Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, June 4 @ 4:28 p.m.

Del Norte Unified Officials Say They're Expecting A Revenue Decrease Due To Declining Enrollment, Attendance

Del Norte Unified School District officials warned trustees to brace for declining revenues this fiscal year. | Screenshot

Four years of declining enrollment is expected to offset any benefits a projected 1.07 percent cost of living adjustment will bring to Del Norte County schools next fiscal year.

Del Norte Unified School District is expected to receive about $14.2 million less in local, state and federal dollars than it did in the 2023-24 fiscal year. This includes a decrease of about $600,000 in local control funding formula dollars, Assistant Superintendent of Business Jeff Napier told trustees on Tuesday.

Napier said he also expected the district’s unrestricted ending fund balance to decrease by $3.6 million in 2024-25 and by $6 million in 2025-26. That fund balance will be at a negative in 2026-27. That fund balance is “basically our reserves,” he said.

Meanwhile, DNUSD still has about 89 vacant positions. It’s less than the 211 it had about a month ago, Superintendent Jeff Harris said. But trustees still have to figure out whether more should be eliminated, if they should adjust class sizes and if they should reinstate combination classes, he said.

“If we don’t change the way we’re doing business, if we don’t look at programs, if we don’t look at class sizes, combos, that sort of thing, by 2026-27 we will be negative,” Harris said.

The DNUSD Board of Trustees, which also operates as the Board of Education for the county, is expected to hold a public hearing focusing on the budget Thursday. The district’s 2024-25 Local Control and Accountability Plan will also be up for a public hearing on Thursday.

Trustees are also expected to vote on a resolution Thursday setting the language for a proposed general obligation bond measure that will go before Del Norte County voters in November.

If approved, DNUSD will be authorized to issue and sell bonds up to $59 million to fix leaky roofs, replace old HVAC systems, replace fire alarms and sprinkler systems and make other needed improvements.

The presentation Napier and Director of Fiscal Services Greg Bowen gave Tuesday comes nearly a month after California Gov. Gavin Newsom came out with his revised budget proposal. According to CalMatters, Newsom’s plan addresses an estimated $56 billion deficit over two fiscal years and proposes more than $30 billion in ongoing and one-time spending cuts.

The state legislature faces a June 15 deadline to approve a balanced budget. However, Napier said he expects it to be vague.

“… and then they have trailer bills,” Napier said. “Even by Aug. 15, we may not have all the trailer bill language. So we may be looking at the first interim before we know what the budget will be.”

The DNUSD Board is expected to approve a budget by June 30 based on the best information Napier and Bowen have, Harris pointed out. The district will revise that budget by Aug. 15 and then submit an update of its financial status as of Oct. 31 to the California Department of Education by Dec. 15.

In his presentation, Napier included a report from California County Superintendents on Newsom’s revised budget plan. While Newsom’s proposed budget calls for a 1.07 percent cost of living increase, it’s unclear at this point whether the legislature will fund that COLA.

Meanwhile, DNUSD has been in declining enrollment since 2021, Napier said. This is due to roughly a decade of declining birthrates and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fewer parents are choosing to enroll their transitional kindergartners and kindergartners into public school, Napier said. Instead children are attending local charter schools or are being homeschooled, he said.

School funding is based on average daily attendance (ADA), Napier said. And after being held harmless during COVID when DNUSD’s ADA was zero, the state allowed districts to base their funding on their average ADA from the previous three years, Napier said. He noted that in 2019-20 DNUSD had 3,700 students. This year, 3,405 students are enrolled in DNUSD schools. In 2026-27 that number will decrease to about 3,000.

“We’re losing students every year,” he said.

In his presentation, Napier noted that a cost of living doesn’t mean an increase in revenue since it’s applied as a per ADA increase.

“The ADA determines the total amount of revenue received,” he stated.

Mazzei went back to the number of vacant positions DNUSD still has. At its April 25 meeting, the Board eliminated 36 vacant classified positions.

“The goal is to get us down to where we’re only budgeting for vacancies for positions we need,” she said Tuesday. “Are we there yet or are we still having to budget for positions we know we’re not going to have?"

Harris discussed special education, which is where a lot of the open positions are at. There are currently 40 vacant positions within special education. To meet the needs of those students, DNUSD is using contracted employees, he said.

Harris said the district would rather hire long-term district employees rather than using contracted employees.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of classroom teachers because the Board took action to reduce combo classes [and] reduce class sizes,” he said. “We’re still seeing the effects of some of these decisions. Those decisions will have to be revisited next year.”

As for special education, Harris said Special Education Director Jennifer Armington is working with teachers and classified staff to figure out “what do we really need versus what do people think we need.”

“We’ll probably see adjustments on those as well,” he said.

Harris added that the district received unprecedented influxes of state and federal money during COVID and it was expected to hire people with those dollars. Now, the Board of Trustees and the district is tasked with figuring out which programs stay and which need to be eliminated.

“This truly is, I think, one of the most measured responses to what I’ve seen going on, which is great,” he said. “It lets us think about what the system will look like for the next five or 10 years. It’s not what some districts did which was put out 100 pink slips earlier this year and decide how many they were going to have to step back on. It’s never a good to play with people’s livelihoods and the Board hasn’t done that.”

The Board of Trustees will hold a closed session meeting at 3:30 p.m. Thursday before transitioning into open session at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Agendas are available at The meeting can be accessed remotely by clicking here.


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