Teacher Pay Tops Lucerne Valley USD Expenditure Priorities

The Lucerne Valley USD continues to place teachers as its highest budgetary priority. 
Teacher pay continues to be the top priority for the Lucerne Valley Unified School District when it comes to its annual budget.
Certificated salaries constitute 38%, or $9.1 million, of the Lucerne Valley USD’s $26.6 million in total expenditures for the upcoming academic year, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Olga Fisher who presented the proposed budget for 2024-25 during the Thursday, June 6 meeting of the district’s Board of Trustees.
“Investing in our educators is a crucial aspect of our budget,” said Ms. Fisher. “We firmly believe that exceptional teachers are the backbone of our educational system. To attract and retain top talent, we offer competitive compensation packages and professional development opportunities. By supporting our educators, we create an environment where they can thrive and, in turn, foster a love of learning among our students.”
Employee benefits are 26% ($6.3 million) of the proposed budget while classified salaries total $4 million (17%) and services and operations are $3.1 million (9%). 
“Moreover, we recognize that a well-rounded education extends beyond the classroom walls,” Ms. Fisher said. “Our budget includes provisions for extracurricular activities, sports programs, and cultural enrichment opportunities. These activities play a vital role in nurturing students' social skills, teamwork, and personal growth.”
Referring to the budget proposal as “the financial blueprint that will shape our educational endeavors in the coming year,” Fisher said, “Our foremost priority is to ensure the best possible learning experience for our students. This budget proposal is a result of months of meticulous planning, careful consideration, feedback from various stakeholders and departments, and mainly Lucerne Valley unwavering commitment to educational excellence.”
The Lucerne Valley USD budget is inline with all other districts where majority of the expenditure is in Salaries and Benefits, she added. 
Olga Fisher
Assistant Superintendent of Business
Education Code requires the budget submission by July 1st. This particular requirement serves as a valuable framework that ensures timely and efficient financial planning within the educational system, she said. “By establishing this deadline, the Education Code encourages accountability and transparency in the budgetary process.”
To ascertain budgetary needs, Ms. Fisher and district accountant Lori Herriman have worked with each school site and department to establish a working budget for each entity.
LCFF revenue accounts for 63% of the LVUSD's overall revenue.
Lucerne Valley USD’s biggest revenue comes from the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which takes into account multiple factors: student enrollment, ADA %, and other enrollment.
In terms of federal funding, Lucerne Valley USD currently receives Title I funding for “academic rigger,” Title 2 for “professional development,”  Title 4 for a well rounded education, Title 5 for rural and low income assistance,” Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELOP), which provides funding for afterschool and summer school enrichment programs for transitional kindergarten through sixth grade, and CSI funding, which provides funding to improve student outcomes, Ms. Fisher explained.
Ms. Fisher added that the budget is “a working document – at times it may need to be revised and adjusted” and that the budget as proposed “is best estimated based on the information that I have.” 
She also explained the Fund Balance, which consists of the district’s revolving, restricted funds (mainly federal), an 8% reserve for economic uncertainty, charter school, Lottery money, as well as the Unassigned portion. 
There are a few assumptions in building the 2024-25 budget, Ms. Fisher said. They include:
• The district experienced another year of enrollment growth and therefore Ms. Fisher projects a slight percentage growth for the upcoming year with 90.05% in Average Daily Attendance.
• She assumes that the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) will come in at 1.07%.
• The percent of Lottery funding also had a slight increase.
“In the realm of budgetary planning, it is essential to look beyond the immediate fiscal year and consider the long-term sustainability and growth of our educational institution. This is where multi-year projections come into play. Multi-year projections provide us with a comprehensive view of our financial landscape, allowing us to anticipate future needs, challenges, and opportunities. By analyzing trends, forecasting revenue and expenses, and considering factors such as enrollment fluctuations and legislative changes, we can make informed decisions that support the long-term success of our educational system.”
Ms. Fisher also said that these projections enable the district to develop a strategic financial plan that aligns “with our mission, vision, and educational priorities.” Furthermore, by understanding the financial implications of our decisions over several years the district can allocate resources effectively, prioritize investments, and implement long-term initiatives that will benefit students and the community as a whole.
The Board of Education must certify that it can meet its financial obligations in both the current year and the two succeeding fiscal years.
“With the ending fund balance we plan on making additional COP payment and purchasing two more Smaller Special Education Blue Bird School buses."
The Ending Balance projection is $8,254,186 in 2024-25. 
“The proposed budget for the 2024-25 academic year reflects our shared vision for excellence in education,” Ms. Fisher concluded. “It aims to empower our students, support our educators, and create an engaging learning environment. We believe that by investing wisely in these areas, we are not only preparing our students for a bright future but also laying the foundation for a stronger and more prosperous community.”
Ms. Fisher thanked Lori Herriman and finance expert Tom Cassida for their assistance in developing the LVUSD 2024-25 budget.