Even though it's only January, officials at local school districts are already preparing budgets for the 2011-12 school year. But what those budgets will actually look like could depend on California voters.

Barstow Unified School District and Silver Valley Unified School District officials are preparing two budgets. One would take effect if voters in June approve a five-year extension of temporary tax increases that were instated in 2009. The other budget would take effect if the tax extension fails.

The tax extension vote is included in Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal that seeks to close California's $25 billion deficit. If voters pass the tax extensions, funding would not be slashed further for K-12 education. State lawmakers still have to decide if the tax extension should appear on the ballot, said Jill Kemock, SVUSD assistant superintendent of business.

If voters reject the tax extension school districts statewide could lose $349 per student in state funding based on attendance. Barstow Unified's funding would be reduced by about $2 million, said Superintendent Susan Levine. Silver Valley's funding would be reduced by $850,000, Kemock said.

Because the Silver Valley this year received $650,000 more in state funding than it had anticipated, Kemock said the district would only lose about $200,000 in funding — a loss the district can absorb — if the tax extension isn't approved. But if the tax extension fails, Barstow Unified's school board would be left with some difficult decisions.

"We would definitely be back with the budget crunch," Levine said. "We would have to go back to our list. The list that we had over the years and start looking at (where to cut). It would be very difficult."

If voters approved the tax extension school districts would only lose $19 per student in state funding. That would result in $114,000 less to BUSD, which the district would do its best to absorb, Levine said. Funding to Silver Valley would be cut by about $46,000. Kemock said SVUSD could absorb that cut.

Brown's budget proposal also calls for eliminating redevelopment agencies, which will provide additional state funding to some school districts. BUSD would receive $40,000. Because Silver Valley is in an unincorporated area and would not receive funding from the elimination of RDAs, Kemock said.

Before the California legislature passed the state's 2010-11 budget last fall, BUSD school board members were wrestling with a deficit of $1.5 million a year for the next three fiscal years. Even though the finalized budget promised an extra $1.5 million in state funding to BUSD, board members still left staff positions vacant and shifted funds to save money.

BUSD's budget has been reduced by $9 million over the last three years, Levine said. Silver Valley is currently being funded at 2005-2006 levels, Kemock said.

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