The Long Beach Unified School District is in the red this year and will have to dip into its budget reserves for the first time in 11 years, officials said.

The roughly $44 million shortfall expected in 2024-25 is a result of declines in attendance and enrollment since 2022, and reduced funding from the state and federal government. A deficit of close to $54 million is also anticipated in 2025-26.

The Board of Education held a public hearing on the proposed 2024-25 fiscal year budget on June 5, with a vote to approve the spending plan expected on June 18.

The proposed $1.27 billion budget includes funding for an expected 62,732 students, a 2.5% decrease from this year. Each 1% enrollment decline equates to a loss of roughly $8 million in state funding, officials said.

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Funding for school districts is largely based on both enrollment and attendance, and the district’s attendance has remained below levels seen before the pandemic and below the state average. Last year, attendance was 91.9% in LBUSD and 93.44% for districts across the state. Prior to the pandemic, LBUSD had a 95% attendance rate.

California is also grappling with a significant budget deficit that will affect everything from social services to climate change programs.

Funding for K-12 education is protected to some extent, but cost-of-living adjustments will decline dramatically from 8.22% this year to 1.07% next year, according to the district.

At the same time, the cost of utilities is expected to rise 4-5% and student transportation costs are expected to rise 10%.

The budget assumes no salary increase for employees beyond normal raises that come with seniority, but officials acknowledge that could change in the collective bargaining process.

LBUSD will also lose restricted funds from the federal government intended to help during the pandemic. The district received more than $212 million in special funding last year to help with learning loss and other needs, but that money must be spent by January 2025.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many full-time teaching positions will be reduced next year, but the district said it is “actively working to identify the most efficient use of resources” and align those resources with educational goals.

The budget includes a 6.6% reduction in certified salaries, which includes teachers. That amounts to a reduction of about $34.6 million in salary costs.

Meanwhile costs for classified staff — which includes clerical workers, custodians, bus drivers and others — will rise by $1.2 million over last year, just under 1%.

LBUSD is projected to have $576.2 million in its reserve accounts on July 1, down about 5% from the same time last year. Reserves are expected to end the 2024-25 fiscal year at $480 million.

The Board of Education meets at 5 p.m. June 18 in the community room at 1515 Hughes Way. 

Melissa Evans is the Chief Executive Officer of the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal. Reach her at [email protected], @melissaevansLBP or 562-512-6354.