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Brown's Budget Hinges on Ballot Tax Measure, Leaving Schools in Lurch

O.C.'s top education official gives the state an "F-minus" for a plan that leaves so much to chance.

If California voters don’t pass tax increases this November, Gov. Brown plans to slice billions from public schools, the equivalent of cutting more than three weeks of instruction, he announced Thursday.

But if the $6.9-billion tax hike does pass, local schools will actually get a bit more than they did this year.

Brown outlined the scenarios Thursday, when he officially released his proposed budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year. 

“Education is a lot of where the money is,” Brown said. “If you don’t have the money, that’s where you cut. … We can’t spend what we don’t have.”

But if voters get on board with a temporary half-cent sales tax hike and raising taxes on people who earn $250,000 or more a year, K-12 education won’t experience major cuts.

School officials weren't crazy about their prospects.

To tie a budget to the whims of the state electorate is “absurd,” said Bill Habermehl, superintendent for the Orange County Department of Education

Passing Brown's tax initiative will be “difficult and challenging at best,” he said, especially when 68 percent of voters don't have a child in K-12 education.

By law, school districts have to approve their budgets by June 30. But the state won’t know whether it can count on increased revenues from tax hikes until November. Therefore, Habermehl said he would urg school districts in Orange County to plan for the worst-case scenario.

Translation: By mid-March, school districts would have to notify thousands of teachers across the county that their jobs may not be there in September, Habermehl said. Brown, however, is counting on these teachers, local PTAs and other school employees to rally support for the taxes.

Habermehl's take: “I just think that’s wrong. … The Legislature thinks this is good because they’ll work hard to get the taxes passed. ... How cruel is that?”

If voters approve the tax hikes, the state budget would include:

  • $2.2 billion to reduce inter-year , an IOU that enables schools to spend money they don't yet have
  • Elimination of a that requires students to be 5 years old by Nov. 1 to start school in September
  • An extra $4.7 billion in Prop. 98 guarantees for schools statewide
  • No cost-of-living adjustments

If voters reject the tax increases, Brown said he would have no choice but to cut $4.8 billion for schools. Included in that number would be a $2.2-billion pay-down of deferral payments, so the actual mid-year cuts to schools would be $2.6 billion, which equals more than three weeks of instructional time costs.

“We have so much spending. We have so much money. We have to make the two match,” he said.

“The governor’s budget proposal is just that—a proposal,” said Marcus Walton, spokesman for . “We still have a long way to go to determine whether or not his projections are accurate and whether the Legislature and the voters will agree with his solutions.”

Capo was already anticipating .

“Staff will analyze the budget proposal and bring recommendations to the board as we move forward in the budget process,” Walton said.

seemed to take the news with solemn acceptance.

“The budget also makes it clear that meeting that obligation will require additional tax revenues—both to prevent new cuts and to finally turn the tide after years of devastating reductions to school budgets statewide,” he said in a press release.

Habermehl was more critical. He gives state government an “F-minus” for balancing the budget “on the backs of the children.”

Anon January 09, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Exactly Donna!
shelly January 09, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Capo Parent, People making $250,000 or more have had drastic pay cuts? Maybe but they are still making over $250,000 and are allowed many loop holes. So do you think people who make $75,000 a year and already took pay, benefits and retirement cuts should pay more of their hard earned money? That is how much a teacher makes. We are all responsible for the economic crisis and we all benefit from the taxes we pay and we will all be paying the .5% increase in sales tax. I will vote yes to help education in this crisis. As a Californian it is my state and my responsibility to help. If I don't then I have no one to blame but myself. Public education is worth it.
Pam Sunderman January 09, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Mandatory birth control is about as un-American as anything ever was...
Teacher February 25, 2012 at 05:13 AM
Don't forget to the superintendents pocket. And what about those who don't pay taxes but fill our schools with their children. It is unfortunate that the California School system is only still alive because of good teachers in the classroom.
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