatten out as a result of triggers built into Proposition 98, which sets minimum spending levels for California’s public schools.
“Though we’ve seen great growth in the last few years, we’re in that plateau now of what we’re going to receive,” she said.
Hendrick said OCDE has seen a healthy increase in property tax revenue in recent years, but much of it has been offset by declining enrollment within the department’s alternative education program, or ACCESS.
Since 2010, the number of students served by ACCESS schools has fallen from about 10,000 to the current rate of 3,594, resulting in a corresponding drop in funding. A number of factors have contributed to the decline, including changes to the juvenile justice system and the state’s funding model for public schools.
To keep staffing in alignment with enrollment, OCDE offered a retirement incentive to eligible employees this year and is finalizing plans to restructure ACCESS sites into larger, regionalized schools, Hendrick said. The department is also developing educational partnerships with local districts designed to better meet student needs, increase enrollment and promote long-term sustainability.
Serving a county of 500,000 public school students and 27 school districts, OCDE offers support, professional development and specialized student programs through an array of coordinated divisions and departments. These include Administrative Services, Alternative Education, Business Services, Career and Technical Education, Information Technology, Instructional Services, Legal Services, Community and Student Support Services and Special Education.
OCDE and other county offices have also taken on additional responsibilities as a result of recent changes to California’s accountability system. School districts, for example, are required to draft Local Control and Accountability Plans — or LCAPs — that must be approved by county offices before they’re submitted to the state. Similarly, the California School Dashboard tracks a number of performance metrics that can prompt assistance from county offices.
Meanwhile, with a new state budget due on July 1, California’s economy continues to roar, turning a $27 billion deficit inherited by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011 into a $6 billion surplus.
In May, Brown issued his final budget proposal, allocating $137.6 billion in general fund expenditures, including $78.4 billion for K-12 schools and community colleges. That plan forecast an $8.8 billion surplus for next year, or about $3 billion more than what was projected in January. Much of that $3 billion, believed to be a bump in personal income tax revenue, has been earmarked for infrastructure upgrades, mental health costs and homelessness initiatives.
“While nearby states are also booming, California stands out for the diversity and sheer size of its economy,” Hendrick told board members.
The Orange County Board of Education is expected to vote on OCDE’s 2018-19 budget at its June 20 meeting.