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BUSD Budget Focus Group

Purpose of the BUSD Budget Focus Group

The Brentwood Union School District established a Budget Focus Group in May of 2017.  The committee is made up of representative staff members and parents.  The goal of the group is to study both the short and long-term budget challenges and make recommendations for the Board of Education to consider. 

Budget Focus Group Meeting 12/12/17

The Budget Focus Group met on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.  Dana Eaton, Superintendent welcomed everyone and thanked them for their participation.  He reviewed the agenda and asked everyone to introduce themselves.


Members Present:  Dana Eaton, Brenda Ambuehl, Bob Brown, Gayle Crockett, Lynn Groshong, Brian Jones, Blythe Lind, Erica Pantle, Naomi Phillips, Carlos Sanabria, Karen Sickenberger, Joni Smith, Janna Stonebarger, April VanBuskirk-Rader, Emperatris Vega, Mike Wood, Robin Schmitt and Roxane Jablonski-Liu.


Dana Eaton shared that the information related to the meeting, including presentations, is posted on the district website.  Also in the packet of materials is a copy of the financial update presentation, as well as, the sample letter to representatives and addresses for local politicians.


He also shared three articles about school district budgets in Alameda and Contra Costa County that had been in the news this past week.


State and District Budget Overview:  Robin Schmitt, CBO provided the group with an update on the 2017-18 district budget and a short review of where district funding comes from.   

  • BUSD is funded 472 of 492 school districts
  • LCFF base funding is equal for all district
  • The unduplicated count in California averages 60%; in BUSD it equals 30%
  • Pension shortfalls for both PERS/STRS require nearly $1 million additional contribution each year. 
    • Employer contributions for STRS has gone from 8.25% to 19.1%
    • Employer contributions for PERS has gone from 11.4% to 24.9%
  • 69% of district budget is salary; this number is even higher when you include all of the employer costs. 
  • Step and Column costs are approximately $770,000 annually.
  • Special Education costs continue to rise dramatically.
    • Special Education is federally funded at 16% of cost; this is well below the 40% target
    • Districts are required to serve students and must make up the difference
    • Three year average Special Education increase has been $1.6 million in BUSD
  • Measure B funds cannot be used for anything other than facility improvement, modernization, and new construction.
  • Things that can change = Revenue, enrollment, state revenue, and expenditures.
  • Enrollment growth projected at 50 additional students each year has been built in to the multi-year projection.
  • Unrestricted Budget – a review of the numbers from June to current time were presented.
  • Restricted Budget – a review of the numbers from June to current time were presented.
  • Robin provided an explanation related to assumptions, multi-year projection, and ending balance.  As previously discussed the district needs to cut $2.2 million in 18-19.

Group Activity:  The group participated in a forced ranking activity.  Each person was given 13 topics and was asked to rank them 1-13 (1 meaning to reduce first and 13 to reduce last).    It was noted that the priorities vary by as many who had input.  All reduction choices are difficult and cause discomfort.  Budget cuts put student achievement at risk. 

  • We are hopeful that the growth currently being discussed at the state level will improve funding for schools; thus, we are cautiously optimistic that we may not need to cut an entire $2.2 million.  It is also important to note that the continued teacher shortage could impact future staffing and budget.

The next meeting will be Monday, January 22, 2018 at 3:30pm


The meeting was adjourned at 5:00pm.

Budget Focus Group Meeting 9/19/17

The Budget Focus Group met for the second time on Tuesday, September 19, 2017.  Dana Eaton, Superintendent reviewed the agenda,  welcomed everyone and thanked them for their participation.  He asked everyone to introduce themselves.

Members Present:  Dana Eaton, Mike Wood, Brian Jones, Robin Schmitt, Janna Stonebarger, Lynette Kinnaird, Lou Flores, Emperatris Vega, Karen Sickenberger, Lynn Groshong, Naomi Phillips, Bob Brown, April Van Buskirk-Rader, Brenda Ambuehl , Joni Smith, Erica Pantle, Michael Bowen, Heather Jeffrey, Roxane Jablonski-Liu and Gayle Crockett.

Overview, Purpose and Review of Meeting Norms:  Dana Eaton provided an overview and purpose of the meeting including a review of the meeting norms as noted on the agenda.  It was noted that in the interest of transparency the notes and presentation items will be posted on the district website.

Review of Meeting Notes:  Dana Eaton asked the group to review the meeting notes from the May 30, 2017 meeting.

State and District Budget Overview:  Robin Schmitt, CBO provided the group a presentation with an update on the 2017-18 district budget.   Highlights included:

  • Notes from the Unaudited Actual presentation recently shared with the Board:
    • Changes in the unrestricted revenue $301,429
    • Changes in the restricted revenue $729,448
    • Changes in the unrestricted expenditures $305,474
    • Changes in the restricted expenditures $972,494
  • The recent salary settlement of 1 ½% ($900,000) with all employee groups was noted.  The retroactive amount was paid in the 17-18 fiscal year for 16-17.  The salary adjustment is ongoing so the budget has been adjusted accordingly.
  • The 1% negotiated settlement for 18-19 have been built into the district budget in the out years.
  • The budget is built on an assumption of a 50 student gain each year over the next three years.
  • Future staffing and benefit assumptions have been included in the budget.
  • Increases in costs due to students with exceptional needs have been included.
  • Changes to the budget due to adjustments made at the state level.
  • LCFF implementation has been accounted for.
  • District enrollment is currently at 9053 (9/11/17), compared to 8941 last year at this same time.  In addition, the district has another 104 students in our preschool program and 24 students enrolled in NPS or County programs.
  • The district continues to see a negative roll up or declining enrollment pattern as our 8th grade class is approximately 300 students larger than our incoming kinder group.  However, the district has been experiencing growth which makes up this difference plus additional students.
  • Revenue assumptions included in the budget are as follows:
    • Additional 50 students (ADA) per year
    • STRS and PERS increases have been estimated
    • Certificated and Classified step and column costs
    • Increases in Special Education costs
    • Increase in staff due to student growth
    • 17-18 budget was reduced by $2.267 million
    • The budget cut target for 2018-19 is currently $2.2 million
    • Potential variables – state revenue adjustments as necessary
    • Enrollment/ADA are monitored very closely
    • Watch the one time funds received
    • Monitor all expenditures
    • The district continues in a deficit spending pattern over the next two years
    • Ending balance review:
      • 16-17 $12,556,141
      • 17-18 $8,794,071
      • 18-19 $7,274,481
      • 19-20 $5,944,447
  • It was noted that the Board recently joined a Funding Coalition (an advocacy group) to advocate for adjustments in the state funding problem.


    Group Activity:  The group participated in an activity to identify potential budget cuts, while noting items that they consider “untouchable”.  Each group was given a list of budget reductions and cuts made in previous years. The lists created by the groups were not exhaustive and no prioritizations were made.  The lists generated by each group are listed here.

Reflection on Process:  Frustrating; hard to know where there are inefficiencies; liked having different perspectives in the conversation; very difficult and hard to identify reductions; many similar or consistent values; analysis of efficiencies (lights/temperature, etc); 88% of BUSD Budget is people; district is not excessive.  All of our programs/people are in place for a reason; unfortunately we have to look at people; fine balance between reducing legal fees and services and still maintaining safety at sites; Parcel Tax for future revenue; confidence that we have identified all of the “low hanging” fruit before cutting people.  Can we spread out the pain of the cuts; have we shared information with parents related to our situation; direct communication to parents; noted that many parents don’t respond until the situation affects them; include district budget information at Parent Club meetings; LCFF needs to be corrected for districts like ours; need parent uprising to legislators; develop a “Now What” document to provide talking points for advocacy.


Action Steps:

  • Advocacy information related to LCFF and challenges (provide contacts)
  • Review lists – bring group back together with ideas and costs (probably in December date TBD)
  • Share progress of meeting and ideas shared on website to allow for transparency.

Budget Focus Group Meeting 5/30/17

The Budget Focus Group met for the first time on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. 

  • Superintendent Dana Eaton welcomed the members of Budget Focus Group
  • Superintendent Dana Eaton shared the purpose of the group.
    • The goal of the Budget Focus Group is to study both the short and long-term budget challenges and make recommendations for the Board of Education to consider.
  • The group reviewed the agenda
    • The first part of the agenda was to gain a common understanding around the state of the district budget.  Chief Business Official Robin Schmitt gave a budget presentation to the group and answered questions
      • California is a low funded state and Brentwood Union is one of the lowest funded districts in the state.
      • The Governor's January budget proposed a cut of $1.6 million to BUSD.  In the May Revise, that reduction was down to $900,000.  There are potential federal cuts pending.
      • The combination of escalating PERS/STRS increases mandated by the state, Special Education increases required to serve an increasing student population and annual step and column increases are greater than the revenue increases coming into the district.
      • This is causing a deficit spending pattern that, if uncorrected, could lead to insolvency, dramatic cuts in programs and staffing, and a lack of local control over budget decisions.
      • Our district is not alone.  Districts across California have begun making cuts already and many are planning for future reductions.
      • 88% of all BUSD expenditures are for staff salaries and benefits.  That % is expected to rise to 90% next year making it impossible to make significant reductions without impacting staffing.
    • The second part of the agenda was to review the draft 2017-18 budget reductions that are necessitated by the net effect of the budget.
      • The estimated cuts needed to balance the budget in 2017-18 are $2.2 million.  In addition, the estimated cut necessary in 2018-19 is $2.0 million.
      • The draft reductions were compiled to try and stay as far away from students in the classroom as possible.  While that was the attempt, there are significant reductions planned that will impact students and staff.
      • If the budget continues to develop in the way we expect, and/or if there are additional expenditures, the 2018-19 budget reductions will be much more difficult.
      • Making reductions earlier reduces the need to make larger cuts in subsequent years.
      • The Board of Education will review the draft reductions during the budget adoption process in June of 2017.
    • The third part of the agenda was to brainstorm concepts and ideas for looking at reductions for 2018-19.  Having a diverse group of representatives (classified, certificated, management and parents) provided multiple perspectives on what should be considered going forward.
      • Meeting notes include a much more detailed account of all that was shared by group members, but some of the major points were:
        • Soliciting the feedback of staff and parents will be an important part of the process.
        • Shared education around the budget is critical, including the legal prohibition of using bond (Measure B) funds for operational expenses, the importance of attendance for revenue and the political and unpredictable nature of school funding in California.
        • Transparency of process is important to continue to build trust and understanding
        • Is there a possibility of additional local revenue?
  • The group will meet again near the start of the 2017-18 school year to receive a budget update, plan for soliciting input and talk further about budget reductions for the 2018-19 school year.  The opportunity to plan for reductions with significant input, time and process, however difficult, will hopefully provide our district with the best possible scenario in a difficult situation.